Paraiso Escondido

São Teotónio, Alentejo, Portugal Book from Book from £88 per night

A heavenly hilltop retreat in the Alentejo countryside with restful rooms and wooden bungalows-on-stilts: perfect for guests who want to stay put
From Africa to the Far East, this elegant yet intimate Alentejo retreat reflects the globetrotting lifestyles of owners Berny Serrão (who grew up in Mozambique) and her Australian husband Glenn Cullen. There's a definite 'on-safari' vibe to their accommodation, with a pair of outstanding bungalows-on-stilts, double rooms infused with Oriental accents, and restorative suites. As for the outdoor pool, it's straight out of a David Hockney painting (very SoCal). Yet the true spirit of Paraiso Escondido resides in the owners' love of the region they now call home: the wine and gastronomy, the ravishing landscapes, the nearness to wild Atlantic beaches, and the natural serenity.

When Berny and Glenn embarked on their ‘life project’ in 2001, there was nothing here but cork trees and eucalyptus set around a lake. They built the colonial-style villa that now accommodates most of the guests, and have since added a glassy contemporary home tucked into the hillside. There are sunny poolside terraces, lawned gardens, a cosy lounge and a large conservatory dining room - Glenn's organic kitchen garden provides ingredients for the delicious home-cooked dinners. The couple are deeply committed to green sustainability, yet the mood is is welcoming and refreshingly informal. They really make you feel at home. On our final evening we saw a sign hanging on a wall that said, quite simply: ‘paradise found’. You really wouldn't disagree.

Highs

  • The hilltop setting with magnificent panoramic views over the cork forests and gentle green hills of south-west Alentejo
  • Fabulous rooms, particularly the stilted bungalows with Out of Africa interiors and tree-bathing verandas
  • A perfect place to do very little - sleep late, have breakfast at 11am, book a massage, read in the sunshine
  • A model of green tourism: from solar-heated water to eco-friendly toiletries, sustainability is a core value
  • The refreshing lack of formality: Berny and Glenn are warm, generous hosts with a knack for making you feel at home

Lows

  • A car is essential to get here and the steep drive up the hill isn't for the faint-hearted
  • No dinner offered on Sunday nights and the nearest decent restaurants are a 20-minute drive away
  • No twin rooms
  • No children under 11 allowed (a blessing for some)
  • Note there are 2 resident dogs who have run of the place (though you needn't fear soppy Zulu or little Candy)

Best time to go

This is a good all-season destination, though the Alentejo countryside is at its best in spring and autumn. Visit April-June for the wildflowers, nesting storks and cool evenings. July and August can get very hot, but summer lingers long into autumn.

Our top tips

There are some brilliant places to eat in this region, particularly O Paulo at Arrifana, a cliff-top fish restaurant with a super menu and stupendous ocean views (Berny and Glenn can book ahead for you).

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 10
  • Breakfast + other meals on request
  • 11+ year olds only
  • Closed: Closed Christmas & Boxing Day
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Classed as doubles, suites or ‘wooden bungalows on stilts’, all rooms are different and beautifully designed to reflect Berny and Glenn’s exotic world travels. In the main house, 2 Oriental-style suites, Eva Principe and Jasmim, sit side by side; each with a contemporary four-poster bed, a roll-top bath tub and a glassy power shower. Jasmim has the best views.

Still in the main house, there are 3 light and colourful doubles: Hortelã Pimenta, Lucia-Lima and Tilia. The African-style Marula (the roomiest of the suites) is housed in a self-contained mini villa and has a wood-burning stove. The 2 bungalows (Camomila and Cidreira) lean into eucalyptus forest from the edge of the hill, a steep walk away from the main house (from Camomila it’s tempting to drive!).

All rooms have air-conditioning and an outdoor space. The Lake View suites, Marula and bungalows also get minibars and Espresso machines.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Meals and drinks are served in the lovely conservatory-lounge – light and sunny in summer; firelit and cosy in colder weather. Start the day with a lazy breakfast (served until 11am): fresh fruit, home-baked bread, granola, yoghurt, local cheeses and free-range eggs to order.

For lunch there’s a menu of light snacks (toasted sandwiches!) and in the evenings, a simple, home-cooked 3-course dinner is offered every day except Sunday. On our first night the set menu featured field mushrooms baked in garlic and blue cheese, and tender marinated steak with new potatoes. The next day, carrot and coriander soup, vegetable curry with monkfish and a coconut panna cotta.

The ingredients are plucked from Glenn’s organic kitchen garden, or bought fresh that morning from local markets. Guests have the opportunity to discuss the menu in advance (vegans and vegetarians are catered for). There's also afternoon cake, a selection of help-yourself teas and coffees, luscious Alentejo wines and an honesty bar.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Stay put! With the outdoor pool, the restful rooms, the delicious meals and the dreamy views, this is the perfect place to really unwind. Massages are on offer, too
  • Head for the beach: the Alentejo’s Atlantic coast is a long line of wild surfy beaches, including beautiful Odeceixe (one of Portugal’s finest), Amalia, Amoreria, Arrifana and Zambujeira do Mar, all rarely crowded and within a half-hour drive.
  • Take a hike (or bring a bike): You're close to the Rota Vincentina, the 100km-path which follows cliffs and beaches along one of the most pristine coastlines in Europe
  • Do a day trip to the Algarve: the fort at Cape St Vincent at Sagres (Europe’s most westerly point) takes about an hour by car

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Surfing
  • Well being
  • Whale watching
  • Wildlife

Kids

No children under 11 allowed. This is a peaceful, grown-up retreat.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

An extra bed can be provided in the Marula suite for 11-15 year olds; 16+ year olds will need their own room. The best option for families is to book Hortelã Pimenta with either Lucia-Lima or Tilia. All 3 of these rooms could be booked together to form a private wing of the house.

Kid Friendly:

Location

Paraiso Escondido is on the edge of Casa Nova da Cruz, a quiet backwater village that's 6km inland from the small Alentejo town of Sao Teotonio, and around 10km from the coast.

By Air:
The nearest airport is Faro (104km); you could also fly into Lisbon (218km).

From the Airport
The rural location means you'll need a car to get here and get around - see our car-rental recommendations. It's a 90-minute drive from Faro and a 2.5-hour drive from Lisbon.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Faro 104.0 km FAO
  • Lisbon 218.0 km LIS

Other:

  • Beach 10.0 km
  • Shops 6.0 km
  • Restaurant 6.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

Berny and Glen were great hosts! We've found peace and calmness in the most beautiful landscape and the food was just delicious. We would definitely come back.

10/10,

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