There are many different types of lodging options in Portugal. Many who travel to the Algarve region book themselves into luxurious resorts and never step outside them, thanks to amenities such as golf courses, tennis courts, and entertainment.
Although there are many international chain hotels in Portugal, residências and pensões (simple accommodations with private bathrooms, and breakfast as the only meal served) in former private homes are also popular and very affordable. They can be found in cities and rural towns as well.
Pousadas (inns) are within historic structures, often former castles or palaces, and are usually decorated with local crafts or antique reproductions. They still offer modern amenities, such as television.
Apartment and House Rentals
The rental properties in the Algarve are in high demand. Most apartments and villas are privately owned, with a local management company overseeing the advertising, maintenance, and rent collection. Two reliable Algarve-based agencies are Villas & Vacations and Resort Rentals Algarve.
For lists of rental properties and reputable agents elsewhere in Portugal, contact tourist offices. Avoid time-share touts on the street; they'll try to lure you in to view a property with the promise of free vacations and cash. These are often sophisticated (and costly) scams.
Resort Rentals Algarve. 282/771132; resortrentalsalgarve.com.
Villas & Vacations. 289/390500; www.villas-vacations.com.
Throughout the country, though particularly in the north, many solares (manors) and casas no campo (farm- or country houses) have been remodeled to receive small numbers of guests in a venture called Turismo de Habitação (TURIHAB). These guesthouses are in bucolic settings, near parks or monuments or in historic aldeias (villages). If they are larger properties, such as farmhouses, guests stay in self-contained cottages on the grounds. Breakfast is always included in the price.
The Central Nacional do Turismo no Espaço Rural (National Center for Rural Tourism) serves as a clearinghouse for information from several organizations involved in this endeavor.
Central Nacional do Turismo no Espaço Rural. 258/931750; www.center.pt.
TURIHAB. 258/741672; www.turihab.pt.
With a direct home exchange, you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. Some outfits also deal with vacation homes, so you're not actually staying in someone's full-time residence, just their vacant weekend place. In Portugal most home-exchange properties are in Lisbon, though there are a few elsewhere, and a handful in the Algarve.
Although home-exchange is not common practice in Portugal, it could be a viable option for experienced home-swappers, particularly in summer, when peak rates apply in hotels, and especially in key regions like Lisbon and the Algarve.
Home Exchange.com. 800/877–8723; www.homeexchange.com.
HomeLink International. 800/638–3841; www.homelink.org.
Intervac U.S. 866/884–7567; www.intervac-homeexchange.com.
Portugal has many excellent and reasonably priced hotels, though good properties can be hard to come by in remote inland areas. The government officially grades accommodations with one to five stars or with a category rating. Ratings, which are assigned based on the level of comfort and the number of facilities offered, can be misleading, because quality is difficult to grade. In general, though, the system works.
Most hotel rooms have such basic amenities as a private bathroom and a telephone; those with two or more stars may also have air-conditioning, cable or satellite TV, a minibar, and room service. (Note that all hotels listed have private bath unless otherwise indicated, although most hotels up to three stars will have a shower, rather than bathtub.)
High season means not only the summer months, but also the Christmas and New Year's holiday period on Madeira, Easter week throughout the country, and any time a town is holding a festival. In the off-season (generally November through March), however, many hotels reduce their rates by as much as 20%.
The websites of the Portuguese National Tourist Office and Mais Turismo have search engines for accommodations throughout the country.
Mais Turismo. www.maisturismo.pt.
Portuguese National Tourist Office. www.visitportugal.com.
The term pousada is derived from the Portuguese verb pousar (to rest). Portugal has a network of about 35 of these hotels, formerly state run but now managed by the Pestana Group, which are in restored castles, palaces, monasteries, convents, and other charming buildings. Each pousada is in a particularly scenic and tranquil part of the country and is tastefully furnished with regional crafts, antiques, and artwork. All have restaurants that serve local specialties; you can stop for a meal or a drink without spending the night.
Rates are reasonable, considering that most pousadas are four- or five-star hotels and a stay in one can be the highlight of a visit. They're extremely popular with foreigners and Portuguese alike, and some have 10 or fewer rooms; make reservations well in advance, especially for stays in summer. Also check for seasonal and senior-citizen discounts, which can be as high as 40%.
Pousadas de Portugal. 218/442001; 888/441--4421; www.pousadas.pt.
Concentrated mostly in the northern half of the country is a profusion of termas (thermal springs), whose waters reputedly can cure whatever ails you. In the smaller spas, hotels are rather simple; in the more famous ones, they're first-class. Most are open from May through October.
Associação das Termas de Portugal. 21/794–0574; 21/794–0602; www.termasdeportugal.pt.