• Thursday, October 1, 2020

Vila Joya Portugal

First Look - Pure Joya in Portugal: Vila Joya
September 28, 2011
Welcome to Paradise

The underground speakeasy of boutique hotels, Vila Joya is so insider-y that insiders don’t even know about it. Its repeat clientele isn’t planning on spilling the beans anytime soon – so we will. Vila Joya is reminiscent of the Thomas Crown Affair, where an affair is exactly what you’ll want to have at this romantic hideaway on the Algarve Coast of Portugal. Vila Joya itself is the destination, where it will have to take a very good reason to get you off the resort during your weekend stay. 

Just because you’re vacationing in one of Portugal’s most popular seaside towns doesn’t mean you should have to contend with the crowds. The Algarve is less Portuguese than it is British and German, who invade in full force. Who can blame them, though, for the Algarve has long stretches of soft-sand beaches set amid stunning seaside cliffs and impossibly blue skies. You can walk for miles along the beach from town to town, and if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble across a local fisherman’s village for a taste of authentic Portuguese culture. 

Vila Joya is fully ensconced behind entrance gates, which makes you feel like you’re arriving on Paradise Island. With the oh-so-apt greeting of Welcome to Paradise and a glass of champagne before you even step inside, paradise is exactly where you’ve landed. It’s called Vila Joya for many reasons, including the joy you’ll feel as you look right out at the Mediterranean, hear the crashing of the waves, and smell the salty tang of the sea. This is one of those places that’ll make you grateful to be alive.


Vila Joya is a family affair. The hotel was founded by the late Claudia Jung, and is now run by Joy, her beautiful young daughter. Until he retired, Joy’s father also worked at the Vila, often welcoming guests and singing cabaret-style in the restaurant, which was quite the memorable experience. Over the years, Vila Joya has stepped up its room size, so if you’re looking to camp out, splurge on a Junior or an all-out suite. The suites range from around 1000 square feet to the Royal Suite, which is over 2200 square feet of pure luxury. The regular rooms are cozy gems but note that they’re also pint-size. They all have terraces and balconies, though, so you can sleep with the doors open and be lulled to sleep by the sea.  The amenities are top-notch, including Bang & Olufsen stereos that you could only dream of having at home. You have the option for half-board, with a lavish breakfast spread, or full-board, which includes an excellent dinner and is the deal of the century in the world of luxury hotels. This is a hotel where people come just to eat in the restaurant, and with the full-board option, your entire stay costs less than a meal at Le Louis XV in Monaco.


Vila Joya is off the radar, yet has the only restaurant with two Michelin stars in all of Portugal. The white-glove meal will be one of the best you’ll experience – ever – no matter how well-traveled and restauranted you are. This is fine dining – and we’re not talking about the strange stuff that will have you scratching your head. Instead, it’s delicious seasonal dishes of mind-blowing flavors, like poached lobster with delicate cauliflower and caviar, or an entrecôte Vila Joya-style, made with  Wagyu beef. While they make a mean chocolate soufflé, every meal should end with their cheese plate, where they roll out a cart stocked with Portuguese cheeses that easily match (if not trump) the French. We venture to say that this is one of the best cheese plates in the world, comparable to what you would find in the original slow-food capital of Bergamo in Italy. The food is so exceptional that Vila Joya is the host of an annual nine-day food orgy, where Europe’s top chefs congregate for what is the Olympics of the culinary world. 


By virtue of its Algarve location, you can post-party it up with the weekender crew, or just disappear into this surreal place. For golf lovers, it’s a haven with 36 courses – yes, that’s courses, not holes – within 45 minutes of the resort. You can also make excursions into town, but don’t be too disappointed when you only find chintzy souvenir shops with little atmosphere. The trip into town, though, is worthwhile if you can stock up on Portuguese wine. The country’s wines, faced with competition from Spanish, French, and Italian neighbors, are often overlooked, but they shouldn’t be, especially the superb red and dessert wines. And, there’s always long walks on the beach. Surprisingly, some of the most beautiful beaches are near the Sheraton, in the coves of the rough cliffs. If spa treatments are your thing, Vila Joya is your place, with an entire villa next to the hotel devoted to treatments and yoga. It’s all about inner well-being at this Moroccan-inspired spa, with rose petals strewn on your path and scented candles. After a weekend in this paradise, you’ll know you’ve found pure Joya of your own.