Little Alentejo gems: Hidden in the heart of Alentejo, behind whitewashed façades of ancient noble homes, we discovered three boutique hotels for the perfect country escapade
Set in little-known villages, where life still runs at the typically slow pace of the region, these boutique hotels offer tailored experiences and a genuine taste of the Alentejo.
Whether for a luxurious retreat, a trendy getaway or a cosy homestay, there is a little gem waiting to be discovered.
A luxurious manor house
In the town of Mora, one and a half hours east of Lisbon, Liláses Boutique House & Garden is a delightful noble house that once belonged to a well-respected Portuguese family.
The “Lilacs” house takes us back to a time when noble families spent months at a time in their country estates, enjoying the calmness of the countryside.
Now transformed into a 16-bedroom, adults-only retreat, the house combines traditional architecture and superb frescos with stylish modern interior design.
Beautifully refurbished, it features original architectural lines and designs, such as large stone arches and vaulted tile ceilings in the downstairs bedrooms, tall ceilings and wooden shutters on the ground floor, and deliciously cosy bedrooms under the eaves on the top floor.
The decoration isn’t anything you would expect in the Alentejo. Plush materials in luxurious colours, designer lamps and modern marble bathrooms exude a luxurious five-star hotel feel.
Founder of the Liláses Boutique House & Garden, Rui de Sousa, insists on personalising every aspect of his guests’ experience.
“We recreated a manor house, with modern comforts and old-fashioned service, with the unrivalled attention of a butler and our cook, Dona Maria. All this is based on the small details, customisation and anticipation of our guests’ every need.”
Meals are enjoyed on the veranda that boasts sprawling views of the Alentejo plains and the village rooftops. Here, every craving can be satisfied, from banana pancakes sprinkled with fresh fruit for breakfast to the most traditional regional dishes made with locally sourced ingredients for a three-course dinner with wine pairing.
Outside, within the garden walls, we find a swimming pool, a pergola for intimate dinners and a fragrant herb garden. Beyond the property’s borders, Rui de Sousa and his team organise authentic Alentejano experiences that take guests to discover local artisans and their delicacies such as honey, or even try their hand at making pottery.
The coolest spot
In Casa Branca, a little village in the Alto Alentejo, just 30 minutes from Estremoz, Az-Zagal is a brand-new project owned by the Sonel Hotels Group and managed by Hugo Bernardo, consultant chef at the irreverent Howard’s Folly restaurant.
“Its unusual Arabic name, which translates to ‘courageous person’ and became the Portuguese family name Zagalo, reflects the region’s 400-years of Arab heritage,” explains the chef.
Located on a narrow street, the new boutique hotel is an oasis concealed behind a large white wall and ancient iron gates. The large stately home once belonged to the Reynolds, a British family that settled in the region to produce cork and eventually made their mark in the wine-producing business at the neighbouring Herdade do Mouchão.
The building’s original structure, doors, shutters, tiles, floorboards and stunning wooden spiral staircase were refurbished, mixing rustic design with modern boho-chic style.
The hotel’s 13 spacious bedrooms with modern bathrooms are spread across three floors.
Their soothing and peaceful ambience is created with natural materials such as straw, wood and rope, and a palette of earthy colours.
Ranging from small classic rooms to suites, either with vaulted ceilings or a trompe l’oeil wooden ceiling with frescos, every room has a bright and welcoming atmosphere.
The pièce de resistance, the large Royal Suite, boasts a woodburner, large chaises-longue and a bathroom filled with natural light. Outside, overlooking the saltwater pool, white macramé parasols and large wooden sunbeds with plush cushions create a cool, relaxing spot for the hot Alentejo summers.
Under a wooden canopy, the shaded terrace with hanging straw lamps features a refreshing water mist system to cool down the terrace.
This is where chef Bernardo serves creative dishes made with some of the region’s best and most iconic products.
His ever-changing menu is based on seasonal products and can include dishes such as a sardine crostini with peppers and Sriracha spicy mayonnaise, a vegetable pasty with Bulhão Pato coriander sauce, scarlet shrimp ceviche, black pork loin with rosemary mash and an encharcada with raspberry ice cream and pineapple carpaccio. All this is served with wine from small local producers, to which the chef will also organise exclusive visits.
A home away from home
Up in Assumar, on the road from Estremoz to Portalegre, Hilde Appelmans and Walt Bosmans created the heavenly Assumar Country House, a freshly refurbished manor house on the edge of a rustic village.
The creative Belgian couple came to Portugal a few years back to find a peaceful place to give wings to their creativity and immerse themselves in the local culture.
“Ultimately, to have a down-to-earth lifestyle, which is precisely what we want to offer our guests. We want them to feel at home,” says Hilde.
Built over 400 years ago, the large white building, which features various annexes and a chapel, was once a transit house for travellers between Lisbon and Madrid.
Today, its six rooms – named after former residents, including a priest and an army captain – welcome new travellers looking for a place where they can get away from it all and reconnect with nature.
Four spacious rooms are located in the main house, whilst two self-catering cottages can be found in the garden house.
The minimalistic design of the rooms with large white flowing curtains and details in natural materials is ideal for the Alentejo’s scorching summer days, as thick stone walls keep the temperatures cool.
The communal areas, including a large sitting room and a games room, feel like home.
There is also an incredible wine cellar filled with delicious vintages, kept under lock and key.
Outside, the lush garden, dotted with olive trees and old amphorae, features a beautiful pool lined with cypress trees and an abundant vegetable garden.
A creative and passionate chef, Hilde prepares delicious meals for her guests, served under the pergola of the large terrace overlooking the garden and the Alentejo plains.
Every morning, she bakes a cake for breakfast, which she serves at the large table together with fresh fruit, eggs, “and anything the guests fancy”. She also prepares light poolside snacks during the day, made with vegetables from the garden.
Walt and Hilde take great pride in organising special visits to local producers for their guests, helping them discover the region’s rich cultural heritage, before returning to Assumar for a home-cooked meal served with locally produced wine.
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