Conrad Algarve is a luxurious marble-lined hotel, proud of its strongly Portuguese architecture and styling. This area was Moorish for several hundred years so there are fountains, gardens with winding pathways and horseshoe arches. Traditional Portuguese filigree work is also used throughout the building. The central glass-sided atrium in the hotel stretches up four floors, bringing in light and framing views over the Algarve countryside across to the distant mountains -- the Serra de Monchique.
The spa area is on the far edge of one wing of the building which makes it feel private and sheltered. It is surrounded by trickling waterways, so the area feels cool even in the hottest days of summer. The large hydrotherapy pool is kept at a toasty 32 degrees celsius and the outdoor infinity pool is a comfortable 29 degrees. The brave can take a dip in the cold plunge which is a chilly 12 degrees. There is also an ice fountain, two experience showers, a sauna, steam room, heated tiled loungers, and indoor and outdoor seating.
Tell us about the treatments
I had the Brilliant Rose Facial using Aromatherapy Associates products. Andrea, my therapist, took a good look at my skin and asked several key questions before deciding what to use and how to treat it, which made it all feel very personalised. She began with a neck and shoulder massage, to encourage blood flow to the face. Andrea then cleansed, toned and used two face masks; the first was hydrating; the second anti-ageing. While the masks were working into my skin, she massaged my hands and arms. Her detailed work massaging the palms of my hands reminded me just how tight hands become when they are used constantly on a keyboard.
Once the mask was removed, the final touch was the Rose Hydrating Mist, which gently woke me up. I had zoned out completely and didn’t want the lovely treatment to end.
Andrea told me quite firmly that it is time to start using a serum, then a face oil and then a moisturizer. Using a moisturizer alone, as I do, is just not enough.
When I looked in the mirror I was amazed at how much better my skin looked. It was brighter, plumped up and I just looked healthier. I want to look like this every day, not just when I can travel to the Conrad Spa.
Sadly we missed eating in the Gusto restaurant at the Conrad, designed and overseen by the three Michelin starred chef Heinz Beck, as we were there on the day it is closed. But we did get to eat in The Louro which serves modern Portuguese food. Our starter of ‘Prawn Popcorn’ turned out to be tiny prawn balls served with dips of pale pink mayonnaise and paprika, and pale green avocado sauce, served to look like a culinary game of noughts and crosses. The main course of monkfish wrapped in Portuguese ham with sautéed new potatoes was rich and colourful. The next night we had Portuguese tapas -- I tucked into fried green beans, a carrot salad and prawns cooked in garlic. It was the perfect light meal to eat while listening to live local Fado songs.
The wide range of extra events the hotel arranges. As well as exercise classes most days, you can book in to visit the local food markets with the chef, take a wine master class with the head sommelier, spend a day following the ‘cork route’ to see how cork trees are grown and the amazing variety of things that can be made from it. You can even go clam picking at a local nature reserve and then cook what you find for lunch.
Who would like it?
Luxury lovers: the Conrad is five star all the way and has won a 2016 Travellers’ Choice Award from Trip Advisor. It is beautifully designed and the rooms are large and luxurious. We felt relaxed and rested just being there, and the staff were helpful and attentive.
Art lovers: huge metal animal sculptures by Sarah Dickens (the several greats granddaughter of Charles Dickens) decorate the main atrium. One section of the hotel hosts modern paintings and images in their own ‘art gallery’, and they often have special art events.
Spa lovers: the spa is restful, has excellent facilities and great treatments. You do have to pay €15 to use the spa unless you have booked a treatment, but this helps to keep the spa quiet and uncrowded.