When our week in Santiago de Compostela was complete, we began our drive South through Portugal. Over the course of nine nights, we drove across the country from the top to the bottom, stopping in hotels for one or two nights at a time.
While one or two-night hotel hopping isn’t our favorite way to travel, it was a great way to see much of the Portuguese countryside and get a good feel of the country. Each property we visited had it’s own unique amenities – the The thermal water heated pools of Vidago Palace, the history and 1100 year old olive tree in Convento do Espinheiro Hotel, and the beach resorts in the south.
The favorite stop of our family was at the VILA VITA Parc Resort & Spa. Vila Vita while larger than the resorts we personally tend to prefer, feels much smaller than it is. Accommodations are spread throughout the property and grouped in small clusters, many of the clusters with their own pools. The resort has several smaller restaurants, everyone we sampled was great. Because there are so many spaces for guests to spread out and explore, the resort doesn’t feel busy, even when full. In addition to the many amazing amenities, the staff on property provided the best service we experienced in Portugal.
Nine nights across Portugal came and went very quickly. We enjoyed our time exploring the country, and were glad to see the northern region as well as the southern coast. At the end of our hotel hopping, we were all excited to unpack and spread out in our next stop in Andalucia, Spain.
Hidden in the woods, about an hour outside Porto, Vidago Palace is utterly enchanting. The 70-room hotel first opened in 1910, when King Carlos I wanted a luxury spa near Vidago’s legendary waters. In 1936, the estate added a nine-hole golf course and earned a place among Europe’s most prestigious resorts.
As one would expect from the name, many of the heritage room accommodations at Convento do Espinheiro Hotel & Spa were originally monks’ cells. Today, they and the other refined guestrooms are adorned with fine linens and furnishings and with windows facing the surrounding hillsides. The convent and hermitage dates back to the 15th century and is now a national monument in a World Heritage city.
Santiago Hotel offers various types of cooking lessons, culinary experiences, days spent with the Chef, market visits or even picking vegetables and herbs from the Chef’s garden.
A restaurant that is a great Alentejo cuisine with meals that are an invitation to return to the origins. Cooked by Chef Daniel Censi, this kitchen is forged by fire – in the wood oven in Josper and on the milder days of spring and summer in Ofyr.
Some 170 breezy, sea-themed rooms and villas are scattered about Vila Vita Parc Resort & Spa to provide guests with the ultimate privacy. If it feels a bit too far away after, say, your craniosacral treatment at the spa, a cruise on the yacht or a six-course tasting at the two Michelin-star Ocean, simply let a butler chauffeur you back in a golf buggy. No request is too large or small at this unapologetically plush cliffside resort in Algarve, which offers direct access to the beach and something for everyone, including golf, watersports, ten dining venues and a phenomenal playground for the kids.
Debuting Anantara’s authentic luxury in Europe, Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort offers a landmark of quiet prestige, along southern Portugal’s picturesque Algarve coast. Immerse in Vilamoura’s glamour from a tranquil retreat, overlooking the Victoria golf course.
Revealing a journey of local artistry, the hotel’s sculptures, artwork, paintings and installations create a contemporary Portuguese gallery. Signature luxuries embrace you in spacious rooms, indulgent suites and penthouse prestige. Relax on elegant terraces, refreshed by rolling golf greens and cerulean pools.
Experience and share the region’s products in our À TERRA restaurant with its wood-oven and healthy, rustic, homemade, delicious cuisine. Enjoy the gym or the swimming pool and pool bar, framed by natural ambience, and indulge yourself in moments of complete relaxation and pure evasion. For the little ones we had a Kids Club. This is the perfect spot for a deserved rest or live unique experiences, all year round, for your pleasure and at your own pace.
Here are some of the highlights from our time in Portugal.
Our first day was a killer day. We drove to a hotel called Vidago Palace, rode bikes and swam in an indoor pool. The next morning, we swam in the pool one more time. It was so warm, it felt awesome, one of the best I have ever swam in. They had a funny rule that you had to ware a cap while in the pool.
The next day, we drove to a place called the Convento Hotel. I liked the food there, it was really good. There was a garden that we played hide-and-go seek in. I was found last every time I hid!. We saw an olive tree that was over one thousand one hundred years old. In the garden, we also saw a cute little bunny, the same one twice. It was another epic day.
On Friday, we drove to a hotel called Villa Vita. There was like seven pools there! One was indoor, that’s the one I swam in the most. That night we at at a Japanese restaurant, my favorites were the fried veggies and edamame. We also went to the beach there, but the ocean was a little cold to swim in. The food at Vila Vita was the best hotel food we had in Portugal
Our next stop was the Anantara Vilamoura Hotel. The food is better at Anantara Vilamoura than it was at Vidago Palace. Not as good as Vila Vita, but probably the second best we had. We went on a thing called a Tuk Tuk for a tour which was free for hotel guests. We stopped at a fish market and a pretty cool beach. The driver was really nice, but she couldn’t really drive – she kept speeding up and slowing down over and over. It was a really cool day.
During our week in Portugal we did quite a few amazing things. I loved riding bikes at the Vidago Palace! Our next stop was a place that Monks used to live in [Convento Espinheiro Hotel]. There, we met a little 4-year old boy who loved to run and we had many races with him. We also saw an 1100+ year old olive tree that still produces olives! Next, we stopped at a Cooking hotel and we got to take a cooking class, but the staff at the cooking part wasn’t very organized – they acted like we were complete idiots!
From the cooking hotel, we continued to Vila Vita, where we found the hospitality we’d been looking for. We hung out in their indoor pool, went down to the beach and ate in many restaurants. One day, we had lunch on the roof-top terrace of our room.The last place we stayed was in the Anantara hotel where we took a Tuk Tuk tour around town and swam in their pool.
Many of our cruise partners visit Spain. Many of the Ocean cruises include stops along the Mediterranean Coast. Several of the Douro River Cruises offer land based extensions into Northern Spain.
While a cruise is a great way to see several areas and decide which you’d like to return to, land based tours will offer opportunities to get even deeper into the country.