We’ve been exalting Portugal‘s still mostly uncorrupted charms for as long as we can remember. But having already done Lisbon, Sintra, Porto and the beaches, we’re ready to go deeper—which means heading into the mountains for a more rustic perspective on the comely Iberian nation.
The perfect spot for this sort of perspective is surely the new Casa de São Lourenço, located way up high (1250 meters to be exact) in the Serra da Estrela mountain range—officially designated a UNESCO Global Geopark…which is courtesy of a UN organization dedicated to preserving the world’s geological heritage.
The striking structure (just an hour and a half from the capital) actually dates to 1948, built as the Pousada de São Lourenço by noted Portuguese architect Rogério de Azevedo, and one of the first of its kind. A $3 million restoration by new proprietors Joao Tomás and Isabel Costa has turned it into a chic retreat—full name Casa de São Lourenço – Burel Panorama Hotel—up to the standards of the Design Hotels group, of which it is now a member.
Inside, it’s something of an homage to the venerable Portuguese artist and designer Maria Keil, whose furnishings (and artwork) are featured throughout. Gorgeous fabrics from the nearby and storied Burel textiles factory give it a distinctly local flavor.
There are 21 rooms and suites with life-altering views of the Zêzere Glacial Valley below; for a visual experience that will stay with you forever, book the 42 square meter Panorama Suite, which is exactly what it says it is. But generous windows throughout the hotel mean that no matter what you’re doing, those views will be a part of the experience.
There’s an indoor pool, a full spa with such ethereal sounding treatments as Shirodhara – Conscious Flow and Purifying Exfoliation, and a beautifully, minimally designed eponymous restaurant using local flavors and ingredients, and with a terrace for early evening cocktails.
Of course, there are plenty of hiking opportunities and such right outside the Casa de São Lourenço front door. But it’s hard to imagine even wanting to leave this place until check-out.