Portugal has been added to the UK’s ‘green list’ for post-pandemic travel, which means plenty of us are currently brainstorming where to visit in this charming, colourful country. Exploring the cobblestone alleyways of Porto and tasting the region’s famed fortified wine sounds wonderful for a late-Spring getaway, as does working our way through the Pasteis de Nata bakeries of Lisbon, but we’ll be skipping the crowds and opting for something a little more secluded.
Overtourism is a real issue, one that affects the planet and people in myriad ways, so staying off the beaten track while supporting an independently owned, sustainably run hotel like Craveiral Farmhouse feels right. It is located in the region of Alentejo, which covers over 30% of Portugal but is home to just 5% of the population. It’s the hottest and driest part of the country and is sparsely populated, rich in history and diverse in landscape.
Spread across 9 acres of land and nestled amidst the rocky terrain of Alentejo, Craveiral is the passion project of Pedro Franca Pinto, a Lisbon lawyer who always had dreams of becoming a farmer. Pinto bought the land – a neglected field of carnations in the hills of Odemira – over 10 years ago, and slowly set about restoring it into the resort that stands today.
Beautifully imperfect in its ruggedness, Craveiral was built with respect and consideration for the surrounding environment, which is awash with pine forests, orchards, olive groves and cork fields. It’s all about simplicity, space and slow living here. A collection of 38 cottages of varying sizes are peppered across the resort, many framed by wooden terraces. The relaxed interiors are a nod to Portuguese design, with hand-crafted wooden furniture from local brands and a pared-back, simplistic feel.
For those craving a reconnection with nature and taste of rural life, Craveiral provides a relaxing and unfussy setting. There are plenty of opportunities for families to be entertained and educated through authentic experiences on-site. Spend time on the farm amongst goats, donkeys and other animals, take in the surrounding area on horseback, meander through an orchard of indigenous trees, learn about the local flora, fauna and produce at the permaculture garden and nature centre, and enjoy al fresco picnics and BBQs amidst unspoilt countryside with soothing views. Set between the countryside and the sea, you get the best of both worlds here. Nearby, there are quaint fishing towns, nature parks and plenty of coastline to explore. The turquoise beaches of Zambujeira do Mar and Carvalhal are also just 15 minutes away and are far less crowded than more popular destinations such as nearby Lagos.
The hotel adopts various eco initiatives. Rainwater is collected, filtered and reused and the resort’s restaurants adopt a seasonal, organic-first, low-waste approach. The farm-to-table concept at both Craveiral FarmTable and Craveiral Pizzeria highlights local ingredients, much of which come from Craveiral’s very own farm and gardens.
Owner Pedro’s driving goals run deeper than providing a unique and inspiring experience for guests; he is driven by a dedication to leaving a positive impact on the world. “I started Craveiral Farmhouse when I knew that I was going to be a father back in 2010,” he says. “Since the beginning, conceptually wise, the aim of the project was to contribute to a better world, one that my children would be proud of.” With this in mind, every decision that is taken regarding
Craveiral is carefully considered with a holistic view on sustainability in an environmental, social and financial sense. “We are aware that we cannot change the world, but we can take small steps that will contribute to the change we want to see in the world and lead by example, contributing to changing the mentalities in our community.”
The local community of Alentejo is diverse and agriculture plays a central role in life here. Pedro sees great value in the community as well as an obligation to support and empower them. “In terms of tourism, we are one the biggest employers of our parish, with 50 workers. We never closed during the pandemic, we kept all jobs and we didn’t apply to lay-off procedures.” At a time when hospitality suffered greatly, Pedro was creative and resourceful in keeping his staff employed, business running and the many local artists and creatives supported. “During the first lockdown, we kept our Craveiral Pizzeria ComVida project open, delivering pizzas to the local community.” The project employs intellectually disabled people that have the capacity to work but have found it difficult to maintain jobs due to discrimination and bias. “In addition, 1€ from each pizza goes to fund the association Vila Com Vida, which promotes the integration of these people into the labour market.” Last month, Pedro invited a Portugeuse band to the farmhouse to record their album and in the evenings, they returned the favour by performing for guests.
Staying at Craveiral, the focus on physical and mental health and wellbeing is ever-present. The resort provides four swimming pools, a wellness centre, spa treatments, and plenty of opportunity for physical activities. Integrating these values into their philanthropic efforts, they also financially support local sports clubs which serve those residing in the region. “This is not just about business, this is about life,” concludes Pedro.
Going somewhere where you can experience a bit of luxury and relaxation is one thing, but also having the chance to ground yourself and reconnect with nature, without the superficial clutters of everyday life feels far more meaningful. The afterglow of this kind of trip is more likely to last once you’ve returned home than your typical beach holiday.
Craveiral Farmhouse is located 15 minutes from the beaches of Zambujeira do Mar and Carvalhal, in the Southwest Alentejo. The nearest airport is Faro. Prices: High season: from €180 to €600 Low season: from €160 to €250