LGBTQ+ Travel Guide: Algarve
The Algarve’s beaches are repeatedly voted the best in Europe. Wide stretches of golden sand meet towering sandstone cliffs and you’ll find buzzing harbours such as Vilamoura where you can take your pick of bars – we’d recommend the stylish Ibiza-style bars with white sofas serving chilled Champagne.
But it’s all about finding the right beach – and the right luxury hotel – to keep your stay upmarket. There are Brits-abroad areas you can easily avoid; and charming little villages, vineyards and swanky restaurants to make a beeline for.
To get the inside track on an LGBTQ+ holiday in the Algarve, we caught up with local Melissa Puebla from the five-star VILA VITA Parc Resort & Spa.
LGBTQ+ Travel Guide: Algarve
Tell us about VILA VITA Parc Resort & Spa and why we should come and stay…
Located in beautiful gardens on the Algarve coast, the resort provides the perfect setting for its distinctive Algarvian architecture, inspired in the Moorish influence. Directly in front of the resort, the secluded white sandy beach is bordered by the dramatic rocky coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. The resort is serenely tranquil and glamorous, with perfect privacy. We provide each guest with a tailor made, authentic Portuguese experience, and we are a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
For foodies, the dining experience is a big adventure. With a total of six bars and 11 restaurants, ranging from regional Portuguese plates to one-of-a-kind gastronomic masterpieces at the two Michelin-star restaurant, diversity is key to the resort’s culinary philosophy. An impressive wine cellar – stocked with more than 11,000 bottles of fine vintages, including spectacular reds from Herdade dos Grous, the resort’s own wine estate and farm in the Alentejo – provide the perfect pairing wherever you dine.
We hear the spa is incredible…
Our new peaceful VILA VITA Spa by Sisley is a sanctuary of wellness and features a contemporary holistic design inspired by the region’s enchanting sea caves. The spa has 14 elegant treatment rooms, a yoga garden pavilion including aerial yoga, and the existing Hypoxi-Studio – an innovative body contouring method, exclusive in Portugal. This year, we launched our VITAL Wellness packages for those who want a personalised experience. At the Health Club, guests can work on their fitness and unwind at the sauna, steam room, ice grotto and indoor pool.
What can we do during our stay at the resort?
The resort has seven swimming pools, scuba diving, snorkelling and a large activity program at our fitness centre; plus, artificial clay tennis courts and a multisport court for volleyball, football, badminton, table tennis, bicycles, basketball and handball. As the destination is famous among golfers, resort guests are free to use the 9-hole pitch and putt practice course, the 18-hole putting green, the net driving range and for fun, the 18-hole mini golf.
Will our LGBTQ+ guests be welcome?
Of course! Since the resort first opened in 1992, we are happy to welcome everybody. We ensure that everything you may need to enjoy your stay is provided, with all the comfort and peace of mind you deserve.
What local sights in the area would you recommend?
Any little village in the Algarve has its own special corner, a breathtaking view or a romantic restaurant, so loyal clients never get bored of coming back to the area. Thinking of unique places, I would definitely recommend guests to visit our farm in the Alentejo, Herdade dos Grous, where we can organise a guided tour to the winery and famous cellar where you can taste our prestigious Herdade dos Grous wines. Also, at the Herdade, we can organise horse riding, bird watching, biking or kayaking.
Closer to the resort, guests can discover the Benagil Cave, one of the most iconic places in the Algarve, accessible only by the sea. VILA VITA Parc Resort & Spa can organise a boat trip that takes you to discover the different landscapes on the coast and many other caves and rock formations, ending with the ex libris in Benagil. This is something everyone should do at least once in their life. If there is anyone sensitive to sea motion, the cave A Boneca in Carvoeiro is the perfect location, as it is accessible by foot. It is a great place to do an Instagram post next to its ocean window.
What beaches would you recommend?
Praia da Marinha is really close to us and is famous as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world thanks to its amazing cliffside, where lovers can find a nice heart-shaped rock formation. For those who like the mix of nature and sport while contemplating the scenic background of the Atlantic Ocean and hidden forests, hiking around the Algarve couldn’t be more enjoyable. We can tell you about the best routes, from the 7 Hanging Valleys Trail to the natural parks of Ria Formosa or Costa Vicentina.
Where should we go for a taste of history?
We can recommend some history visiting Silves, once a rich and powerful city that was the Moorish capital of the Algarve, but now a sleepy town lying in the foothills of the Serra de Monchique mountains. Believed to have been founded by the Phoenicians, Silves Cathedral and red sandstone castle ruin remind visitors of its rich and industrious Moorish past.
Tell us about the best local restaurants…
VILA VITA Parc’s 11 seasonal restaurants are a delight, from a two-starred restaurant to more casual dining, each restaurant has its own gastronomy and identity, taking you on a unique custom-made culinary journey.
If you want to dine outside of the resort, we have plenty of recommendations. To taste the traditional local gastronomy, there is wide selection of restaurants like Porches Velho, O Barradas, Loki, or Jardim das Oliveiras and Luar da Fóia in Monchique – the latter features a great view of the Algarve from its high vantage point in the Monchique mountain.
The most famous sea view restaurants outside the property are Vila Joya, Vista, Rei das Praias, Evaristo, o Camilo, Campimar and Estaminé, offering a diverse variety of freshly-caught fish. You can try the typical Mariscada or cataplana in the historical town of Silves in Marisqueira Rui, a casual restaurant where the homemade garlic mayonnaise is great to eat with the couvert and as a dipping sauce for your seafood. For a steak dinner, we highly recommend Parrilha Natural in Almancil (it will be on your “I must try it again” list).
What is the bar scene like?
The resort offers a selection of six seasonal bars and a recently renovated Club. Outside the property, Casa do Cerro is a Moroccan-inspired bar, offering a selection of cocktails, shisha and seasonal live entertainment. Sal Rosa, Nosolo Aqua, Nosolo Vilamoura, Carvoeiro Sky Bar are perfect for a relaxing drink while enjoying the sunset and gazing at the sea. For clubbing, Vilamoura Marina (Dice Club, among other options) is your go-to place in the Algarve. In terms of casinos, the Algarve offers you a choice of three: Portimão, Vilamoura and Montegordo.
If we wanted to see the best of the area in 24 hours, what should our plan be?
We like to make personal recommendations just for you, as everyone is different, so you can talk to our amazing Customer Service and Hospitality Team. If it’s a first-time visit, I would suggest organising a boat trip in the morning to see the different caves and, with any luck, some wild dolphins. Afterwards, take a relaxing walk from the trip’s scheduled beach back to the village next to us; or take our shuttle to Vila Vita’s Armação Beach Club. Here you can have lunch in one of our beachside restaurants, followed by a refreshing cocktail on a sunbed. If you feel like doing something extra before dinner, perhaps horse-riding on the dunes or enjoying a delicious ice cream in Carvoeiro, while walking through the Algarseco cliff path with the ocean and sunset at your side. This cliff ends at A Boneca, so you can do that Instagram post I mentioned above.
For dinner, taste the best of the local cuisine and wines at our own Wine Cellar. This experience will take you on an unforgettable journey through the Portuguese tasty indulgences, palates and Vila Vita’s special production of wine. Alternatively, I recommend the crème de la crème of our restaurants, Ocean Restaurant, tasting the masterpieces of our Chef Hans Neuner. If you are still feeling energetic after dinner, our colleague Samuel will be waiting for you at the Oasis Bar to give you our best cocktail suggestions.
What do you love most about the area?
I am proud of living in the third country of the Global Peace Index (the ranking of the safest countries in the world). This country’s history and culture, gastronomy and wines are among the main attractions, not to mention the beaches, surfing, festivals, golf, the varied landscapes.
What makes a visit to Portugal so worthy is definitely the Portuguese hospitality. The Algarve, where we are located, is the southernmost province and it’s the country’s holiday paradise, offering everything from stunning natural beauty and a year-round mild climate of more than 300 days of sunshine, to the most elevated culinary standards and highest concentration of Michelin-star restaurants.
Above all that, what I love the most about the area is the large range of experiences. You can watch the sunset from a catamaran, dive to discover a World War I shipwreck, exploring rock formations and national parks, or pick your own clams and oysters around Ria Formosa. The options are authentic and endless and you can never get bored!