Close to the border with Spain, this surprisingly-affordable 4-star offers luxe accommodations, a wonderfully pampering spa and fabulous facilities in a refreshingly rural location surrounded by beautiful countryside. The strikingly minimalist exterior masks a wealth of impressive details, including a noteworthy restaurant and one of the best spas in the region, as well as both indoor and outdoor pools. Against a backdrop of pine-covered mountains and rolling vineyards, the hotel is set far enough off the beaten track to feel like a hidden treasure, but there are tourist-packed historic towns within walking distance.
Hotel Minho is perfectly suited to either lazy days in the pool or active pursuits in the surrounding countryside (or a mix of both!) with kayaking, climbing, hiking, and horse riding among the excursions on offer for an extra charge.
The hotel has 60 rooms and five suites, all of which have the same clean lines, natural wood floors and whitewashed walls as the rest of the hotel, but are simple without being dull. Each is unique in design, with colorful artworks and carefully selected furnishings giving the rooms a boutique feel. Some rooms have large balconies, perfect for soaking up those views, and others offer direct access to the pool The majority of the rooms have twin beds, 15 have double beds and there are three family rooms with one extra bed. The five suites are a good bet for larger families, and are found in a separate building from the main hotel. They have a more vivid, artsy design than the rooms, with each suite inspired by a different artist. Set out over two floors, the suites have large living areas and kitchenettes. All rooms and suites have air conditioning/heating, Wi-Fi, and LCD TVs with international channels.
The hotel's plush feel continues in the bathrooms, which have rainfall showers, pure cotton towels and upscale toiletries, and lots of marble. Some bathrooms have free-standing tubs, too.
With its blond wood, large windows, and crisp white paint, the lobby at Hotel Minho is a masterclass in minimalist chic. While the overall look is polished and chic, the vibe is relaxed, and guests are welcome to lounge in one of the armchairs as they read the morning's newspapers or just admire the views.
The outdoor pool is an inviting place during the summer, when guests can take a cooling dip and sip vinho verde from the poolside bar as they soak up the views. Temperatures drop dramatically after summer ends, but the heated indoor pool means guests can treat themselves to a swim in the colder months too.
The main outdoor pool is well-suited to lap swimming, and the adjoining mini-pool is popular with kids.
Open to non-guests, the spa at Hotel Minho is a standout in the region, and attracts locals and holidaymakers keen to treat themselves to the pampering treatments, which include a signature honey massage, and stress-reducing sessions with warm grape seed-filled bags. The spa is a vast space, set over two floors and with a heated pool, Turkish bath, Vichy shower, sauna, and relaxation areas with lovely views. There's even a tearoom for sipping herbal infusions by the fireplace and looking out onto gorgeous panoramas of the surrounding countryside.
The culinary treats begin at breakfast time, when an enormous buffet of freshly-baked breads, cakes, and pastries is served alongside home-made preserves, local cheeses and strong, hot coffee. The glass walls of the breakfast room offer guests a beautiful view as the sun climbs higher over the hills. With a separate entrance and something of a destination restaurant in itself, Braseirão do Minho restaurant serves lunch and dinner, with an emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients and traditional flavors (all accompanied by excellent local wines). Fish and seafood dishes are excellent. The extensive lunch buffet is a good way to try a wealth of Minho dishes for an accessible price.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The restaurant opens for lunch only on Sundays and Mondays
The hotel's smart Wine Bar has an enormous selection of local wines, predominantly vinho verde, the fresh, easy-drinking wine that is synonymous with the region. Staff are well educated in all things vinho, and can offer advice on the best choices for taste and budget.
With its rural location, the hotel is best reached by car, which allows guests to see the surrounding river beaches, historic towns and off-the-beaten track beauty spots. That said, it is possible to reach Hotel Minho by Rede Expresso bus, stopping at Valença and taking a cab from there. The hotel is around an hour's drive from Porto airport.
The Minho region is famous for its richly-flavored dishes, and there are plenty of places to eat in the area surrounding the hotel. It's a 15-minute drive (or an hour's appetite-building walk) to the pretty border town of Valença, where Restaurante Fortaleza (15-minute drive) serves seafood rice, salt cod dishes and a host of other local treats with beautiful views from inside the walls of a medieval fort. Across the border in Tui, visitors can take their pick from any number of tapas restaurants on the plazas of the Old Town, including O Novo Cabalo Furado (20-minute drive)
Wash down Spanish tortilla with Portuguese vinho verde at the Fronteira Gastrobar (15-minute drive), a cute little bar-cafe that is proud of its status as the last (or first, depending on which way you come) watering hole in Portugal before or after crossing the bridge into spain.
For those who fancy a stroll, Colher de Pau (50-minute walk or 10-minute drive) is an off-the-beaten track, family-run spot serving local wines, cakes and other treats in an intimate space, with views to take your breath away.
WHY WE LIKE IT
This four-star hotel feels like a luxury retreat, but the price tag is surprisingly accessible. The rooms are comfortable and stylish, the spa is excellent and the setting simply beautiful. It's at its best during the summer, when guests can fully appreciate the views from the outdoor areas and the lovely pool.