8 alternative Portugal breaks close to nature, from glamping to rustic quintas

8 alternative Portugal breaks close to nature, from glamping to rustic quintas

From snoozing in a wine barrel above Douro vines to bedding down in architect-designed digs where the Atlantic rocks you to sleep — these one-of-a-kind hideaways drop you into Portugal’s wildest reaches.

Published August 30, 2023

6 min read

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

1. Senses 

To give civilisation the slip, head north to Serra da Estrela Natural Park, where the country’s tallest mountains punch above valleys that echo with goat and sheep bells. At Senses on the banks of the Mondego River, you can camp under the fruit trees or glamp in a bell tent, safari lodge or yurt. Wild swim in the river with the otters and hike into granite heights, returning to eat at the farm-to-fork restaurant. By night the Milky Way shimmers in some of the country’s darkest skies. Pitches from €15 (£13), tents from €45 (£39), B&B. 

2. Quinta da Pacheca 

If ever there was a view to make you want to crack open a bottle of something special, it would be these steeply terraced vineyards marching up emerald hillsides above the Douro River. This converted 18th-century quinta (wine estate) has a luxury hotel, restaurant and spa. For a real sense of place, stay in a wine barrel with a deck peeking over the vines. Borrow a bike, order a picnic, hook onto a tour and tasting, or come in autumn to join in with the grape-stomping. Doubles from €250 (£216), B&B. 

3. Gavião Nature Village

Framed by the cork woods and olive groves of the Alto Alentejo, this riverside escape slots beautifully into the landscape, with cork-clad shelters and romantic, boho-style glamping tents. Nature is wholly embraced here: walk trails into mountains where you’ll barely see a soul, laze in the vineyard, paddle along the Tagus River or order a hamper of regional goodies for a sunset picnic. The pool, playground, organic garden and farm animals are a surefire hit with kids. Doubles from €150 (£130), B&B.

4. Salema Eco Camp

On a blissfully untouristy stretch of the Algarve’s south coast, this camp is a step inland from Praia da Salema’s booming Atlantic surf. Pitch under the pines or glamp in a safari tent or hill-perched lodge. There’s plenty happening: sign up to surf lessons, head to the beach in search of dinosaur footprints, hike cliff-hugging coastal trails, or go kayaking, diving or mountain biking. Back at camp, yoga classes calm the mood and there’s a restaurant serving homemade pizza. Pitches from €16 (£14), safari tents from €60 (£52), room only. 

5. Quinta das Lavandas

This whitewashed quinta east of Lisbon in Serra de São Mamede Nature Park is like an impressionist painting, with fields sweeping up to orchards, vineyards and mountains. It’s the Alentejo country dream, with lavender gardens that are a mass of fragrant purple in summer. Simple rooms in restful colours nod to the surrounds. Nature takes centre stage here: learn how lavender is made into essential oil, rent a bike or head out into those beautiful hills on foot or on horseback. Doubles from €99 (£86), B&B.

6. Lima Escape

Birdsong is your wake-up call at Lima Escape in Peneda-Gerês National Park. At this riverside camp, you can tune into nature’s forgotten rhythms camping or glamping in tipis, bell tents or glass-fronted lodges. Starry nights give way to days canyoning, kayaking, paddleboarding and wild swimming in nearby lagoons and falls. Dust off your boots to hike high into pine and oak forests and up to boulder-strewn peaks, where you might spot ibex, eagle-owls and ponies. Pitches from €15 (£13), double glamping tents/lodges from €55 (£47), room only.

7. Casas na Areia

Casas na Areia emerges like a mirage from the Atlantic-ruffled sand dunes, pine forests and rice paddies of the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve. Slickly reinterpreted fishermen’s shacks bear the minimalist imprint of Portuguese architect Manuel Aires Mateus, who has brought nature indoors with sandy floors and thatch-lined walls. Decks have mood-lifting views and breakfasts big up farm-fresh produce. Spend your days swimming, horse riding and spotting flamingos and dolphins. Doubles from €500 (£432), B&B.

8. Quinta Alma 

A whisper away from the Moorish castle-topped town of Aljezur, this eco retreat is off-grid heaven. Joana and Mario warmly welcome you to their organic farm, where you’ll find a sprinkling of handmade hideaways, from rustic wooden mountain shelters for two, to chic safari tents with vintage furniture. There are gardens to roam, farm animals to feed, a natural lake to swim in and nearby waves to surf. Or simply relax with yoga and massage. There’s a minimum stay of two nights but, trust us, you’ll want to double that. Doubles from €98 (£85), B&B.

Published in the September 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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