Over the next week or so, I will be profiling the must-see destinations for 2013. First up: PORTUGAL
Portugal’s somewhat sedate image is set to change this year as it steps into the limelight with a host of exciting new openings and undiscovered areas opening up to tourism.
One such area, perfect for oenophiles and nature lovers alike, is the rural Alentejo region, in south-central Portugal, just an hour’s drive east from Lisbon (visitalentejo.com).
It produces 46% of Portugal’s wine and is home to many picturesque, high-end vineyards, such as the historic Cartuxa Winery (cartuxa.pt), a former Jesuit house, or the Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, a family run estate where you can stay in 10 deluxe rooms (vonhosdoalentejo.pt).
Its coastal area, the Costa Alentejana, boasts some of Europe’s most pristine beaches and beautiful landscapes dotted with the area’s famous medieval ‘white towns’. A must is a visit to the stunning World Heritage Site Évora – a wonderfully atmospheric town that dates back to the Roman times, and features many preserved buildings from different eras (Sunvil Discovery offers a variety of itineraries to the area, including ones on wine routes, sunvil.co.uk.)
A highlight, in terms of where to stay in Alentejo, is the Blue & Green Troia Design Hotel (troiadesignhotel.com). Located on the Troia Peninsula, it is based on a nature reserve that is teaming with wildlife. Lovers of the great outdoors can enjoy a host of activities, from mountain walks in the nearby Arrábida Mountains to golf on the Robert Trent Jones Senior-designed course (considered one of the best in Europe).
Meanwhile, inside, there’s everything you’d want to find from a starry hotel – ultra luxe spa, light and airy rooms and even it’s own art collection collated from prominent Portuguese artists.
Stop off in Lisbon and you’ll be able to stay in the just-opened hotel from Marriott’s boutique Autograph Collection (marriott.com). Fontecruz is located in a stunning turn-of the-century building on Avenida Liberdale, and features sexy, black and white bedrooms, skyline views over the city, an internal al fresco lounge terrace and an opulent interior design.
Most exciting of all the new openings, though, is the new venture by Asian hotel group Alila (alilahotels.com). But you may have to wait a while yet. Known for its slick design ethos, it has chosen the Altentejo region for its first European property, due to open in 2014. Expect dark and brooding interiors in a 16th century hunting lodge.
A version of this article is in the January issue of The Mayfair Magazine, out now.