SOUTH WESTERN ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL
Exquisite, tranquil hilltop estate in the Alentejo hills for nature, yoga, wine-tasting, art and wellbeing getaways.
From €10,150 per week
IN A NUTSHELL
Meaning ‘hidden paradise’, Paraiso Escondido is set on a verdant estate in the Alentejo hills of Southern Portugal and has been hosting yoga, art, healthy eating, wine tasting and nature retreats since 2014. Lovingly run by Mozambique-born artist Berny Serrao and her husband Glenn Cullen, this retreat venue in Portugal is an immaculate, homely getaway, perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in nature and sample life in the slow lane. Its characterful accommodation consists of ten rooms, all imaginatively adorned with items collected from Berny and Glenn’s travels around the world, and includes two bungalows on stilts which edge into the forest. There’s a scenic yoga studio, a tranquil spa and a refreshing swimming pool. On the doorstep is the South West Alentejo and the Costa Vicentina National Park, one of the finest preserved stretches of European coastline and home to some spectacular beaches and wildlife.
INDOOR RETREAT SPACES
A 56 square metre yoga studio at the highest point of the property lends itself to sunrise yoga with breathtaking views. There are 15 mats and 30 blocks, and blankets and straps are also available. There's also a small spa for massages. The large lounge is perfect for indoor activities when the weather isn't great. This has two large tables and six smaller ones for group work.
OUTDOOR RETREAT SPACES
Set slightly away from the main house is an outdoor yoga deck. With its beautiful views, this is a lovely spot for meditation, qigong, relaxation and star-gazing under the Alentejo sky. It can also be set up Moroccan-style with rugs and cushions for evening meditation or closing ceremony.
The large garden and pool area - with a 10-metre pool, sun loungers, tables and stools - has several quiet shaded areas where groups can gather, or individuals can have their own space and enjoy the peace and quiet. The flower-filled, fragrant garden is another scenic spot. There's also a large terrace which is great for art sessions and workshops.
The venue consists of separate buildings located around the 20-acre site. There are five bedrooms in the main house and a further five bedrooms outside the main house, including two gorgeous wooden bungalows on stilts. Each room is named after a tea and has its own theme, with furnishings and artwork from Berny and Glenn’s time in Africa and Asia. From the Jasmine and Verbena suites to the Lúcia Lima double, white walls act as a cool backdrop to pops of bright colour and soft cushions. They’re all marvellously comfortable, relaxing and beautiful spaces, with ensuite bathrooms and a private outside sitting area.
Rooms have a terrace or balcony, WiFi, air-conditioning, a fan, a hairdryer, bathrobes, toiletries, a minibar and coffee/tea making facilities. All the bed linen is made in Portugal, using 100% percale cotton, with a 200 thread count to give a luxurious silk-like feel. Bathroom products are by Ren Skincare.
The main house has a large lounge and dining area, which is a vast white space with high white wooden ceilings and large windows bringing the outside in. There are several areas where you can eat, drink or just chill out. The lounge also has a large wood burning fireplace and a well-stocked honesty bar. There's a reading lounge located off the living area. This is the spot for hunkering down with the array of glossy magazines and novels.
Throughout the house the vibe is African lodge meets Asian temple. Many of Berny's own paintings are on display throughout the house and reflect her time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali and Singapore. The outdoor pool bar also doubles as a dining space.
Enjoy yoga and treatments, and brilliant local walks. On the doorstep you also have The Rota Vicentina - 750km of walking paths along the South West Coast of Portugal. Made up of The Historical Way, with inland walks through beautiful villages and country landscapes, and The Fishermen’s Trail, with walks along the cliff tops with spectacular views out to the ocean, this is hiking heaven. Or enjoy lovely walks through the eucalyptus and cork trees surrounding the venue.
Nature lovers will adore The South West Alentejo and the Costa Vicentina National Park, home to many bird species, such as rare fish eagles. The rarest species is the white stork - this is the only place in the world where they build their nests in the seashore rocks. Another rarity is the otter. This is the only place in Portugal and one of the last places in Europe where it is possible to find otters in a marine habitat.
The beaches rival the neighbouring Algarve’s for white sand and bounteous surf. Both surfing and canoeing can be organised. Kayaking down the River Mira is an experience not to be missed. Horse riders can discover local routes and beach coves tucked into the cliff-side.
Foodies will love the nearby restaurants which serve up local specialities, while wine aficionados will recognise the world class wine produced in the region. Tours to local wineries can be organised.
Cuisine is vegetarian and vegan with Asian and international influences and is healthy, exciting and vibrant. The breakfast highlight is Glenn’s scrambled eggs, served alongside freshly baked local bread, goats cheese from a neighbouring farm, granola, yogurts and a bowl of fruit. Dinners - using the freshest Alentejo produce - are provided at extra cost. You can expect dishes such as cauliflower tandoori with roasted butternut, coriander, hazelnuts and pomegranate, for example. Pukka herbal teas are available, as well as fresh herb brews from the garden. There’s also a gin menu, local spirit Medronho and a wide choice of regional wines available at the honesty bar.
The ethos at Paraiso Escondido is all about living in harmony and the owners have taken many steps to live a more sustainable life. As well as using solar energy for heating hot water, all electric lightbulbs throughout the property have been changed to LED to reduce energy consumption. There is an ongoing programme to reduce single use plastic, and glass, paper products and plastic products used are recycled. No chemicals or pesticides are used on the organic vegetable garden and rainwater is recycled into the lake to irrigate the lawns and vegetable garden. Organic enzymes are used to breakdown food and human waste in the septic tanks. In the bathrooms eco-friendly products that haven't been tested on animals are used.
Fair-trade organic coffee with recyclable and compostable capsules is used, and 90% of food products are sourced within a 35km radius to support local suppliers and reduce the venue’s carbon footprint. The yoga studio is made from upcycled office containers, cladded with cork from the most green and sustainable trees in the world. Mats and blocks used in yoga are all made of local sustainable and biodegradable cork. The owners have upcycled and recycled many of the pieces of furniture and decorative items.
There are charging stations for Tesla and electric cars to help contribute to sustainable driving. The couple support a local co-operative (Alma da Nossa Gente) by using their sustainably-produced jams. Employees are educated about about eco-friendly behaviour, including energy saving and environmental sustainability.
The hosts' attention to detail. They go out of their way to make sure guests feel as pampered as possible. The gorgeous views over the valleys. The pristine and immaculate rooms.
The Less Than Ordinary
All beds are doubles, so if you're travelling with a friend, you might want to book two rooms.
Caixa Postal 5550-A
Casa Nova Da Cruz
7630-568 São Teotónio
Faro or Lisbon