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By Kate Parsons, Head of Reservations

Kate, our in-house Portugal expert, recently enjoyed a blissful short break in the Algarve with her husband. No kids, no hassle, just three gorgeous i-escape hotels and some stunning beaches to boot. Here’s the inside scoop.


Ah, to travel again is a joy, a privilege and a total pleasure. After having our freedom curtailed for so long, our first trip abroad in three years was all the sweeter for it. Fortunately, despite my fears, it was all rather easy (the secret: no kids!) and once we picked up the car at Faro airport, we were in our first hotel just an hour after disembarking the plane.

Stop 1: Convento, Olhao

the i-escape blog / Just back from the Algarve / Convento

The first stop on our brief itinerary was Convento in Olhao, a firm i-escape favourite. On first impressions, Olhao is a little rough around the edges. There are lots of construction sites on the approach, but do not be deterred; dig a little deeper and wander into the old town and you’ll be totally charmed. The joy is in uncovering this secret. It’s a working fishing town and the seafront market is buzzing on a Saturday morning. The Moorish influence is clear from the tiny narrow streets, labyrinthine alleyways, and in buildings like Convento, which is essentially a riad built around a peaceful central courtyard. We both loved the hotel and its total air of serenity and tranquillity. The owner Guillaume is such a lovely, softly spoken, calm man, and his wife Antje is also delightful.

Convento is a perfect pit stop for a few days in the Algarve. Its proximity to the airport means you can easily be car-free here. However, if you want a vehicle for exploring the area, there is some free parking nearby (although probably tricky to find space in peak season). The three islands in the Ria Formosa are easily reached via the local ferry, which is very cheap (approx. 4 euro return), or you can go via water taxi if you want to avoid the crowds. The beaches on the islands are stunning. STUNNING! We took the ferry and visited Culatra for a few hours, where we had a perfect garlicky seafood lunch and marvelled at the glorious, shell-strewn empty beaches.

the i-escape blog / Just back from the Algarve / Convento
Left: Convento rooftop and pool; Right: Path to the beach on Ilha da Culatra

Breakfast at the hotel was a treat, with homemade cake, beautiful fresh fruit and yoghurt, and some wonderful local cheeses and charcuterie. The rooftop is a delight: the plunge pool is small but perfect on a hot day, the terraces for sitting in the sun are just amazing – with views of the islands (with swifts and storks flying past) – and the honesty bar is great value. One thing to watch out for is the spiral staircase, which is very steep and narrow, so ask for a room on the ground floor if this might be an issue for you.

 

Stop 2: Farmhouse of the Palms, Sao Bras de Alportel

the i-escape blog / Just back from the Algarve / Farmhouse of the Palms

Our second location was the absolutely beautiful Farmhouse of the Palms, near Sao Bras de Alportel, where we met the incomparable Frank and Veronique, the Belgian couple who own it. It’s a delightfully informal place, beautifully appointed with bespoke furniture that is simple and yet super comfortable. The rooms are all very spacious (we stayed in Room 1, the smallest at 32m sq, but it still seemed huge).

Situated high up on a hilltop, the property has beautiful views over the valley. The pool is rather glamorous and perfect for those that really want to swim on holiday, and the food served on the terrace under the gnarled carob trees was excellent. Dinner is offered four nights a week and is a set menu of fresh Portuguese food. On the night we stayed they even had their first fado concert in two years (now every second Sunday), which was really enjoyable and quite emotional in the intimate atmosphere of the hotel.

the i-escape blog / Just back from the Algarve / Farmhouse of the Palms
Left: Daybed in the gardens at Farmhouse of the Palms; Right: Live fado music performance

This is very much an adults-only retreat; it’s a perfect place to go if you feel burnt out and are in need of some peace and quiet and some gentle TLC. In a way, you don’t need to go out and explore (although there is plenty to see and do only a short drive away) as it’s an ideal spot for a few days in the sun, doing nothing but reading, swimming and eating.

 

Stop 3: Conversas de Alpendre, Cacela Velha

the i-escape blog / Just back from the Algarve / Conversas de Alpendre

Our final hotel was the incredible Conversas de Alpendre. The beautiful décor incorporates rattan, wicker, straw and ethnic hangings. There are swing seats, free cake, daybeds scattered around the spacious grounds, and bikes to borrow. This has been a total i-escape favourite since we added it in 2018, and the owners have also just opened a sister property in Tavira (Colegio Charm House), which is equally boho-chic.

Marta created Conversas and runs it with her family; her parents are very much involved (her dad is lovely!), and she has a young son who loves to make friends with visiting children. They have a team of 20 impeccably trained staff who seem to love their job and the hotel, and it’s a great vibe there. Again, it is a luxurious version of informal (all the rooms are named after why they moved to the Algarve – No Worries, No Pressure, No Suit, No Boss!), but it’s very hospitable, and everyone is friendly and really keen to help. It grows and grows on you. There’s a stunning Treehouse with panoramic views, while the newly opened Warehouse can take a family of 5 and has its own plunge pool – perfect for a family summer holiday.

the i-escape blog / Just back from the Algarve / Conversas de Alpendre
Left: Pool and bar at Conversas de Alpendre; Right: View from the Treehouse at Conversas

The nearby beaches are easily accessible by bike or car, and again are totally stunning. We spent a heavenly day on Fabrica island beach after paying a local fisherman to give us a lift in his boat, and Marta’s team equipped us with a beach umbrella and a delicious picnic. You can walk for miles across the shell-strewn sand and watch fiddler crabs basking in the sunshine. Absolute heaven.

Now to plan our return….


Fancy your own short break in the Algarve? See our full collection of hotels and villas