Dining at the hotel is an experience to be savored, with the in-house chefs cooking up all manner of treats using freshly sourced ingredients, many of which are harvested from the hotel's own organic gardens. During the summer, evening meals can be enjoyed outdoors beneath the stars.
A modernist hotel set in the middle of wild nature, Carmo's Boutique Hotel offers luxurious stays with an emphasis on making guests feel thoroughly pampered.
Part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, this is a family-run establishment with just 15 deeply luxurious suites. The hotel is at its beautiful best during the summer months, when guests can enjoy their meals under the shade of grape vines, sip cocktails in the pool and sink into sofas and armchairs set out beneath the trees. The views are incredible, taking in rocky mountains and rich green valleys, and the sunsets nothing short of spectacular. The spa and restaurant are both top notch, and staff can arrange all manner of activities, from horse riding to wine tasting.
Wine lovers will particularly enjoy a stay here, and should enquire about tastings and other wine-focused activities
Each of the 15 plush suites at Carmo's Boutique Hotel is unique, but each has a romantic feel, with canopy beds covered in fine cotton sheets. Guests can slip into a silky-soft djellaba (an ankle-length North African gown) and slippers and fling open the windows to enjoy gorgeous views over the River Lima and beyond. Some rooms have private balconies, others have in-room tubs that are perfectly positioned for admiring the views, glass of wine in hand. Cable TV, fast Wi-Fi, minibar, and heating/air conditioning systems keep things cool in summer and warm in winter.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Not all rooms are able to accommodate an extra bed, so enquire in advance if it's a family visit.
Bathrooms are designed to help guests soak up the luxurious vibe, with rainfall showers and deep tubs. As rooms are not overlooked, the free-standing bathtubs in some rooms are designed to offer spectacular views, and the vistas are particularly astonishing at sunset. Just add a glass of bubbly for the ultimate relaxing treat.
Crammed with artsy nick-nacks, the lobby reflects the personal tastes of the owner and is a marked contrast to the minimalist-chic of the white, boxy exterior. Floor to ceiling windows make the most of those dramatic views, and newspapers are available for guests to read, and there's also a small library packed with books (many in English).
YOU SHOULD KNOW The living space pulls double duty as a dining room, and is the setting for delicious breakfasts (although these can be taken al-fresco when weather allows).
The Minho region can be cool and rainy during the spring and autumn (all that greenery is the result of regular heavy soakings), but it's hot and dry in summer when the lovely outdoor pool at Carmo's Boutique Hotel really comes into its own. Surrounded by trees and sun loungers, the pool isn't big enough for serious swimming, but is ideally suited to sipping a glass of something chilled and watching the birds and butterflies flit among the trees.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Guests need to make their menu choices in the morning, as the chefs will source ingredients and prepare meals according to guests' orders.
A 24-hour lounge bar allows guests to sip wine, cocktails or soft drinks round the clock, and there's also an outdoor 'wine tent' for sipping vinho verde during the summer.
The hotel can arrange transfers and excursions, but hiring a car is a boon, as it opens up opportunities for exploring farther-flung locations in this rural paradise. The nearest airports are at Porto (45-minute drive) or Vigo in Spain (40-minute drive), and the hotel is just outside the historic town of Ponte de Lima (the oldest settlement in Portugal) and a 20-minute drive from the similarly ancient towns of Braga and Guimarães. Horseriding and hiking in the nearby hills are popular pursuits that don't require an automobile.
With such an abundance of fresh local produce available, it's no surprise that food and wine in northern Portugal are particularly delicious. Guests can work up an appetite for dinner by walking the 3km to Ponte de Lima for generous portions of delicious fish, meat and vegetable dishes in the family-run Lusitano (35-minute walk or 5-minute drive), or try the famous local dish arroz de sarrabulho (a rich rice and meat stew) at Manuel Padeiro (10-minute drive or 50-minute walk).
There are several friendly small bars in Ponte de Lima, a stand-out being the boho-chic Chusso bar (10-minute drive), with its lively atmosphere and outdoor seating. There's also a buzzing bar scene at Guimarães, which has a packed cultural calendar, and where a street party atmosphere prevails at weekends at Largo da Oliviera (35-minute drive).
WHY WE LIKE IT
Combining rural charm with contemporary flair, Carmo's Boutique Hotel is a wonderful place to get away from it all and just soak up the beautiful scenery, fine food, and fine wine, while enjoying the luxurious facilities and accommodations. The hotel offers a huge range of activities, from drawing classes to horse riding, meaning that a stay here can be as laid-back or as active as guests wish it to be.