It is as if time has stood still in the small and peaceful village of Alvados, located in the Estremadura province. It is wonderfully quiet, and the only sounds you hear come from the church bells, the local pub or the cattle in the fields. I continue onwards to the Cooking & Nature Hotel, but am distracted along the way by an adorable little restaurant, wild flowers, beautiful old olive trees and cork oaks. But in the end, the greatest surprise is the hotel that looms up ahead of  me, wow! A beautiful, modern property, very carefully designed and perfectly integrated into the natural surroundings by using cork as a building material. This is not at all what you expect to find here!

Once inside, I am struck by the original design and the brightness of the hotel: large windows and glass doors bring the outdoors inside and offer a stunning view.
Rui Anastácio, the owner, knows the surroundings like the back of his hand and, together with his wife Rita, he has had a rural hotel, Casa dos Matos, in Alvados for several years now. However, they felt it was time for something different, completely different. And this is how the Cooking & Nature hotel came to be.  A place just as cosy as their other hotel, but more modern and exclusive.

The result is a unique concept with twelve rooms, all individually themed in different emotions. The rooms (and designer bathrooms) are spacious and luxurious, and offer a wonderful view of the natural surroundings. When making a reservation, be sure to find out which of the themes suits you best, as they are all so different!

I was especially impressed with the ground floor areas: a cosy living room with fire place and honesty bar (fix your own drink and write down what you took on a list), another spacious living room, a playroom for the children and, above all, the restaurant. In the evenings, everything revolves around the restaurant, as this is where the guests spend their time preparing and eating the wonderful meals (except on Sunday nights). What a great idea, you don’t have to cook if you don’t want to, and you pay just as much for the (fixed) menu if you don’t. But if you do want to join in, a trained chef helps you to prepare a delicious meal, using only fresh and seasonal local ingredients. And don’t worry about cooking for hours and having to do the dishes afterwards either, as these are done for you….after all, you’re on holiday! It is the lovely concept of everyone sampling and preparing food together that is important here. And  if you have brought your children, they are welcome to join in!  For the romantics among us, there is a more intimate ‘Lover’s zone’ for guests to prepare and eat their dinner. After dinner, you can relax at the fire place, or, when the weather is nice, sit outside near the fire pit and gaze at the many stars!

The surrounding hilly landscape is gorgeous, and the Serra de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park, which is right on the doorstep, is ideal for hiking or cycling trips (ask your hosts for routes and GPS!). But the Nature & Cooking Hotel’s garden is also stunning, with its old olive trees and a refreshing swimming pool. In the chillier winter months, you can submerge yourself in the ‘Banhos Aire’: different baths that all vary in temperature…indoors!

The Cooking & Nature Hotel is a wonderful and innovative concept, tastefully integrating playful modern design into the natural surroundings, while still maintaining an intimate atmosphere. It is perfect for various target groups, whether it be couples, families or groups of friends or colleagues, and for all seasons! 

Do you want to find out more about the diversity of Portugal? Read my blog ‘Portugal – Inside and Out’!

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