It’s all too easy to fall for Caminha, which is how the Rinoterra Minho retreat came about. A brief visit to see friends was enough to convince Ilya, the owner, and his wife to relocate from Russia to the top corner of northwest Portugal. Appreciating how special the Minho region is, he decided to find a way of enabling others to enjoy its beaches, rivers, forests, mountains, traditional villages and medieval towns.
The Rinoterra concept
Ilya has created an alternative to impersonal cookie cutter hotels and historic family homes that may be full of charm but sometimes lack the level of comfort and facilities expected from luxury lodgings. He has several accommodation and wellness projects underway in the region but the first completed phase is Rinoterra Minho, a converted stone farmhouse overlooking the River Minho, the town of Caminha and the Spanish hills across the water.
He and his close-knit team still refer to the main building as a quinta (the farmhouse) even though the interior has been completely and tastefully transformed using quality materials. Framed antique azulejos decorate the entrance hall and are complemented by other unique vintage furnishings and decor, some of which Ilya sourced himself. “It’s about combining elements of Portuguese heritage and culture with the standards and comfort of a luxury boutique hotel,” he tells me, although this is evident throughout.
“We provide a very personal service,” explains Liliana, the general manager. “We treat our guests as part of the family and make a point of chatting with them while they are here and finding ways of surprising them with little extras.”
I find this easy to believe, despite being the only guest during my stay. It’s obvious that this is more than just a job to her, Ana and Angela, the small but competent and caring staff that work closely and tirelessly to delight their guests.
The seven air-conditioned rooms inside the old farmhouse are spacious and unique. Some have living rooms and bathtubs and almost all of them have a private outdoor terrace or balcony; the Lavender Room’s is the most secluded, in keeping with its other romantic features such as a four-poster bed.
You’ll find fresh fruit in your room and some rather delicious chocolates as well as an espresso coffee machine – just ask if you’d prefer a kettle.
Another thing you’ll certainly appreciate if you visit in cooler months is the under-floor heating in the bathrooms, although slippers and generously sized bathrobes are provided. Beds are large, new and comfortable and the lighting is flexible enough for work, romance or reading. The free wifi worked well everywhere I went and there’s a large flat screen television in each room.
The food at Rinoterra Minho
Whenever possible, Ana uses fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs from Rinoterra’s small but bountiful kitchen garden. This winter, the dining area will be extended onto an outdoor terrace so you’ll actually be able to pluck your breakfast fruit from the trees yourself if you wish!
Ana was keen to cook for me at breakfast so although I turned down the offer of eggs cooked to order, she couldn’t stop herself from preparing some cherry tomato toasties. This, on top of porridge, fresh cheese with fruit and homemade jams with bread was more than enough to set me up for the day. It was difficult to resist the apple tart and fresh pancakes but my already tight waistband prevented me from caving in.
If you feel peckish later on, there is always a selection of homemade biscuits, fruit, tea and coffee facilities and homemade cake for you to help yourself to at no extra charge. Don’t be surprised if someone brings you free refreshments if you happen to be relaxing by the pool.
Additional seasonal treats for guests include barbecues in the garden in summer and roasted chestnuts from Liliana’s garden in the autumn.
Although there are several good cafés and restaurants in the area, if you don’t want to leave the comfort of the hotel, with 24 hours notice you can arrange to have lunch or dinner here. If you do, Ana will spoil you rotten; she takes pride in her cooking and appreciates clean plates. There’s no menu as such – either ask for something you like or be guided by whatever fresh ingredients are available.
Rinoterra Minho facilities
You can make use of the free bicycles to explore the area, although it’s only a short, pleasant walk into the historical centre of Caminha.
If you don’t feel so energetic, hire Rinoterra’s 2-person electric car and drive to one of the neighbouring beaches or towns. When you get back, you can relax in the jacuzzi and sauna or book a spa treatment. At the moment, the only pool is outdoors but work starts soon on a series of bungalows in the lower part of the grounds where there’ll be a wellness complex with an indoor pool.
You can enjoy evening drinks and a barbecue on the communal outdoor terrace on warm evenings or choose a more private spot to enjoy the fresh air and views. Alternatively, bag one of the hammocks in the shade of the fruit trees and get stuck into a good book.
Doubles from 130 euros per night.
Reasons to visit Caminha
Caminha really does have it all, so much so that I needed a whole other post to tell you about what you can see and do there.
In brief, the medieval centre is steeped in history and fascinating architectural details and has plenty of cafés, restaurants and traditional shops.
Beach lovers can choose from a river beach or a string of coastal beaches stretching from Caminha to Vila Praia de Âncora, connected by walking and cycle paths.
For greenery, take a stroll through the pine forest or a boat or kayak trip on the river.
And if you want mountains, the Serra d’Arga with its wild horses, traditional villages and authentic rural lifestyles is close by.
As if that’s not enough to keep you entertained, you can take day trips into Spain via ferry or car to visit the Celtic ruins at Santa Tecla or venture further into the glorious Minho area of Portugal.
If you’d like personalised help with your Portugal itinerary, let me know.
Disclosure: I was a guest at Rinoterra Minho. As always, my opinions are my own.