Plan a summer getaway to Portugal with i-escape, purveyors of chic and boutique holidays.

When i-escape launched twenty years ago, its mission – as set out by founders Laila Ram and Nikki Tinto – was to collate the most stylish holiday rentals around the world, all under one roof. It’s fair to say that, two decades on, they’ve fulfilled that calling. Thanks both to a team of experienced travellers who know their destinations inside out and a raft of tech wizards, i-escape clients get the best of both worlds: direct contact with the boutique properties on offer as well as advice from the experts to ensure that i-escapees are assured of booking the holiday that will suit them best – whether travelling a deux, with friends or en famille.

Now, as Portugal goes onto the green list, never have we been keener to book a proper summer holiday. With its boutique hotels, stylish guesthouses, eco-retreats, stunning house rentals and unforgettable travel experiences, i-escape is the perfect place to book the most long-awaited getaway of our lives. These are just a few Portuguese destinations we’re eyeing up.

Villas Martinhal Sagres

Given that i-escape specialises in independent villas, this resort is something of a one-off for its books. But, as its travel specialists explain, its exceptional execution sets it apart. A beautiful retreat in the perennially popular Algarve, the 100-odd villas are characterised by their slick design and their eco credentials. A perfect place to book if you have children in tow, every property is extremely well-equipped, right down to the juicers and blenders in the kitchens.

For anyone who fancies an evening without the kids, why not hire babysitter and have a night out at one of the resort’s three restaurants? There is a spa on site, as well as four heated swimming pools to relax by, while those of a more active predilection will enjoy the tennis courts and football academy in the grounds. Expect kids’ clubs, outdoor screenings of children’s movies in the summer evenings and a beautiful sandy beach within walking distance. In a word: heaven.
Book it here.

You And The Sea

Ericeira Lisbon Coast
The Algarve is well-established for its laidback, tousled beachy charm. But what of the Ericeira Lisbon coast? This lesser-trodden holiday destination should not be overlooked – not least since it is home to You and The Sea, a gorgeous apartment-hotel in this surfer town.

Stunningly situated atop dramatic cliffs, the picturesque village attracts surfers thanks to the beautiful beaches it teeters above. Exuding a bohemian vibe, there is a wonderful medley of ultra-hip shops and exquisite seafood restaurants to discover. Contemporary and minimal, there are beautiful views across the ocean, as well as an indoor pool that opens onto the garden. There are great restaurants, a spa and fantastic family facilities too. The perfect spot to bed down in Europe’s first designated World Surf Reserve. Book it here.

Sublime Comporta

Nestled in the fishing village of Comporta, we simply don’t have enough complimentary words to lavish upon this country retreat. The prettily rustic area – blessed with mile upon mile of unspoiled stretches of beach – has become popular with artists, fashions designers, royals and the cognoscenti alike. As Gonçalo Pessoa, owner of Sublime Comporta, puts it: ‘It’s what Saint Tropez was like in the 80s’.

We adore that the property – which is situated just a few kilometres out of town – is constructed of natural materials, as well as the minimalist aesthetic, with its winning touches of exoticism. Book a room or suite, or why not try one of the growing collection of ‘cabana’ villas? Built sustainably, they hover on stilts over a biological pool, and are set within seventeen hectares of pine forest. A perfect way to get back to nature – but with lashings of luxury. Book it here.

Ocean Blue

Burgau Algarve
For anyone who likes to pack their holidays with activities, this hill-top retreat in Costa Vicentina Natural Park is hard to beat. Right at the very tip of southwestern Europe, this is the Algarve, but not as you know it. Far from the tourist-packed villages we’re familiar with, this western part of the region is, in fact, one of the country most under-developed areas. They describe it as ‘a wild landscape of jagged cliffs, hidden coves, gently forested hills and sun-beaten villages. For boat builder Sean and personal trainer Lucy it's a perfect setting for their dream: leading small groups on big adventures. From mountain bikes and paddleboards to surfboards and snorkels, one thing’s for sure: you’ll leave OceanBlue feeling fitter, healthier and more energised than when you arrived.’

The accommodation is comprised of four self-catering apartments within a splendid white villa, which looks over the Atlantic. The village of Burgau itself is a short stroll away, and awash with beachside tavernas all offering up the freshest, most delicious seafood. Book it here.

Paraiso Escondido

The Alentejo, a south-western region of Portugal, is one of the least well-trodden. This is, however, something of an oversight, given the beauty of its landscapes and its huge swathes of unspoiled beaches. This hilltop retreat makes the very most of its natural assets, its stylish and restful bungalows standing on stilts, and perfectly decorated with Oriental accents amid a light, airy sensibility. There is a pool which reviewers have noted is reminiscent of Hockney’s famous series of paintings, and the whole is set amid a landscape of cork trees and eucalyptus, all dotted around a lake.

The owners, Berny Serrão and her husband Glenn Cullen, have owned the property since 2001 and have since created something of a safari vibe at what has become a true labour of love. As one reviewer writes: ‘They built the colonial-style villa that now accommodates most of the guests, and have since added a glassy contemporary home tucked into the hillside. There are sunny poolside terraces, lawned gardens, a cosy lounge and a large conservatory dining room – Glenn's organic kitchen garden provides ingredients for the delicious home-cooked vegetarian dinners. The couple are deeply committed to green sustainability, yet the mood is welcoming and refreshingly informal.’ Dreamy. Book it here.

Villa Pedra

Soure Mountain Beiras
Situated betwixt the Douro and Tejo rivers, the spectacular Beiras region stretches from the Atlantic coast to the Spanish border. This remarkable setting accommodates self-catering cottages, all of which are as sophisticated as they are characterful and eco-friendly. That’s thanks to Manuel and Victor, its owners who stumbled across the remote, abandoned village of Aldeia de Cimao and never left.

There’s a great on-site pool, a wonderful restaurant and – most astonishingly of all – a view over the emerald-hilled Sicó valley. They say, ‘A sense of retreat, coupled with genuine privacy and peace makes Villa Pedra a great choice for romancing or deep relaxation, but the cottages are big enough for family groups too.’ Book it here.

By Nancy Alsop
June 2021

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Nancy Alsop


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