As Portugal’s southernmost region, the Algarve has no shortage of stunning beaches, boutique villas and sprawling golf resorts. But for those who seek an authentic cultural immersion, a family-owned hotel offers up an experience with regional charm and traditional character.

Named after owner Carlos Fernandes’ mother, Modesta Maria, Casa Modesta has been a family property for generations. Built by Fernandes’ grandfather, local fisherman Joaquin Modesto de Brito, the home was where Modesta grew up and Fernandes and his siblings shared countless childhood memories. Wanting to preserve the property for generations to come and pay homage to the surrounding natural environment (the hotel is in the heart of the Natural Park of Ria Formosa), Fernandes enlisted his sister Vânia, an architect with local studio PAr, to transform the original 1940s structure to a nine suite hotel.

ARCHITECTURE PAr | PHOTOGRAPHY Casa Modesta

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Traditional constructive processes, materials and culture influenced the architecture of the hotel, ‘signed in memory of family and place’. The building’s cubic exterior is enhanced by the simple white stucco and terracotta tiles, placing it in harmony with both the natural landscape and traditional Portuguese architecture. Inside the structure the commitment to a rustic minimalism continues, with white walls and terracotta tiles throughout the suites and communal spaces. Vaulted brick ceilings and stone fireplaces add character to a living area, while Canadian cedar furniture and brass taps and lighting introduce a gentle contemporary style to the suites. Each suite includes a private bathroom and patio, and some even have a hammock waiting out the back.

The family dynamic extends to the hotel’s hosting services, where both the hotel’s own vegetable garden and greenhouse and nearby almond and olive orchards provide organic produce for feasting. With the ocean so close of course clams and oysters are also in abundance, so it’s safe to say you’ll never go hungry during your stay. Communal meals are served in the dining room and traditional cooking workshops are on offer for those keen to recreate the coastal flavours back home.

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Continue the cultural immersion by spending a day biking, hiking or birdwatching at the Natural Park of Ria Formosa (one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Portugal’), taking a private boat out fishing or to the local beach, or enjoying a spa treatment with natural ingredients like olives, almonds and algae. And at night, the clear seaside views offer up planetarium-like views of the night sky.

For a restorative and authentic experience on the Portuguese coast, Casa Modesta is a winner. But beyond that, it’s the family’s commitment to respect and honour the natural environment that makes the stay special. As they say, ‘there are those who call it a ‘vacation’, while we call it ‘culture’.

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The traditional oven amongst the kitchen area, with the tiled central courtyard in the background. Fernandes’ mother Modesta is responsible for homemade cakes to be enjoyed as part of the hospitality.

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Suite details: brass tapware and traditional Portuguese terracotta tiles are a foil to the white tiles and stucco walls throughout the interior.  

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