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Body & Soul: Portuguese Getaway

A new hotel in southern Portugal honors the region’s traditions while illuminating its modern-day charms

Written and produced by Jenny Bradley Pfeffer

Tranquillity and indulgence: two words that every work-weary, getaway-seeking traveler longs to hear when searching for the ultimate summer retreat. They’re the exact words that sum up the Vila Monte experience.

Located on 22 acres in the village of Moncarapacho in southern Portugal’s coastal Algarve region, the hotel is surrounded by the pastoral beauty for which the area is known. Orange, fig, and olive groves, plus manicured gardens, meandering pathways, ponds, swimming pools, and whitewashed buildings all honor traditional Algarve architecture.

To ensure the hotel, which opened in June 2015, stayed true to its roots, a talented team that included designer Vera Iachia, architect Jorge Guimarães, and landscape architect Teresa Barão was brought in to spearhead the yearlong project. The plan was to invoke a subtly reimagined take on a traditional Algarve farmhouse while still offering a lavish getaway.

The hotel reflects traditional Algarve architecture.

“The goal was to transform Vila Monte into a ‘farmhouse’ hotel with timeless simplicity and a warm, comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere and boho-chic spirit,” Iachia says.

Whitewashed exteriors with wood accents and crisp white interiors peppered with measured shots of vibrant color give the retreat a sense of age while infusing it with a modern aesthetic—equal parts conventional design and trailblazing panache.

The hotel’s public spaces—reception area, a lobby market, living area, and restaurants—were designed to encourage interaction, while hidden terraces and gardens inspire private relaxation and reflection. The Algarve architecture is highlighted with handmade pieces created by local artisans. 

The space invites guests to gather and linger. It is also one of designer Vera Iachia’s favorite spots.

The lobby, where guests often gather, houses a bar, a shop, a kitchen, and the pièce de résistance—a circular fireplace perfect for lingering or mingling with friends new and old. Hand-painted floors play against a whitewashed background, adding organic pattern to an otherwise clean-lined environment. Cozy, low-slung furnishings round out the mix.

Each of the 55 guest rooms and suites features unique, individual decor, but Iachia incorporated a white hue she calls “Branco Cal” into all of them. “It is a very Portuguese color,” says the designer. “It reflects the light and the cleanness and transmits a peaceful atmosphere.”

That’s not to say that color doesn’t have an impact here. Rich shades of green and blue inspired by the nearby Atlantic Ocean and the region’s grass fields appear in the hotel’s bedding, baths, and traditional Algarve textiles—awakening the white palette with verve. 

An ethereal white palette is sparked with shots of color, bringing contrast and embracing the region’s natural hues.

An abundance of windows and private terraces open to the spacious, manicured grounds, bringing in a generous wash of sunlight that enhances the rooms’ ethereal feel and play of shadow and light.

Architect Jorge Guimarães used traditional materials mixed with screens and grids to update exteriors. Screened terraces offer privacy while allowing guests access to the hotel’s lush grounds.

When not relaxing in the hotel’s serene suites, guests can treat themselves to a locally inspired meal—often seasoned with herbs from the hotel’s garden—at À Terra restaurant. Chef Adérito Almeida uses a traditional wood oven to concoct mouthwatering pizzas, bruschettas, roasts, and breads. Local delicacies include charcuterie from renowned Casa Do Porco Preto; roasted quail with garlic, radish, pumpkin, and grapes; and Iberian black pork loin. Decadent mousses and sweet potato cake with lemon ice cream bring a sweet ending. 

Local flavors (like these figs) take center stage at À Terra restaurant.

For guests seeking excursions and activities, Vila Monte offers a range of options: fishing in the nearby Ria Formosa, an outdoor cinema for summer movie viewing, a farmer’s market trip with Chef Almeida, and sunbathing and picnicking on a deserted island—for even more tranquillity. 

One of the property’s two pools.

Staying at Vila Monte Farm House, a tranquil getaway in Moncarapacho, Portugal, comes with some dreamy extras. During an island excursion, friendly staff members deliver scrumptious treats while you relax on the beach. The hotel blends farmhouse style with luxurious accommodations.

Photography: Nick Bayntun