The Nest, by Cooking & Nature cocoons you in pine, stone and other natural materials sourced from local craftsmen. Every twig of this holistic outpost in the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park has been carefully considered – down to the well-stocked honesty bar and the absence of TVs in rooms (who needs Netflix when you have olive grove and valley views such as these). As for the ‘cooking’ part, it high-fives nature by being exclusively vegan, adheres to an impressive zero waste policy and sources much of its ingredients from the forest outside. All in all, this is a hideaway set to nature’s finest score: serenity.
10 whimsical wooden rooms, including two apartments.
12 noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. There’s no concierge or luggage service, so phone ahead if you’re planning to arrive before check-in.
Double rooms from £136.52 (€159), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates include a picnic-basket breakfast delivered to your door (chosen on check-in); mountain bikes are free to borrow.
Join the cooking school at Cooking & Nature’s sister spot, the Emotional hotel, just down the road. You’ll learn traditional Portuguese recipes from chef Nuno Barros, and sample local wines, cheese, olive oil and Alvados bread.
At the hotel
Barn-style living area, honesty bar, swimming pool, mountain bikes to borrow. In rooms: WiFi, hairdryer, free bottled water, pool towels, toiletries, robes and slippers.
Our favourite rooms
These largely wood-built abodes are bright and fun on the inside. Our favourites are the two eyrie-like apartments, accessed via boardwalks with their own private terrace and kitchenette.
The pool and its day beds are well sheltered, perched in the emerald greens of the Nest’s private garden and hundred-year-old fig and olive trees.
You won’t need any books – there are plenty lining the walls of the living area and snug to choose from – but do pack athleisure for trawling the trails of the natural park.
Up to two small pups (-20kg) are welcome in the Hedgehog apartment for €35 a night, per pet. You’ll find a food bowl, water bowl and pooch bags in your room. While your four-pawed pals are welcome to explore the lawn, indoor common areas are humans only. See more pet-friendly hotels in Porto de Mós.
Apartments have room for two children; babysitting can be arranged with advance notice. There are plenty of activities for families, too, such as horse riding, pottery and a children’s games room.
This is a true eco-hotel – and not just because it was built using natural materials. The Nest encourages eco-travel – activities include local walking trails, mountain biking and horseback riding. It also has a fully vegan restaurant using locally-sourced ingredients and a strict no-waste policy – all meals are ordered in advance, and the chef will only prepare what is needed – keeping food waste to a minimum.
Bring the outside in and balance the wooden walls with shades of green.
Three courses of plant-based pleasure await in the Nest’s restaurant. The seasonal menu is exclusively vegan and operates an impressive zero-waste policy – asking diners to reserve their table 48 hours in advance, so that the chef buys only what’s needed from local producers. The menu changes daily, so you might find yourself feasting on a fragrant lentil curry one day and tofu tataki with wakame seaweed the next. Desserts are delightfully decadent: honey-topped blueberry cheesecakes and chocolate nests are regular features. There’s one dish with a local reputation: the grass pea twist with forest flavours was a finalist dish in the Portuguese ‘Seven wonders of the new gastronomy’ competition.
Please Note The Nest's vegan restaurant will be closed for the forseeable, but guests can dine at the restaurant at their sister hotel, Emotional Hotel, five minute's walk away. Choose from a daily Petiscos menu of sharing plates such as pumpkin cream from the husk to the seeds (a finalist dish from the Portuguese contest 7 Wonders of the New Gastronomy) or roasted octopus 'à Lagareiro' with baked potatos, olive oil and aromatic herbs. Feeling creative? Take dinner in cooking lesson mode, where guests are invited to rustle up their own three-course feast under the team's supervision with innovative dishes like Tart of Alcobaça apple, caramalised onion and rice blood pudding and cod fish loin, almond and herb crust with vegetables brás.
The wood-flanked honesty bar is well-stocked with juices, wines and spirits. You’re welcome to concoct your own tipples, but staff will also be on hand to help.
There are just two seating sessions at the intimate restaurant, starting at 7pm and then 8.30pm. The honesty bar is in operation until just-gone midnight. Petiscos at Emotional Hotel are served from 7pm to 9pm daily and cooking lessons from 7pm to 8:30pm.
You’ll find the Nest down a sleepy road in the rural hamlet of Alvados, 70 green miles north of Lisbon.
Lisbon airport is an hour and 15 minutes drive from this eco-hideaway. Contact the hotel to arrange your transfer.
There’s so much walking and cycling to do in the area, you’ll barely have time to be in a car. But if you do drive here, you’ll find free onsite parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Fly the Nest and explore Portugal’s interior. There’s much to see by foot or mountain bike in Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park. Canter through the charming corners of the Serra D’Aire with horseriding provided by the Equestrian Centre of Alcaria, or get your hands dirty at a pottery workshop in the hamlet of Alvados. The Arab-inspired Baths D’Aire are tranquility to a tea. Dip in and out of the three pools, heated to different temperatures, before sipping herbal brews to a backdrop of oak-groves. You’re also close to three Unesco-recognised monasteries – Tomar, Batalha and Alcobaça – and the Alvados caves, an underworld of eerie stalactites and stalagmites.
Restaurante A Gralha in Alvados serves generous portions of wholesome Portuguese fare. Try the feijoada and bacalhau de natas. Cova de Velha specialise in risotto served with skate wing, prawns or confit duck. Start with a selection of Portuguese cheese, crackers and jams at Casa Platano, and follow with octopus, lamb shank or Iberian pork cheek pie. Just make sure you leave room to try the spiced sweet potato cake with pineapple carpaccio for dessert.
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 back-to-nature hotel in the Portuguese valleys and begrudgingly returned to real life, a full account of their hideaway break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Nest in Porto de Mós…
The Nest is a hotel connected umbilically to the terra firma on which it stands: it’s earthy and rustic, cradled in a valley of the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park. The olive grove-cloaked hills are ripe for exploration, and the hotel provides maps for you to do just that – there are six walking trails and 10 bike trails to trample through. You’ll likely work up an appetite, and so a table at the Nest’s restaurant will refuel you with the fruits of the land: the three-course menu is entirely vegan and locally sourced. Little Smith’s will enjoy the sheltered pool, the chance to go horseback riding and the games room. Being at one with nature comes naturally here.
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