Vila Vita Parc review: Spreading style across the Algarve coastline
With seven restaurants, three tennis courts, numerous pools, spas, a private yacht and more, there's a slice of luxury to suit all tastes
"Visits always give pleasure," begins an old Portuguese proverb, a maxim that seem to have inspired the resort of Vila Vita Parc.
After half a decade of austerity, Portugal is back from the economic brink with a renewed air of confidence, its capital Lisbon bulging with innovation and its regional tourism booming.
Leading the charge is its southern coastline, once associated with sunburnt Brits nursing Albufeira hangovers but now boasting a magnificent metamorphosis. With astute timing, the Vila Vita group has unveiled its newly renovated rooms and an adults-only Residence enclave within the vast Vila Vita Parc resort, as well as an owner's villa equipped with three celebrity-ready swimming pools.
How to make a spectacular entrance
Driving through the grand gates of Vila Vita Parc on a glorious spring day offers proof that the Algarve has more sun exposure than anywhere else in Europe.
Bright blue and white Portuguese azulejos, offset by musty blue and mustard velvet lounges, adorn the reception, while a nearby alcove boasts a mosaic of black basalt and white limestone cobbles, the same Calcada Portuguese pavement that adorn the beaches and the streets of Portugal's lovechild Rio de Janeiro.
By a fountain looking out across the ocean, near a lake full of swans, the clifftop resort's 54 acres of lush subtropical gardens become apparent. Before being whisked in a golf buggy past an array of purple wisteria to the spectacular Vila Praia, guests can pause for a glass of champagne on the hanging nest rest loungers next to the infinity pool - a stunning backdrop for a perfect sunset.
Is gluttony really a deadly sin?
The Whale Restaurant & Pool Lounge at the Club House, designed by David Archer of Chiltern Firehouse fame, offers guests a diverse range of eating options, from Vila Vita takes on the poke fad to rustic Portuguese goose barnacles.
An Aperol Granita, made with Aperol, orange, grapefruit and champagne offers the perfect prelude to an evening feast, but where are what you eat is entirely up to you. From a private chef serving lobster in one of Vila Vita's off-site villas to a brilliant fire-show of teppanyaki and robata grill at the Mizu Japanese restaurant, or even Hans Neuner's imaginative cuisine at the two Michelin-starred Ocean restaurant, the choice goes on and on – Vila Vita has seven on-site restaurants, plus private dining options and three more bistros beyond the resort, before we even start counting the bars.
There are even cooking classes available, teaching the art of cataplana, the Algarvian culinary style named for the copper pot used to cook this delicacy of shellfish and pork with handfuls of aromatic herbs. It's no wonder Vila Vita Parc has just finished playing host to the Fine Wines & Food Fair, a gastronomy event that gathers some of the world's most influential chefs, winemakers and gourmet producers every two years.
Guests can also arrange a visit to the wine cellar, made of century-old bricks from Egypt, Austria and Greece; a cool, candle-lit vault that would prompt proposals from even the most stubborn of lovers. The sommeliers offer a glimpse into the 11,000 bottles, many from their very own Herdade dos Grous, and reveal their risk-free approach to investing in an aged bottle of Bordeaux.
A healthy counterbalance
Indulgence, of course, comes in many forms and away from the high gastronomy, guests can book themselves in for a ginger and peppermint-infused massage at the Vila Vita spa, a morning yoga session overlooking the ocean or a ride on one of the resort's fleet of e-bikes.
There are also three tennis courts, a volleyball court, boccia lanes, mountain bike hire, a nine-hole pitch-and-putt, 18-hole putting green and several championship golf courses nearby, not to mention a water sports and dive centre on site as well as the resort's own yacht.
Beyond the resort
For the restless, exploring outside the resort offers great rewards. Drive the beautiful coastal route past cliffs, oddly shaped rocks, caves and the wild surfing beaches of Aljezur and Odeceixe on the Costa Vicentina; head to the pretty town of Tavira, the lighthouse of Sagres, and the spectacular ochre-splashed rock formations near Lagos; or stroll through the cloisters at Faro Archaeology Museum and the Cathedral Square, to Silves, the old Moorish capital of the Algarve, with its daily market with freshly baked bread.
A foray outside Vita Vita Parc will only make the return through those grand gates as glorious as it was the very first time.
Monarch operates flights to Faro from Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £42 one way or £75 return. For further information or to book Monarch flights and Monarch Holidays