The owners of Pa.te.os – set remotely inland in the beach-y Alentejo region – believe that it’s what’s on the outside that counts. But, in no superficial way: they commissioned architect Manuel Aires Mateus to create a worshipful tribute to the land: four modernist houses with window walls that fully open, alfresco showers, and, of course, patios with vaunted views down to the Atlantic. All built to the highest eco code. But it’s not just the land that’s cared for – welcome baskets and homemade cookies are laid out for guests, floors warmed, fireplaces lit, breakfasts delivered at the laziest of times, and staff will even do your laundry. Forest, vineyard, herb garden or human: all are well-tended to here.
Four houses with seven suites altogether (all can be booked for exclusive use).
Noon. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability; however, there are no early check-ins before 6am or late check-outs after 3pm.
Double rooms from £394.89 (€450), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, a welcome basket of Portuguese goodies, homemade cookies, all laundry except dry-cleaning, daily seasonal fruit basket and handmade beach bag. Throughout July and August a minimum five-night stay is required.
We love the subtle ways in which the line between indoors and outdoors is blurred here. For example, the custom scent by Lyn Harris (of Miller Harris and Perfumer H fame) which aims to capture and bottle the freshness of the pine, saltiness of the coast, richness of the wood and cacophony of herbs; the works by Lisboan artist Olga Sanina, for which she collected leaves for over a year; and the jars of clippings for herbal teas in your room.
More in-house dining options, activities (gardening, arts and crafts and more) and an underground wine cellar will be introduced in 2023.
The hotel closes annually from early January to early February (dates change each year).
At the hotel
Herb gardens, vineyards, leafy grounds, gym, fibre-optic WiFi. In rooms: Furnished private patios, alfresco shower, free laundry service (excludes dry-cleaning), daily seasonal fruit basket, Bang & Olufsen speakers, small charged wine selection, shopping and beach bags, Chemex filter-coffee maker and a DeLonghi espresso machine with Lucaffé coffee, teas from Companhia Portugueza do Chá, daily housekeeping, custom scent by Lyn Harris, Aesop bath products, mosquito nets.
Our favourite rooms
The feels-like-home sweetness of Pa.te.os cuts through the Brutalism of its extraordinary architecture (designed by Manuel Aires Mateus); imagine percolating a morning cuppa in a James Turrell installation, or tucking into a tray of homemade biscuits while lost in a Richard Serra sculpture. The four symmetrical houses are monuments writ large on the landscape, but with plenty humanity: heated floors (warmed up before guests arrive on chilly days), floating fireplaces, cosy Scandi furnishings, handwoven linens, and even fresh herb-garden clippings for teas. And, outdoors and indoors seamlessly become one here; updating Islamic dar-style houses, and living up to the hotel’s name, patios are a central theme, with window walls opening up to make the whole living room a patio. There are skylights in cubicles and intimate alfresco showers, all-natural materials and earthy hues, and Lyn Harris’ (of Miller Harris perfume fame) custom scent is the essence of Alentejo’s landscape.
Aesthetes will feel immense satisfaction on inspecting the pool – open to all guests – whose angles sit flush with the houses surrounding it and come to a point at a particularly agreeable panorama.
There’s no spa onsite, but the hotel has a masseur on call to come to your house and work out the stress that you’ll probably have forgotten about anyway by that point. Take it on your terrace, or in the living room with the window wall thrown open – either way, the garden fragrances on the breeze will work a hundred times harder than a scented candle. And work-outs are made all the more pleasant with an alfresco LifeStation gym.
Outdoorsiness is the whole point here, so bring shoes that can handle rough terrain, a wardrobe that’s not too precious and cover-ups for sudden chills. And, the architecture begs to be photographed with more than a phone camera, so bag your DSLR if you have one.
With the landscape left as-is – i.e rustic – it’s not the easiest to navigate for guests with mobility issues.
Neutrally hued designer furnishings and crayon-toting little ones do not mix – Pa.te.os is for over-18s only, which helps when it comes to keeping the peace.
The hotel’s love for the land is one for the ages, largely because their efforts have ensured the sprawling Alentejo plot will stay a natural beauty for years to come. Property-developer owners Sofia and Miguel Charters picked this particular Serra da Grândola hillside due to their connection with the land, spending childhood summers here, and want guests to embrace that communion too. Whether you’re throwing open the sliding full-window walls, peering over the pool’s surrogate horizon, or looking up through your shower’s skylight, you’re fully immersed in the untouched rusticity. Building was done with as little intervention as possible, with paths on the property made using natural stone and a traditional method. Only three materials were used in construction: slate that surfaced while tilling the hotel vineyards (which now run on a hydroponic system), concrete and wood, of which many furnishings are made; linens are organic. Indigenous trees were planted to offset construction carbon, the hotel is 95 per cent plastic free, water is filtered and reused, energy closely managed and composting duly carried out. In the grounds, wastewater is being used to create a new lake and 50 bird houses have been installed; and the hotel’s beach bags and towels have been sewn and embroidered as part of an empowerment initiative providing work to Bangladeshi women. Plus, they’ve chosen DeLonghi coffee machines to cut down on discarded aluminium.
Say ‘hello sunshine’ to the day, breakfasting on your terrace.
Keep things au naturel, even if you are wearing clothes.
Pa.te.os doesn’t have a restaurant, but it does make sure you get a great start to the day, bringing a breakfast tray to your door laden with breads, fruits, juices, cold meats, eggs, coffee and tea (gluten-free and vegan options are available too), and other hot dishes on request. You won’t starve for the rest of the day – all guests are given a basket filled with Portuguese treats on arrival, cast a line towards the coast and you’ll hook a seafood spot, and if you’re staying in a house with a kitchen it’s worth stocking up at a supermercado in Comporta or Melides village.
Vines, vines all around and not a drop to drink? Well, not exactly, the owners are cultivating their own wines, using an Earth-kind hydroponic method to grow indigenous grape varieties, but these things take time and patience will be rewarded in a few years. In the meantime, they’ve picked the best of Portuguese appellations to stock their cellar, and you can order bottles to your room from 8am till 5pm.
Breakfast is whenever you wake up here.
Each morning (or around noon-ish if that’s when you want to eat) staff will arrive with trays of goodies.
Pa.te.os’s Melides setting, in Portugal’s Alentejo region, is the stuff of hermitty dreams, with nothing but vines, forest and ocean as far as you can see; however, you are just a 10-minute drive from the beach and less than an hour from Comporta.
Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado airport (blessed with a spiderweb of direct connections around the globe) is the closest to the hotel, around a 90-minute drive away. The hotel can help with transfers, but they do recommend hiring a car for long-game exploring.
Grândola is the closest station, a 30-minute drive away; trains arrive here direct from Lisbon’s Entrecampos station in just over an hour, and the hotel can pick you up from €35 one-way on request.
Without a car you are sort of stranded on site – although it’s no hardship; pleasant, in fact, here among the cork oaks and pine, vineyards and orchards, and the distant Atlantic. But, for beach days, village-hopping and grocery runs, a car will be indispensable. There’s a car park onsite, and – while you won’t need a four-wheel drive – bear in mind that untouched landscape has some bumpy roads.
Worth getting out of bed for
Slow travel really hits its – tortoise-like – stride here. Melides is the new darling of Alentejo-bound beach seekers, and the hotel sits just beyond the village, in the sort of countryside stretch that makes you want to hug a tree (choose from pine, oak, cork or olive), roll in the grass, and stop and smell the flowers (or herbs – there’s plenty of those too). The raison d’etre of Pa.te.os is to reconnect with nature, so activities are gentle and fresh-air-fuelled: swim in the geometric pool, have a massage on your terrace, book a private yoga session, work out in the gym, or simply admire how the architecture perfectly frames patches of forest, vineyard and ocean. The stay has also teamed up with a local bike-rental company so you can spin through the surroundings, or horse rides can be arranged; and you’re not quite as remote as you seem, because within a 10-minute drive you hit the coast, slap bang in the middle of a 60-kilometre stretch etched in gold sands, with beaches running from Tróia to Sines, some lifeguarded with loungers and more, and some wild. For a bit more buzz, make the 40-minute drive to Comporta in the north, where you can take surf lessons, ride off-road on a buggy tour or climb up Belém Tower.
Dining in Melides means low-key, frill-free and fish-focused eateries, most likely decked out in nautical white and blue. There’s a smattering of local restaurants along the N261, the best of which is O Melidense, where bowls of garlicky clams, fried cuttlefish, warming portions of migas and orange cake sit alongside fish so fresh they might jump onto your plate on the menu. Further along, on the coast is Blue Melides, which has a lively suntrap roof terrace and serves a Med menu with foie gras on gingerbread, Iberian black-pork ribs in homemade barbecue sauce and chicken kebabs in peanut sauce.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this monumental rustic refuge amid the quiet beauty of coastal Melides and unpacked their bottle of perfumer Lyn Harris’s nos(e)talgic custom scent and fragrant clippings for herbal teas, a full account of their engaging with the Earth break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Pa.te.os in Portugal…
Straight faces everyone, we’re staying in some very serious architecture – just beyond destination-on-the-rise Melides, close to the Alentejo coast, there are four geometric, Brutalist-style houses that stick out like a thumb hailing a Bentley amid cork and pine forest, vineyards and olive groves. This is Pa.te.os (‘patios’ y’see), where the pristine nature of the landscape is safeguarded and lavished with love by owners who used to spend their childhoods here. Countryside contemplation is quite literally built in: houses have retractable glass walls to bring the outdoors in, alfresco showers come as standard, artworks bring in local flora, a custom scent is bucolic bottled, and even indoor showers have skylights in case you feel a touch of the SADs. So, is staying in one of these live-in sculptures a tableaux of meditative magazine-spread-worthy moodiness? Well, no, it’s actually very pleasant. Staff leave out homemade cookies and a welcome basket and make sure your wine fridge is stocked; they’ll bring a loaded breakfast tray at any time you want and with a custom order; even do your laundry for you, so it’s more like crashing with your besotted Portuguese grandmother. Unsurprising, because originally this was an extension of the property-developer owners’ Lisbon home, and we’re so glad they threw the doors open for more than immediate family, because it’s the kind of place where you’ll leave (and arrive and spend the whole time) with a smile on your face.