Vale Navio: a ghost resort in Algarve

Posted: November 21, 2013 in Portugal


This place, located in Albufeira area, was one of the first time-sharing resorts in Portugal and one of the largest. The original project included 300 apartments and 95 villas, but in the end the whole thing collapsed.

The project was designed in 1972 by the architect Ramos Chaves. It was a special project, thought to be a model of positive interaction between urbanization and environment. Amazingly, only three trees – pine trees – would be cut down to make space to the buildings. But in the 80’s the success of Vale Navio was so intense that greediness dictated the expansion of the resort and the good principles were forgotten.









I couldn’t determine when it finally collapsed but probably in 2003. Initially I thought of 1988, because in the workshop there I found plenty of documents – repairing requests – with that date. But no. Googling it (there is plenty of information in Portuguese in a newspaper Público article here) made it clear. In 2000 Vale Navio was still up.

It’s an easy exploration. Located a couple of hundred meters from the main road in the region, there is even a parking spot and then, it’s just a matter of walking in and take pictures. The  most interesting spot in the former Mexican restaurant, significantly named Mexiko. What’s really awkward is that many properties initially included in the resort were saved from abandonment and people now live there. How strange can be to live surrounded by a ghost resort?

valenavio-09 valenavio-08
valenavio-02 valenavio-03

  1. Mike Owen says:

    My Wife and myself worked at this resort in its hayday selling timeshare. Great atmosphere lots of happy people and we had a real belief in our product. Unfortunately we ended up selling pre build products that were never built due to the greed of the developers. We have regretted it ever since,it has really damaged the name timeshare which in its self is a wonderful concept.

  2. Dario says:

    Hey mike owen , may i ask id you worked untill it finally colapsed, and if you did , do you know of the case of rachel ? I am doing a full documented presentation of it and i wouldmlike to capture everything i would like to find out where the body was found , and many other things such as where the jacuzi tubs where located pools etc

  3. Mike Owen says:

    Hi Dario.My memories are a bit vague as it was so long ago. I am not sure which body you are referring to. Was she the ten year old or the woman found in the Jaccuci .? I can tell you that the ten year old was found in scrub at the back of Falacia beach after a massive search by police,, fire service and by all of us the staff of Vale Naio which included an air search by myself. I think the name of the guy that the police charged with her murder was called Mike Brown who lived on the resort. However there was a lot of doubt about his guilt and a strong suspicion that her step father was the guilty party. He died exactly 12 months after the murder, Mike Brown did 19 years in prison.
    All I know about the lady that was found dead in the Jaccuci was the wife of a british police officer he was charged with the offence, but I don’t know what the outcome was in that case.
    The Jaccuci was located next door to the pool bar.
    I hope this information is of some help.


  4. Dario says:

    Thank you for your response , it was helpfull, yes i was talking abouth both the litle girl and the lady that passed away in the jacuzzi , thank you for your information it was very helpfull, unfortunally i cant locate the jacuzzi nor the pool bar , all i know of the place is the center part where the resteraunts , reception and apartment complexes are .

    • Mike Owen says:

      Hi again Dario
      The Jaccuci is located next to the pool bar if you go past the reception area and turn right about 70meters down that road you will find the pool and pool bar it is located right next to it.
      However it is not obvious that it is there because it is just a door.
      Of course it is possible that it may have all been demolished as it is about 3 years since I have been.
      Regards Mike

      • Carlos says:

        Hi Mario and Mike,
        If i remember right, Rachel, the 10 year old that disappeared allegedly from vale navio, was found under a pine tree somewhere in between falesia and the barranco beach.
        she was found a few days after she had gone missing. I used to study in the same school as she did and the following day we (the heldest pupils) were given the day off school to go and search the pine forests around the school, we knew she had been dropped in Vale Navio, but that area being close to the school could be an area of interest for her has outdoor school activities would normally be done in that area, we searched the full day to no success…it was all over the news channels and a day or 2 after it came the sad news.
        Today over 20 years ago, i still remember her smile with her freckles and her big ish front teeth,…never interacted directly with her, the school had 2 sections, portuguese and international, i was in the portuguese side and she was in the international section of the school, but she seemed a normal young lass for her age, playing around with her classmate colleagues…

        if i remember right there was a guy arrested, however the people/staff at VN had other beliefs, please dont hold me to every word i have written here, it was a long time ago and in a way was an event to be forgotten in time and i was just slightly older than Rachel!

  5. Lyn Baranowska says:

    I remember the start of Vale Navio. A crowd of us left Mouragolf to start up VN. There was such energy and enthusiasm. The possibilities of the resort were limitless and it could’ve been a really beautiful place. The lady in the Jacuzzi was before the time of the resort becoming Timeshare. I know I felt a bit unnerved when we were told the story. I know there was at least one person still in the Algarve after VN closed, she worked at a another resort back in Vilamoura. Actually it would be great to find her again. She was one of the original group that opened VN.

    • Mike Owen says:

      Hi Lynn
      The lady in the Jaccuci was definitely murderd when the resort was selling timeshare I know this because I was on the English sales team at the time.
      Have you returned to the resort since ? real spooky worth a visit

      • Hi Mike, It’s very spooky, I knew the story about the lady in the jacuzzi before we started marketing the resort??? We started about 1985. The team was ex-Mouragolf staff, headed by Keith,Jan and Leana. Other ex-Mouragolf staff were my then husband, myself, Janet, Bill & Pam, Cidalia, Kevin, Paul, Mark. Newer staff were Karen, John & Jopi, Halleluja, Anibal. Of course so many OPC’s/Sales staff came and went, like any other resort. Bill, Pam and Janet were still there at the time of the missing girl. Did you ever meet the old ‘Countess’? Was ‘ Cifrão’ still at the stables when you were there? He was a funny horse, he would stand in the back of his stable, the minute an unsuspecting visitor poked their head in to see him, he would go dashing for them! lol Are you still in touch with any of the people I mentioned?

      • Jon Perrett says:

        I was a “liner” during the Jacuzzi incident. I remember vividly Keith and Hans making us all swear to silence if questioned by the police. We all knew the woman was murdered even though the husband maintained she “slipped” and banged her head on the concrete floor. A lot went on at that place; still, I have some very fond memories of that place. Really upsetting to see how it ended up.

    • Karen W says:

      My parents had timeshare at VN and we were actually holidaying there when the lady was murdered in the jacuzzi, we heard her screams that day and we just thought it was kids playing around in the pool. Definitely was whilst the resort was both still being used for timeshare and still being sold as such

    • Paul Dawes says:

      Hi Lyn
      I just saw your comnent on Val Navio. What a great time we all had working there. Do you know what happened to all the original crew. Hope you remember me. Paul Dawes.

  6. rutger says:


    I am glad that we have found something that our questions may be beand word.

    We have been here 6 times and are very fascinated how this could happen and why it has become one of a deserted area on another day.

    Two weeks back we have the villa no. 17 hired through home away.
    This villa is located on the right side of the complex as you enter the car.

    The construction of the ‘bigger’ villas resembles the construction of the other apartments in the complex.
    Heard the larger villas 12, 17, 13 etc .. (I think there are a lot of 8) also in the complex?
    This they really much bigger houses than the rest of the houses on the plan.
    These were the houses of the bosses?

    Also, I would really, really wondering if anyone has pictures of how it was there, it was still running?

    Many of the large villas are now vekocht, and also a few small houses.
    Good to see that maybe ever a beautiful complex.

    hope someone can give us the andwoorden and e] maybe have a few pictures of that time.


    Rutger from Holland

  7. Dante Baakman says:


    Does anyone have some pictures from the resort when it was still in use?

    • Francis says:

      Hi do you know the exact location of the resort on google maps
      I will be in Albu again next week
      I’m just back from there and forgot to seek out this mysterious place.
      I will post photos when I find what’s still there
      Can’t believe I forgot to look for it!

  8. Ste says:

    Hi guys, I’ve stayed in vale navio twice in the last couple of years. We really like here , some the villas are looked after very well. Go to YouTube to see a video from 1985 ….. Really good and interesting for those of you who are young enough to remember ! Going back this year, I heard a development company has bought the derelict property’s and is developing new properties and maybe a hotel and complex?…. If anybody has any information, please let me know. Best of luck ste

    • Sachin°°° says:

      hi ste,
      what do you mean by staying in vale navio? the resort itself or the area? does it mean the complex isn’t abandoned anymore or just a part of it? are there villa’s for rent?
      from who did you hear about his “development company has bought the derelict property’s”?
      we want to visit the complex and the area in the coming summer.

      • ste says:

        Hi sachin

        Sorry about the late reply, we rented a villa there.
        Just been recently in the Algarve, so we drove to vale navio for a visit.
        The developers have started demolishing the low rise and high rise apartments along with the shopping area.
        I don’t know what type of properties are proposed for development, but there is rules for development for vale navio, I read this from another website(can’t remember which one).

        So the residents and the hotel will be very happy….no doubt.


    • Sachin°°° says:

      hi ste,
      what do you mean by staying in vale navio? the resort itself or the area? does it mean the complex isn’t abandoned anymore or just a part(s) of it? are there villa’s for rent?
      from who did you hear about his “development company has bought the derelict property’s”?
      we want to visit the complex and the area in the coming summer.

  9. Sasha says:

    Visited in December ’15. Everything is still the same; people milling around inhabited villas in the neighborhood walk their dogs among the “ruins” and don’t pay any attention to anybody exploring. Feels completely safe. Too bad the photogenic dirty lamppost in front of the taller building on the photo here has been broken off at the base and is no longer there.

  10. Jon Perrett says:

    Wow, what a memory. @Mike Owen, I lived and worked there at the time of the murder at the Jacuzzi. Do I know you? It is so long ago now. I loved working there but so sad to see it in ruins. Vale Navio was the turning point in my life. Sadly I recall the girl being murdered was a kidnap and ransom? The kidnappers thought it was Keith Whittakers girl but was Malcolms. Is that right? So sad.

  11. ste says:

    Hi everybody

    Google, forum for more information.

    Good pictures

  12. Can confirm I was here yesterday (08/07/16) and all the empty buildings have been demolished.

    See picture:

  13. Mike Cunningham jnr says:

    Hi Dario
    Interesting post that takes me back to some of the best and worst experiences in my time living on the algarve between 86 and 92. VN was the best and worst timeshare had to offer . It ended up a victim of its own success and turned into an almost ponzi type business constantly needing cash flow without real plans to build the next phase . It was an exciting thriving and fun place to live we lived on a villa opposite reception from 89 ish to 92 where mainly great times where had . Funny I watched an unsolved murder documentary and thought of Rachel tonight . The worst experince suffered was the time she went missing , from the early search on the Monday night all thinking she would turn up to the intense heartache we would suffer as a community in the days after . This showed the best of our community whilst probably harbouring her killer in our midst , forget tv this was a real life tragedy unfolding within what we thought was our tight nit community . The version of mick cooks conviction and the actions of her step father have never rung true to many of us with some who knew the characters in depth confronting Ray Charles as to his guilt . I also think the context of him witnessing the portugese police murder investigation of the jacuzzi death may have led him to belive he could get away with a kidnap ransom knowing he had a terminal illness ( I am not criticising the police just observing ) Mike s post on his account of the search is in truth different to mine where we asked for help from the police from the Tuesday ( she went missing on Monday night ) we kept searching with our knowledge of the area and trying to keep Carols spirts up . One key recollection was telling Ray where we intended to search on the wednesday which was falesia where we found initially her bag and shoe in early afternoon . Worried we may disturb evidence we asked for search dogs and the police to attend . They did not when we returned the next morning with huge support from the local community and holiday makers ( we hit the bars in albufeira asking for help on Wednesday night loads of tourist came down to help ) within a short time we found her on the Thursday morning no police on hand just our community dealing with real life horror . There is plenty of this story untold Rachel I believe had never received justice . As for VN a sad vessel of good and bad times that will forever be with many who experienced it .

  14. ste says:

    I was there in July of this year, I noticed that a building project has started already.

    This should be a nice change and will really revitalize the area for those who live there.


  15. I came across this quite by accident because I was thinking about being able to relive two great years spent at Vale Navio in, I think, 1990 and 91. I was younger then with my wife and 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter. We bought a timeshare for one of the apartments which had not been built. The first year we were given a villa to stay in which was very nice. The second year we were told our apartment had been built but was not ready in time for our holiday. We were put into a similar apartment. On walking around the site we saw the new apartment block, mainly breeze blocks with a bit of stucco covering – but no sign of any building work going on and no plant or machinery nearby.

    We were asked back in England to help fund a new sports hall which I obviously paid the amount I was asked for because I still had faith in the resort and wanted to spend more happy years there. Over the next few months the news started to come in that they wanted more funds and reports from various owners meetings were not favourable. We decided that we had had enough and decided to opt out. We had paid our deposit using my credit card and the monthly payments were taken from the same card. I was therefore able to prove this was an unlawful activity and I had not had the goods for which I was paying and managed to get all that money back. Unfortunately, I paid my share of the sport hall costs by cheque so obviously lost all that.

    I am absolutely amazed that the properties and real estate on this site have been abandoned and left to decay and go to ruin. Looking at the photos of this now derelict site left me with many fond memories but tears in my eyes.

  16. I would like to know if any of the property developers, site owners and time share representatives who relentlessly continued to sell unbuilt properties were ever brought to court for fraudulent activity and misrepresentation. They deliberately misled a trusting public who had been promised the earth and then ended up with nothing. They continued their money making and raising enterprise in spite of knowing that the basic roots of this site were based on corruption and cheating and that the whole venture was heading for collapse with no hope of revival.

    Recounting my whole experience with Vale Navio, I very much doubt if my two posting will ever get any kind of response. So be it.

    • Ste says:

      The whole site is totally demolished and being cleaned up.
      4 new building project on completion.
      The building company that built the new Mar shopping complex in loule is the main contractors for the new developments.
      Should be really nice once it’s completed.

  17. jonthebass says:

    Such memories. I was working online at the time of the copper murdering his wife down at the jaccuzzi. I remember Hans and Keith telling us all to keep our mouths shut and that we know nothing. Those two were very dodgy eh? When I was there we had Malcolm, Chris, Hans Jr, Alan, Charles, Rik, Brenda and there were two others who’s names escape me; one with great tan and dark beard and a younger fella that always walked around in his underpants. Strange what you remember hey? It was 31 years ago though….

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