If you’re one of those people who likes to go native on your European vacation, you want to make every minute of your vacation count towards living like the locals. Where you stay makes a difference then. If you’re also on a budget, or would like a romantic and historic place to stay that would normally be above your means, then Portugal is the logical choice.
As a travel writer who specializes in Europe, Portugal stands out to me as a country that’s done the most to make visitors welcome with a rather diverse catalog of vacation rental properties. At the same time, Portugal also stands out as a country of great value. Below are some vacation rental options you might want to consider if the standard hotel isn’t your thing.
Solares de Portugal
Solares de Portugal offers an interesting range of lodging broken into three categories.
- Casa Antigas – Manor houses and country estates largely from the 17th and 18th centuries. An elegant and romantic choice.
- Quintas & Herdades – Agricultural Farms and Estates in a rural setting.
- Casas Rusticas – As the name implies rustic cottages, comfortably furnished, in rural villages or within farm estates.
Let me throw out an example, a rustic cottage I’d be interested in staying in: Casa dos Tres Irmãos. This is the type of classic stone architecture you’ll find in the Portuguese countryside, with outer walls of shale. It’s near a historic town: Cabração, a town whose wealth was based on mining, even in ancient times.
What does a place like Casa dos Tres Irmãos cost per night for two people? €50. For a house with cooking facilities, no more than a decent hotel! Of course, you don’t have to cook; they’ll even provide breakfast stuff. On a summer’s night, you can get a hunk of Pata Negra, the fantastic black pig found in Portugal and Spain (the full-flavored opposite of “the other white meat”, and barbeque outside, just like the natives.
Solares de Portugal also offers special itineraries so that you can plan your Portugal vacation stays around a theme; say Garden Itineraries
See: Solares de Portugal on the web.
Pousadas de Portugal
Pousadas are historic properties run as luxury hotels. You might stay in a place that was once a monastery or convent. Each has a restaurant run by a chef who is devoted to exploring the regional cuisine, often with modern interpretations that don’t stray too far from tradition. I’ve never eaten in a bad Pousada restaurant.
At one time Pousadas were run by the government. Today, most have transferred to private ownership, which offers the visitor a more personal treatment in a unique setting.
The Pousada in Belmonte: Convento de Belmonte
If you were to ask me what my all-time favorite place to stay in Europe was, the Convento de Belmonte would be the first place that pops into my mind. The hotel took root directly from the ruins of the old Convent Nossa Senhora da Esperança, a 13th century hermitage, and probably over the vestiges of ancient places of pagan cults as well. The ruins blend seamlessly with the restoration of the convento.
Inside the gates is a fantastic restaurant run by chef Valdir Lubave, a man who is as likely to be foraging as stirring the pots and commanding the cooks. The food is local, beautiful; traditional food of the region elevated to a gastronomic peak seldom reached by hotel restaurants.
All of this is linked to a pretty town on the border with Spain reached by a short walk from the pousada. There are museums of Portuguese sea exploration, crypto jews to learn about, churches and art to discover. Take at least three days to get to know Belmonte.
For more, see Belmonte in Centro de Portugal by Brendan Harding.
Other Vacation Rental Ideas for Portugal
HomeAway lists over 7000 Vacation Rentals in Portugal.
Besides rural properties, remember that you will also find short term stay apartments in the heart of Portugal’s cities. For example, if you’re searching for someplace romantic with great views, you might find this apartment near Lisbon’s castle enticing. It sleeps 4 for a mere €110 a night. There’s free wifi, the owner speaks English, and the eight user-reviews are all positive, 5 stars out of 5.
I hope this convinces you that Portugal not only offers a great value on unique lodging, but also gives you some ideas for a vacation in a fascinating country with extraordinary tourist infrastructure.