Lisbon and Porto have obvious charms. But now, as Portugal is having its moment in the spotlight, need to go beyond the cities. The country is dotted with rustic farmhouses-turned-very comfortable retreats. These are places to slow way down, appreciate rugged nature and rigorously simple design, and feel at home. (And thank you to Lounge Luxury Travel for bringing me into the wonderland.)
Areias do Seixo
This romantic farmhouse retreat about an hour north of Lisbon welcomes guests into a “magical familiar setting.” Vintage bicycles serve as lobby art. The dining room is all mismatched chairs, plants above the service area and wildflowers on the tables. Much of the food is plucked or snipped from the permaculture gardens and greenhouse right outside. The owners wanted to create a sustainable retreat of “originality, sublime comfort and an inerrable sense of style that seamlessly blends in with the land, the sea and the shore” (a ten-minute walk away). Each of the 14 rooms has a confidently out-there design—and many have deep soaking tubs with wood-burning fireplaces in front of them.
Today In: Lifestyle
Simplicity, nature, silence and wide-open spaces. These are the new luxuries. At Craveiral they combine to create feelings of connection—to nature, to loved ones, to new friends—and belonging. Close to the beach at Zambujeira do Mar, Craveiral is not lavish. The owner largely left the rugged landscape as it was, building paths and orienting rooms around gnarled trees instead of taking them down. The 38 rooms are simple—unvarnished woods, soft textures and lots of cork—though some also have quietly luxurious Hästens mattresses. Bonus points for the partnership with one of Lisbon’s top pizzerias, which supports local nonprofits.
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Herdade Ribeira de Borba
At the eastern edge of the Alta Alentejo near Vila Viçosa, this sweet and simple estate lies along an ancient millenary route used by the Romans—vestiges of a bridge from that era remain. Now it’s a place of quiet, solitude and communion with nature. The estate is based on permaculture principles, with vegetable beds and orchards merging with a unique forest, all crisscrossed with walking trails. Accommodations range from compact but comfortable bedrooms to full houses to glamping domes in the countryside.
For a high-design hotel, Da Licença feels tremendously hospitable. The owners traded Paris’s art, fashion and design worlds for a simpler life as gentlemen hoteliers. But they didn’t give up their eye for aesthetics. The eight-bedroom hotel is built atop the remains of buildings that have stood here since the 1840s, at the highest point on roughly 300 gorgeous acres near Estremoz. The property has some 13,000 olive trees and lovely views in every direction. There is a sense of magnificence and calm.
Companhia das Culturas
At this rustic retreat in the eastern Algarve, the ultimate luxury is…nothing. No noise, no distractions, nothing in the way. Calm. Simplicity. Tranquility. Life at its most elemental. Luxury here is also history. The farmhouse has been in the owners’ family for five generations. There are public lounge and a private apartment in rooms that were once used as olive presses. The co-owner who is the creative mind behind everything has lived in France, England, Senegal and Brazil; is an anthropologist by training; and curates objects and aesthetics from various cultures in her hotel. Her eco-tourism work was born out of a desire not to let history slip away.
This boutique hotel just outside the pilgrimage city of Fátima aims to be a “soul experience.” It consists of a “village” of houses that reinterpret the traditional architecture of the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. Everything is rough-hewn, with walls made of irregular stones that were collected in the region and attached with a mortar made of red sand. The spa occupies a natural cave whose high energy amplifies the effects of aromatherapy and herbal medicine using local flora. The onsite grocery store is curated with the country’s best heritage products.
Rural yet refined, the 1940s farmhouse, parts of which are still occupied by the family, is now a Wallpaper-worthy hotel just outside the bohemian Algarve town of Olhão. It has nine guest rooms with private patios that have views over the Ria Formosa Natural Park and two common rooms. One of those is among the coziest places in Portugal, with a wood-burning oven that’s used to warm the space and bake each day’s bread.
In the southeastern corner of the Algarve, Pensão Agrícola is a luxe take on a blessedly simple guesthouse on a farm, surrounded by orange, almond and arbutus trees. The small farmhouse was built in 1920 and was a working farm until 1970. Stylish architectural firm Atelier Rua turned it into a charming accommodation that’s well suited to 2019.
Herdade da Matinha
I stumbled across this charmer during a slackpacking trip along the Rota Vicentina organized by We Love Small Hotels. The decoration is eclectic, a reflection of the owner’s world travels. There are currently ten horses of Puro Sangue Lusitano, Cruzado Portugês and Halflinger breeds on the property, and they are treated like family. Guests can tap into that for trail rides or mindful grooming exercises. If horses aren’t your thing, many walking trails are nearby. The kitchen is so much the heart of the operation that guests can help the chefs prepare dinner.
Quinta de Lemos
Like many of my favorite places, Quinta de Lemos began with an improbable dream. It shouldn’t have worked, but it became a love letter. The winery, fine-dining restaurant and small hotel sprung from the imagination of Celso de Lemos. When he bought the land in the Vale do Dão, he already had decades of hard work and success under his belt. His companies, Abyss and Habidecor, are known worldwide for top-quality, impossibly plush towels and rugs, and his eponymous bed linens have a glamorous purity and seductive texture to them. Those linens are on the beds of this micro-hotel, and I would happily return just to sleep between them.