The pool at São Lourenço do Barrocal, Alentejo, Portugal

São Lourenço do Barrocal
Alentejo, Portugal


You know you’re in for a special kind of hotel if you’ve heard its name whispered across tables from London to NYC: São Lourenço do Barrocal was recommended to us long before we set foot on this totally away-from-the-world farmstead with impeccable interiors and sun-kissed flavours. When we finally arrived, all we could think of was to slow down and enjoy.

There are very few places in the world where, as soon as we arrive, it feels like it’s meant to be. It seems as if we were destined to be here, or perhaps that we were here in a past life. When we were at São Lourenço do Barrocal, a storied farmstead hotel and spa in central Portugal’s alluring medieval hilltop village of Monsaraz, it was exactly how we felt. There was something in its mellowness and composure. Everything felt inexplicably intimate: the tranquillity of the vast surrounding wilderness of Alentejo, the cool of the ancient stone floors under our bare feet, even the purr of electric carts jostling over cobblestones outside our window.

A wide flagstone-paved avenue runs through the middle of the seven lovingly refurbished buildings around which ‘Barrocal life’ centres. At any given time of day, smiling staff can be seen ferrying neatly stacked, crisp linens between similarly pristine white buildings. On one occasion during our stay, they dodged a man on a bicycle as he bounced on the leather saddle. This was far from hustle and bustle, a masterclass in slow travel. There was a pervasive sense of remoteness and intense privacy, and even though we were told the property was at capacity when we visited, we barely saw another soul.

Buildings on either side of the avenue, once the dwellings of scores of farmers and their families, now make up this boutique hotel and spa resort. On the inside, our farm room was a serene space of more white walls, the softest sage-green woodwork and a rustic brick floor. Shuttered wooden doors led out to a terrace that looked out over a picturesque valley. Sounds of chirruping birds cut through the spring air.

Barrocal has been all about this vibe for 200 years, seven generations and one revolution. Part of the Naturtejo da Meseta Meridional UNESCO Global Geopark, its fecund, softly undulating countryside – sparsely populated and covering almost a third of Portugal – is unlike any other.

Long, narrow, winding country lanes through fields of oaks heavy with acorns and sleepy hamlets of white-washed buildings glistening under the spring sunshine led us to what is today São Lourenço do Barrocal. Fast-living city life, London and for that matter Lisbon, our gateway here, ebbed away long before we arrived at the gates.

This Basecamp review is an extract from a longer feature article, first published in print. To read the full article, click here.

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While you’re Out There
São Lourenço do Barrocal arguably offers a grounding experience, but for those looking to take off instead, hot air balloon rides can be arranged by the hotel, and they offer perhaps the most magical way of seeing the stunning Alentejo region. Back on the ground, several archaeological sites are scattered across the area, including the 7,000-year-old ‘Barrocal Menhir’.

Photography by Nelson Garrido, Ash James, Ricardo Bravo and courtesy of São Lourenço do Barrocal

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