As we pulled up by the disused tractor next to the steep, red dirt driveway, which was definitely in the middle of nowhere, we exchanged looks with a slightly nervous gulp. Where the heck were we? And what was this place?

We had been on the road for about two hours in Portugal. We’d left Faro’s white heat and hit the road to head up the dusty Alentejo Coast that hugs the south-west segment of Portugal. The A22 motorway had caught us in brain-dead traffic jams, giving me a chance to explore my boyfriend’s iPod collection and catch quite a bit of a tan to my thighs from the sun streaming through the window (hello, shorts tan line!). When we could finally fly free along the road, leaving back-to-back vehicles far behind us, we could sigh and let go of any city-related tension.



After a hectic few months at work in the UK, we were in dire need for a holiday. I needed some serious zoning out time and some serene scenery to get over the stress of my everyday routine, and with the welcomed arrival of a tax return (thanking YOU, Mr Taxman/lady!) I was straight online to book some flights to get out of my stressed rut! With flights from England to Faro being as cheap as a £100 return, it made perfect sense to grab that with both hands, rent a car (NB: be sure to check if you require a credit card to pick up your rental) and zoom up the coast to stay at a quiet airbnb accommodation out of any hustle and bustle. I was a flat battery pack in need for some serious charging.


We knew the rough area of where we wanted to explore and sourced out the best-priced place. It felt like “Orada: Resting away from it all” found us, but still, like most places advertised online, the photos don’t give you a real feel of the place so it will always harbour a surprise or three when you turn up.

We had finally found the turning off the main road and bumbled down a dirt track lined by young pine trees. The instructions told us to go ‘for 3 minutes’ then park at the gate, and once we had taken our first corner we were confronted with rolling hills, arid prairie-like fields of tan cattle and thick green trees blanketing the horizon. The sun beat down on the roof of our car, but a cooling mountain breeze treated us to sweet relief. We were fully in the depths of the Costa Vicentina national park reservation and it was a world away from the pumping, tourist-filled beach resorts down on the Algarve.


After parking up, we tentatively ventured into the big main building; a historic cobbled farmhouse surrounded by potted plants and dream catchers. David and his wife welcomed us to the abode, ‘Orada’, and gave us a brief tour. On first impressions, it was still very much in construction with work tools for the first floor rooms and for a large deck, but it was very nearly there. The vegetable garden that was set out in a mandala shape was flourishing with organic produce, the ground level rooms were cool and furnished with leather poufs, cosy cushions and small fire furnaces (for the winters of course), the beds were covered with giant princess-style mosquito nets and hammocks with dreamy crochet edgings dotted the premise. Random rocks and crystals adorned the spare corners of the garden, and herbs grew from voluptuous glass bottles lining pathways.




On first glance, I had believed we were at some rough, disorganised farm stay that wouldn’t really be an easy and comfortable place to chill. Also, with the mentions of the ‘meditation centre’, I began to suspect that perhaps I was in an odd hippie commune… But upon looking around and seeing the order of the place, it clicked together and the vibes instantly told me that I had found what I didn’t know what I was looking for. I had focused on the beaches and wilderness of the Alentejo Coast to be the source of relaxation, but I had accidentally stumbled upon a gem of a retreat that would unwind me into forgetting all that I had left behind in England. What’s that? I have a job? I have responsibilities? Could’ve fooled me out here!



David’s ethos of the place is to provide a retreat of health and rebalance. A place for the soul, for meditation and for raw, organic foods. WWOOFers (willing workers of organic farms) wandered the place tending to the garden and kitchen as we piled our bags into our room, and with smugness I found we had scored a fantastically situated room. We looked out onto the wilderness of the evergreen forest reservation and the distant aqueduct that hung over the valley. Not a sound could be heard, apart from another guest’s cute lil’ kid giggling in a hammock, scratching of chickens and the rare birds that occasionally chirped overhead. It’s safe to say, it sure beat the sound of zooming traffic and drunken hobos down my road in Bristol.



We were invited to join David’s family and the other WWOOFers for a vegetarian meal compiled with ingredients sourced from the mandala garden that was to be cooked by Clara, a permanent Spanish WWOOFer. Prior to dinner, we decided to have a dip in the Bio Pool. The large pool has an area set aside for swimming, but the outer edge is surrounded by pond. The reeds and plants naturally clean the waters, but as wildlife teams in the edges, sunscreen is a no-no as the chemicals wouldn’t go down too well with the small frogs.



After a deliciously healthy dinner, we had drinks out on the deck and spoke to David about the history of the place. He’s not entirely sure how old the original farmhouse structure is, but it definitely dates back to at least 300 years. On the property, there is a statue of Saint Orada, “Lady of the Prayer” and it was part of the deal that if he bought the property, he would have to keep the statue and set-up a sacred space around it. Back in the day, people in search of healing would journey to the deity for prayer, and now that David has created a meditation centre around the statues location, it still provides a form of healing.



orada 1

Yoga is run there every weekday at 10am for 5 euros, and the yoga instructor, Tina, really knows her stuff. I am a lover of yoga, although definitely an amateur, and these morning sessions really solidified this place as a haven for me to reorder my scattered city-brain. Something that had been needed for over a year, I believe!

sophie saint travelettes orada alentejo portugal

One of my favourite travel quotes is by Daranna Gidel: “You lose sight of things… and when you travel, everything balances out.” After a mere four days out in Orada, I indeed felt balanced and almost ready to return to the city that I currently call home. I say ‘almost’ as Orada was one place I did not want to leave in a hurry. I’ll sure miss those clear night skies that seemed to be filled with every star that ever existed in the universe.


All photographs by Sophie Saint.

Many thanks to David for being a wonderful host. Go to their website if you’re keen on finding out more.



Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog and instagram: @saintsonaplane