In south-central Portugal, to the right of show-stealing Lisbon and above the summertime fun of the Algarve, the underrated and understated Alentejo region packs a punch.
Technically two regions, Alto and Baixo translating to higher and lower, The Alentejo is awash with Roman and Moorish history, designated dark sky star-gazing reserves and countless grapes hanging from vines ready to be turned into one of Portugals greatest exports, and my favourite refreshment, wine.
The visitor count might not be as high here as other parts of the country, but that is very much its charm. Cruising along a near-empty motorway for a weekend escape, the rolling green countryside of vineyards with the odd castle provided a refreshing vacation from the bustle of the city.
I was on a mission to unearth a unique place to stay here in the Alentejo as a Lonely Planet Trailblazer on assignment with booking.com. The resort I picked for this weekend had to stand out, be quirky and ultimately a real gem of a place. I got scouring Booking.com’s range of properties in Portugal, from hotels made of another Portuguese staple, cork, to restored palaces, the options were surprisingly endless.
Want to get a £20 cash reward on your next Booking.com reservation? Click here!
I finally settled on L’AND Resort, situated just an hour from Lisbon in Montemor-O-Novo. Complete with a hot air balloon, Michelin star restaurant, retractable skylights for star-gazing and wine-production that happenesd inside the resort, I knew I had found my soulmate in hotel form.
Pulling up to the L’AND vineyard resort, the first thing you notice is how un-noticeable the resort is. The leading lines of the white buildings which centre around a lake sink into the green vines and trees that surround them. Not only is the stylish design aesthetically pleasing, but the integration with nature also makes the resort feel much smaller than it is. From the balconies, you can’t see other peoples accommodation, and this added to the sense of privacy and escape that the location of the vineyard offers.
Star Gazing in Alentejo
I’ll jump to my favourite bit about the resort and region as a whole, the star-gazing. Although Montemor-O-Novo doesn’t technically fall into the official Dark Sky Reserve, a dedicated area in Alentejo, the night skies were nothing short of incredible.
The resort with limited light pollution and far enough away from the town is nearly dark at night, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy mother natures nighttime show.
If you book a sky-view suite, then a remote-controlled ceiling pulls back to reveal the twinkly stars straight above your bed for some duvet style sky viewing. In the summer months, the actual glass is also removed from the roof which allows for a better view. To be honest, this was one of the things that disappointed me with the hotel; it’s not made clear when booking that the glass is there for part of the year, and at a premium price, this is something they should make known at booking.
Another option is your outside private plunge pool, which is enclosed on your balcony and more of a deep-bath. You can run the hot-tap and soak away to the magical view above.
Or your balcony, or the hotel rooftop, or by the lake (my favourite), or next to the vines… wherever you go, as long as there are no clouds expect amazing star-lit skies..
Vineyards in Alentejo
Red, white, rose and sparkling; they are all on production and offer in Alentejo with L’AND resort seasonally producing all the still wines in small batches. You could traipse off to explore multiple vineyards, or simply settle into wandering the vines that literally start outside your front door here.
L’AND offers various ways to sample both their wines and other wines from the region. With a glass of wine at check-in, a free wine and cheese pairing at 4 pm and other complimentary wine tasting options depending on the day, you’ll be off to a good start.
More in-depth wine tasting with professional notes can also be arranged, from just their own through to the whole regions. And if you head to the restaurant, the pairing flights can’t be missed.
Fine Dining in Alentejo
The food scene in Portugal is usually highlighted by Piri Piri Chicken and Egg custard tarts (Pastel de Nata) abroad, but the bar is continually being raised by some very talented chefs here and Miguel Laffan is one of those.
His Michelin Star restaurant at L’AND resort offers two menus, seasonal at €75 and the chefs menu at €105. Feeling like five courses would suffice, I went for the seasonal menu which included fresh oysters, deconstructed Portuguese style Bouillabaisse and a tender cut of Pork before two perfect desserts. The focus is on local produce, with the aim to source everything within 50km of the resort and the quality of the dishes was excellent. The matching wines and information that came with them were well worth the extra cash investment.
Miguel himself was in the dining room, running plates and chatting with the guests which was nice to see. Breakfast, a mix of buffet and a la carte the next morning was also of high quality.
’AND resort review
With both a heated indoor and natural temperature outdoor pool between the 22 suites, there is plenty of place for R&R. The outside pool was empty of water on my visit, even in May, and this was another annoyance when paying for a premium hotel having a big empty hole in the lawn. The sauna looks out across the pool and vineyards, and the spa looked pretty fancy, although I didn’t have time to make use of it. The resort can also arrange a hot air balloon ride for you direct from the hotel to see Alentejo from above, prices are from €625 per trip as they don’t offer group flights.
Overall I loved the resort but wish I had seen it at it’s best, with the fully retractable windows and the pool open. It’s a pricey place to stay but even if you don’t book in, do try to get a reservation at the restaurant as it was genuinely excellent. You can see more of L’AND here.