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Updated: 4th February 2023
I’ve been lucky enough to call the south of Portugal home for a few years now, which has allowed me plenty of time to hunt out some of the Algarve’s hidden gems. Whether I’m exploring the best places to visit in the Algarve for fun or writing guidebooks, I’m always on the lookout for unusual places to stay in the Algarve.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of unique stays and boutique hotels in the Algarve. From premium glamping sites and upgraded camping vans to personality-oozing renovated quintas (farms) and luxury boutique hotels, the Algarve is a region that now promises plenty of memorable stays.
Of course, there are some gorgeous luxury hotels in the region. But, if you’re looking for a slightly more unique place to stay in the Algarve, these are ten of my favourites.
Retreat to Vale de Bispo for a recovered whitewashed village
For one of the most memorable and unusual places to stay in the Algarve, head to Aldeia da Pedralva, slightly inland from Sagres.
Ideally placed to enjoy the Algarve’s windswept west coast and the breathtaking trails of the Rota Vicentina – especially magical when coated in spring’s wildflowers – this laid-back location is ideal for a non-coastal stay. It also has a heartwarming story attached.
At one point, this whitewashed rural village was nearly all left for ruin. Luckily, some Portuguese friends crowdfunded the restoration of the village and turned it into a ‘hotel of sorts’.
Now, the old homes act as hotel rooms, providing independent self-catering units within the village. The little streets still lead to the old cafe and post office, and a small pool and bike rentals allow you to make the most of the surrounding trails.
This little slice of secret Algarve bliss offers an insight into a more ‘traditional’ Algarvian village, albeit no longer with the residents. Check prices.
Sail to a houseboat on the Ria Formosa
The Ria Formosa is a breathtaking swathe of barrier islands, wetlands, marshes and lagoons, promising one of the best beach holidays in Europe. Spanning for some 60 kilometres across the central Algarve coast, it’s magical.
Along these beautiful islands, you’ll find a paradise for water sports, wildlife and nature. If you have ever flown into Faro airport before, you’ll have seen the impressive view of the Ria Formosa from your window seat.
For an unusual place to stay in the Algarve, look no further than a houseboat floating on these dazzling waters. One of Passeios Ria Formosa’s most special offerings is its houseboats, which allow you to call the Ria Formosa your ‘hotel’ for a couple of nights.
While this might not appeal as a base for your whole trip, it’s a great, unique accommodation option in the Algarve for a few nights. You can choose from a smaller or larger boat, and those lapping waves are included if you love falling asleep to the sounds of nature.
The additional small boats attached to the houseboat allow for closer encounters with wildlife by day. Or, you can bob around gazing at the stars under the night sky canopy. Check prices.
Stay in a historical manor set amongst aged olive groves
Converted into a boutique hotel, the Capela das Artes is one of the more unusual places to stay in the Algarve – both for the property and the location.
Set in Alcantarilha, an inland area a short drive from the coast, this isn’t a location for beachgoers. However, if you want a somewhat elegant stay inland and to explore the more laid-back and peaceful side of the Algarve, this renovated Manor House might appeal.
The original chapel dates back to the 15th century, while much of the hotel is based around the Manor House and the 17th-century oil farm. With plenty of olive groves still thriving on the property, a pool perfect for relaxing, and some intriguing artistic touches in the slightly old-fashioned rooms, this is one of the Algarve’s more unique places to stay for a slice of history. Check prices.
Go royal at this converted palace in Estoi
For a while, this beautiful Pousada Estoi (pousada translates to hostel, but it’s anything but) was left in disrepair. But, a new lease of life transformed it into a luxury boutique hotel by one of Portugal’s major hotel brands.
A short drive inland from Faro, the 18th-century Rococo-style palace has been lovingly restored. Thankfully, many of the original elements still feature while blending in new additions, such as a modern and spacious pool deck.
The palace’s facade is stunning, with the colourful tiles of Portugal (azulejos) making a striking first impression. The palace gardens provide peaceful spots to read a book and wind down on your holiday. Nearby, the Roman ruins of Milreu are just a short walk and well worth visiting.
While this is one of the most unique accommodation options in the Algarve, it still meets the standard of a luxury hotel. For those who might be staying elsewhere, it’s also worth a detour to/from the airport to come in for a visit or drink on the terrace. Check prices.
Sip vinho at a wine estate cottage near Carvoeiro
While the Algarve might not be the most famed of Portugal’s wine regions in the same way Porto is, the local vines have started to garner much more attention – especially the vinhos from Lagoa and Silves. So, what could be a more unique Algarve accommodation option than staying in a vineyard?
At Quinta dos Vales, you can do precisely that! Located near Estombar – a short drive from the popular coastal village of Carvoeiro – you’ll be centrally located to explore by the day and unwind with wine by night.
There are less than a handful of cottages and villas on the estate, in varying sizes, and most come with private pools. However, it’s the wine experiences which complement the offer.
You can turn your hand to winemaking and bottle your own, explore the vineyard (I was very excited to meet the goats!), or just relax amongst the vines with a book while taking in the view from inside your charming cottage. Check prices.
Enjoy aerial yoga retreats at Alamos, Albufeira
One of my most recent stays in the Algarve was in this relatively new health-focused Alamos retreat in Guia. Although only a short five-minute drive to the waterfront, this slightly inland oasis has a different vibe to coastal accommodation in the Algarve.
Celebrating the art of aerial yoga (also known as anti-gravity yoga), the poolside deck hosts an array of hammocks in which this new and low-impact form of yoga – mixed with pilates and dance – is offered five times per week.
The retreat also focuses on healthy eating, with herbal teas, fresh fruit, and gluten and sugar-free baking at the forefront. I’ve never had a cake so moist and delicious yet as healthy as can be before!
The kidney-bean-shaped pool is complemented by the Algarve’s breeze and birds chirping, providing a relaxing place to do yoga or chill by the pool. Inside, the communal lounge area has been decked out in all-natural materials. The contemporary rooms are of great size and use natural materials such as 100% cotton bedding and organic towels. This, and the open-plan contemporary design, really makes a difference.
Alamos Retreat might be your perfect getaway if you want to avoid being alongside the crowded beach resort and fancy some R&R on your Algarve holiday. With only eight rooms on site, I can’t imagine it will ever feel overly busy. Check prices.
A grand renovated convent in Tavira
Tavira is one of my favourite places in the Algarve and something of a hidden gem in Europe compared to the more famous beach spots. Not only does it feel a little less touristy than other towns and resorts, but it’s also gorgeous and packed with heritage buildings – the Pousada Convento Tavira is no exception.
Resorted to the highest standard, this former convent dates back to the 16th century. Grand staircases, a breathtaking cloister, and archaeological discoveries are all still on display here, adding an impressive touch to your stay.
Thankfully, the rooms offer more modern touches, allowing this unusual place to stay in the Algarve to bridge the divide between old and new effortlessly. It’s not a large hotel – there are less than 40 rooms – so it never really feels too crowded, and you’re moments from the riverside and beach boat service – a grand option for a break in the Algarve. Check prices.
Learn to surf at a retreat school on the wild west coast
The Amado surf camp has a couple of locations along the Algarve’s rugged, wild west coast. This is a great bet if you want to get out on the water and learn to surf while staying in the Algarve.
From shaded camping packages slightly inland to near the beach bungalows, their stay-and-learn options are mainly around Sagres and Carrapateira.
Choices – both in price and type of lodging – are varied. For the most part, they aren’t too fancy. However, they provide the ideal crash pad and community after a day on the waves.
While it has become all the fashion for foreigners to head to the Algarve and run their own surf camps or yoga treats, this local business has been going for over a decade. I think it’s nicer to support these local businesses than the touring camps and teachers who move on when the season ends. Check prices.
Enjoy an almost ‘all-inclusive’ mountain wellness retreat
A final choice for those who want to escape the coast entirely and retreat into Monchique’s verdant mountains, trails and waterfalls.
This slightly out-of-place and hulking modern hotel is a far cry from the more traditional options usually found in the area. Bringing a more modern and futuristic touch to the region, the resort-style Monchique Resort and Spa was somewhere I booked as a treat for my Mum’s birthday.
What’s great about it is the packages on offer. While half-board and all-inclusive can be booked additionally, for those seeking a wellness experience, it’s the included daily activities which will appeal.
From yoga classes and workouts to foraging and aqua-based exercise classes, the schedule of group classes provides the perfect complement to the pool and spa facilities. Check prices.
Get away from it all at a glamping tipi amongst nature
A friend recommended this tipi-style accommodation, and I haven’t personally visited it. But, if you want to head towards the mountains of the Algarve for your unique accommodation and glamping experience, here is your chance.
Named the ‘Algarve Safari Lodge’, the glorious setting in the Serra Do Caderão mountain range is enveloped by olive and orange trees with a splash of vineyards.
The tents come with private pools and alfresco kitchens to provide privacy from your neighbours. A larger accommodation option alongside the river is also an excellent choice for extended families. If you want an eco-conscious escape to the Algarve and to discover the charm of inland while still being a relatively short drive from the beach, this could be just the ticket. Check prices.