The Algarve’s new property looks fantastic, but what is it like to stay at the Anantara Vilamoura?
The Anantara Vilamoura isn’t your typical large-scale five-star luxury hotel.
For one, they grow their own vegetables and herbs, perched in a jaunty garden overlooking the multi-million pound Victoria golf course. Why? Because the chef insists on the freshest ingredients to cater to diners. No compromise on quality could well be the property’s motto.
Frequent travellers will be familiar with the Anantara name. The byword for high-end luxury properties in Asia, Vilamoura in Portugal is their first hotel in Europe. Should you be excited? Quite frankly, yes. My advice? Add it to your Portugal itinerary straight away.
The hotel opened in April, in what used to be the Tivoli Victoria. The opulent glitz and you’re-so-golden-luxe-and-don’t-you-know-it glam of its previous incarnation have gone, replaced with natural textures and materials hearkening from across the Algarve.
It’s been a quick hit. With the golfers who come year after year to play on the lush greens steps away from the hotel; couples seeking peace and quiet and friends, headed on a short weekend to catch some very welcome sunshine.
You can see why the Anantara Vilamoura has proved so popular. The hotel struts down the catwalk, flaunting its makeover like an excited teenager in their first car. From the fresh, plump Veuve Clicquot pillows in the poolside cabanas, to the still-new smell in each of the rooms, this is a hotel that knows it looks good and isn’t afraid to show it. Portugal is a well-known luxury destination – the Anantara takes this a notch further.
Sleek and contemporary designs, everything is comfortably understated with just the smallest touches here and there to keep it lively. Hence the large sculpture in the centre of the lobby, representing a Portuguese cork tree for which the country is famed.
A row of perfectly-aligned palm trees frame the two sides of the main pool – cosy pairs of sun-loungers dotted between them. There’s waiter service at the pool of course. Plus a roster of every alcoholic tipple available at your fingertips: the white port and tonic is particularly refreshing.
Behind this, the hotel’s seafood eatery, Ria Restaurant, serves up the catch of the day. The pressure is on: few European countries do seafood quite as well as Portugal.
Classic dishes are made to impress – plump langoustine in a garlic and saffron sauce, a zingy salad with lashings of cod roe, braised octopus with onion and parsley and crunchy grilled sardines are squeezed onto a laden table – a veritable feast.
Elsewhere, there’s Emo Restaurant, Chef Bruno Viegas’ wine-focused restaurant concept where the menu has been designed to complement the terroir of the local region.
Traditional dishes are given a contemporary twist, salt cod in a port reduction for example. Each one is paired with one of the over 350 wines from the region with as little or as much guidance from the sommelier as you want.
The Anantara’s public areas have one thing in common: space. Lots of it. No practically sitting atop another person desperately trying not to listen to their conversation by the pool, no boxed-in tables in the restaurants – each guest is afforded a level of privacy that can be rare in hotels. Even in the lobby, you can snuggle down on a sofa of your choice to read your book, undisturbed by passers by.
Hidden in plain sight, the adults-only pool sports beguiling shaded cabanas with Veuve Clicquot-branding set a discreet distance away from the other loungers. It’s a quiet haven you can disappear into for the whole day, with quick dips in the pool to cool you down, a bottle of chilled champagne and a platter of fresh fruit on hand.
Vilamoura, with its marina packed with gleaming yachts, not forgetting its sunny beaches is just down the road. Its reputation as one of the best places to stay in the Algarve is well-deserved – wide, sandy beaches and high-end hotels rub shoulders with local eateries and traditional fish markets.
Book onto one of the hotel’s entertaining tuk tuk tours for a whizz around the local area, learning about local sights and secret spots before retreating back into the quiet of the resort.
Time To Relax
The spa is everything you would want from an Anantara. Perched on the top floor of the hotel, the decor contrasts with the rest of the hotel, cool, dark – a cocoon from the outside world.
Scents of orange blossom and almond waft throughout the spa – the focus on local provenance extends to treatments as well. Skilled therapists tease out the last vestiges of tension left after days spent by the pool and (whisper this) champagne at breakfast.
Bedrooms are large, with large terraces perfect for more downtime – particularly in the early morning as the sun rises over the grounds, how better to start the day?
Inside, the decor is uniform but stylish – a deep bath and Elemis products in-room for yet another way to take some time out.
This is a hotel that knows its clientele: the only businessman are those on golf-trips – everyone is here to relax, and the Anantara Vilamoura conjures up a world where relaxation is key. It’s a luxury experience aimed at those who are looking for a low-key break away from the stresses and grind of day to day life.
By the time it comes to leaving, it’s difficult to believe that life isn’t always as smooth, eased along by plenty of sunshine, excellent gastronomy, spa treatments and…. champagne.
Av dos Descobrimentos nº 0, 8125-309 Vilamoura, Portugal
Tel: +351 289 317 000
Rooms start at £218 on a b&b basis.
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