Perched on a peaceful Portuguese hillside, close to the historic village of Estoi, Villa Gomes is a luxury villa retreat with rural wow factor. The spacious Mediterranean-style villa looks beyond the pristine private pool across endless terracotta fields, carpeted with eucalyptus, pomegranate and lemon trees, towards the Atlantic Ocean that glistens in the distance.
The villa is fantastically well located for those keen to explore the region’s ancient hillside towns and villages as well as the Algarve’s much publicised beaches. With a tennis court, outdoor table tennis and a barbeque, it is also perfect for those looking for a private bolthole.
The enormous villa boasts three bedrooms, each with its own en suite bathroom. The two upstairs doubles also benefit from a shared roof terrace—an ideal spot for watching the sun, illuminating the ocean in the distance.
Downstairs flows brilliantly, with a well-equipped kitchen opening on to the barbeque area and an open plan dining room and lounge area opening out towards the impressive pool. Despite the indoor dining facilities, we enjoyed every single meal on the terrace staring out across the plains below and listening to the local wildlife. The villa’s impeccably manicured grounds are home to everything from hoopoes and bee-eaters to lizards and even a resident chameleon!
With a barbeque and outdoor dining area surrounded by unspoilt views, it can be hard to drag yourself away from this pad. However, venture to nearby Olhão (15 mins) and you will be rewarded with some of the region’s best seafood. The coastal town has a fantastic indoor market, with one hall selling local produce from the land—stuffed figs, honey, nuts and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables—and a second hall dedicated to the sea’s bounty, with up to 80 stalls selling everything from your standard sardines and salmon to elaborate conch, clams and rays. Try one of the local seafood restaurants to see how the locals do it—we ate some delicious octopus at A.Polveria, so tender its texture resembled silken tofu.
Just five minutes away, in beautiful Estoi, SLH have an eighteenth-century palace with a wonderful restaurant overlooking the countryside towards Faro. We sat on Pousada Palácio de Estoi’s elegant sun-drenched terrace and enjoyed a selection of local starters, the highlight of which was the fig shaped as a flower and stuffed with creamy goat’s cheese muddled with fresh chilli. For my main, meaty octopus tentacles came served with caramelised onions and comforting sweet potatoes rolled in almond flour. My partner’s sea bass was served whole with the lightly crispy skin giving way to delicate, moist fish. Arrive early and take a stroll through their beautiful Versailles-style gardens: descend to the lowest garden for the money shot.
If you fancy checking out the new kid on the block head to the glitzy coastal resort of Vilamoura. Anantara Hotels & Resorts opened their first European hotel here just six months ago and its champagne cabanas and slick spa are already receiving rave reviews. I tried their casual seafood restaurant Ria. A deliciously light local goat’s cheese served with honey was followed by enormous sautéed shrimps. The Algarvian monkfish rice came with meaty prawns and clams and looked so good that I didn’t declare my suspected mollusc allergy… instead I got stuck in and one clean plate later lived to tell the tale—and even if I hadn’t, I think it might have been worth it. As I left the 5* hotel, bidding farewell to its Veuve Clicquot cabanas, I reminded myself that my own hillside palace awaited.
Who goes there?
I must confess, I have a penchant for guessing a villa’s clientele based on the books that they leave behind. I can’t help it, the second I see the shared bookshelf my inner Jessica Fletcher takes over.
Villa Gomes had a reassuring wad of philosophy—unsurprising given its wonderfully silent surrounds; it is the perfect place to think. Each morning as I sipped my coffee and stared aimlessly across the valley’s olive groves and fruit trees even I felt like an Alain de Botton in the making. It also had lots of romantic paperbacks—well that’s a no-brainer, its star-covered terrace and uber-private grounds make it the perfect place for a romantic retreat. And… the odd children’s book thrown in for good measure (those romantic weekends have consequences folks!).
Literary investigations aside, Villa Gomes is a fantastic choice for those seeking a luxurious rural bolthole surrounded by beautiful countryside. With oodles of space and great facilities it is ideal for families. Its impressive pool set-up also makes it a hot pick for friends seeking their own Love-Island-style villa retreat.
Out & about
Villa Gomes is just minutes from historic Estoi, famous for its Roman ruins and eighteenth-century palace. The village’s cobbled streets are a joy to get lost in, with wild bougainvillea snaking its ways through garden fences and colourful doors and windows giving the whitewashed houses a Moorish feel—not to mention their wonderfully ostentatious chimneys. Forget comparing engine sizes and who has the flashiest BMW, chimneys are the ultimate status symbol here—and yes, it is the size that matters. Nobody seems to know the true origins of this strange phenomenon, but most people claim that these minaret-style chimneys stem from the period when the Algarve was under Moorish rule, when it was called Al Gharb (despite the inconvenient fact that architecture of that time did not use chimneys). Either way, Villa Gomes’ barbeque alone has a towering 10ft chimney—just saying.
Tavira (around 25 minutes away) is widely regarded as the area’s prettiest town. Once the area’s most important port, it used to be the country’s gateway to Northern Africa. The ancient town straddles the Gilão River, with the two halves joined by a Roman bridge. Peruse the craft shops and poke your head into one of the many churches—Tavira has over 30, many with fascinating histories and ornate interiors. At the riverbank you can catch a boat around the Ria Formosa National Park, watch men sifting for clams in the shallows or simply enjoy a coffee and pastry in one of the many pastelarias.
If only we had longer. We would peruse Loulé’s famous market, visit Silves’ Moorish castle, surrounded by citrus trees and sail around Ria Formosa’s wildlife-ridden islands… Plus, I hear there are some nice beaches in this neck of the woods too.
The worst thing
When I think of our time at Villa Gomes it is the lavish grounds and tranquil setting that dominate my memories. If I had to be pernickety, the master bedroom’s spa bath wasn’t fully functioning during our stay. However, a long evening soak would have meant missing the hypnotic sunsets—I know which I would choose!
The best thing
Don’t get me wrong, I love a flashy hotel. I love the smart bellboys, the swish toiletries and the comforting turndown service, but staying at Villa Gomes wins hands down. It is hard to pinpoint what makes this place so special. Maybe it was having the blinding neon sunrise and its silhouetted palms all to ourselves every morning, or sauntering to the pool after a leisurely al fresco breakfast and having our pick of the empty sun loungers. Maybe it was cooking the market’s bounty on the barbeque each evening as the sun melted away, leaving a blood-red sky burning behind the mountains, or sipping vino beneath an endless canopy of stars without another couple in sight.
Whatever it was, I would return in a heartbeat.