Above: Quinta da Côrte in Valença do Douro, Portugal

Serene Retreats in Portugal's Countryside

As Lisbon’s crop of hideaway-style hotels and luxury lodgings grows ever more sophisticated, a similar evolution is taking place in the countryside, with travelers venturing out to sample Portugal’s varied pleasures. I recently visited three small hotels offering experiences as diverse as the landscapes they inhabit, from the Douro Valley wine region to the rural countryside of the Alentejo and the fashionable but low-key beach retreat of Comporta.

Quinta da Côrte

The view from Quinta da Côrte in Valença do Douro - Jean-Francois Jaussaud

Despite the allure of its sinuous, emerald-green landscape and the growing prominence of its wines, the Douro Valley has a scant number of luxury hotels. The Six Senses Douro Valley, which opened in 2015, is the area’s marquee property; with its 57 rooms, suites and villas; several restaurants; and a standout spa, it offers an experience not unlike the one you’d find in the Napa Valley. For something more intimate, there are a handful of smaller hotels attached to quintas (wine estates). Quinta da Côrte is one of these, a venerable family-owned domaine that French investor Philippe Austruy acquired in 2013. Austruy partnered with of-the-moment interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch to revamp the winery and create an eight-room hotel. The concept of a cozy stay among the steeply planted vines intrigued me, so I booked a room for two nights.

The view of surrounding vineyards from Quinta da Côrte - Christophe Goussard

The hotel hadn’t sent driving directions in advance, so Waze was my dubious guide to the property. I wound on N222 past the steep banks and undulating hills of the river valley, terraced with vineyards and dotted with whitewashed quintas. A sudden right turn took me up a vertiginous, mountain-hugging road paved with stones, sans guardrails. Hands glued to the steering wheel, I locked my eyes on the next set of switchbacks, daring to look neither up at the valley’s beauty nor, god forbid, down. Eventually, I spied a large white building with “QUINTA DA CORTE” painted on its roof and exhaled as I pulled into what appeared to be a working farm. There was no sign directing me to the hotel reception — indeed, no sign of life, just a handful of empty buildings. One was locked; the other, when I peered inside, contained nothing but enormous barrels of wine. I called the hotel from my cell phone and was told to continue uphill to a small house painted white with yellow trim, where I was greeted by two friendly German shepherds and a young man, who welcomed me inside.

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Above: Quinta da Côrte in Valença do Douro, Portugal

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