Having left the main road, I enter a different world. I continue my way along the cork oaks and ancient olive trees and find my destination: a true little paradise.

Allow me to introduce to you the Alentejo, a region in the South-Central part of Portugal as yet fairly undiscovered by tourism. But unknown, unloved certainly does not apply here, as this is where the Portuguese themselves prefer to spend their holidays. Also, the renowned National Geographic Magazine declared it one of the must-see places in 2014. So, high time to size it up and visit a Hideaway that had been on my wish list for quite some time now: Monte da Fornalha.

It is Orlanda who reigns over this 200 year old farm. Fifteen years ago, she was looking to settle down after her extensive travels around the world and found this magical spot. Of course, a large-scale renovation was needed in order to get the farm fit for habitation and for receiving guests. With an enormous eye for detail and a great sense of style she created this hidden gem.  And not only did she decorate  the six rooms attractively and comfortably, she also turned the garden into a magical place. Pretty flowers, old fruit trees and a splashing fountain… and to think that the Alentejo is one of the driest and hottest regions in Portugal, where the weather is lovely from early spring to late fall! That makes this garden a true oasis.

Monte da Folharna is perfect for a laid back holiday. The beds are lovely to sleep in and the thick walls keep the rooms comfortably cool. By the way, very nice to have your own little fridge and coffee- and tea making facilities in your room. After a refreshing night’s sleep, you can leisurely go to the common living room, which is also tastefully decorated, to enjoy a lavish breakfast (don’t forget to try the home-made cake!). And then you have the whole day ahead of you….What to do? The surroundings are very diverse: pretty authentic villages, wine estates, the beautiful countryside, etc. But you can also choose to lounge at the pool and read all those books that you haven’t had time for yet! On request, a light lunch will be prepared for you and drinks are available in the ‘honesty bar’ (remember to write down what you took). You will have to come into action at night though, as the hotel doesn’t serve dinner. No problem,  the nearby village of Estremoz, a ten minute drive away, has several nice restaurants, as does Borba. And be sure to ask Orlanda for her ‘secret’ restaurant in the countryside….cheap, good food, top location, and above all, the perfect place to mingle with the locals!

And then, coming back from a lovely dinner, you will find Monte da Fornalha transformed into something out of a fairy tale, with all the candles lit and a fire burning in the common living room. This eye for detail enhances the intimate atmosphere and makes it such a special place. Orlanda herself also lives in the old farm and she is very good at allowing guests their privacy while at the same time being a perfect hostess, wonderful!

The relaxed atmosphere at Monte da Folharna makes it the perfect place for a family holiday but also for a trip for two. Personally,  I would have loved to stay a bit longer…

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

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