Casa Modesta: Family House Turns Eco-Hotel in Portugal

Combing eco-tourism with sustainable design, Casa Modesta is an elegant retreat located in the Ria Formosa Nature Park in the Algarve, southern Portugal. Named by owner Carlos Fernandes after his mother, Modesta Maria, and developed among acres of almond and olive orchards at the site of his ancestral family home, this modest yet immaculately designed rural hotel offers visitors the perfect launch-pad from which to explore the surrounding nature and experience the local culture.

Designed by the owner’s sister Vânia from the local architectural firm PAr, the hotel was built using local materials and crafts reinterpreting local vernacular architecture though a contemporary logic in order to retain the spirit of the original 1940s family house while creating a comfortable guest house. Divided into two whitewashed modernist volumes aligned in a stepped progression, the hotel consists of 9 suites, each with its own private patio, complemented by communal areas to eat and lounge. The interiors, by Albio Nascimento and Kathi Stertzig of The Home Project Design Studio, follow the clean-cut aesthetic and vernacular vibe of the exterior with minimally furnished spaces, vaulted brick ceilings and traditional terracotta floor tiles. Care has also been taken to create an environmentally friendly development with the use of sustainable measures like natural ventilation, shading and wastewater reuse as well as the deployment of the hotel’s garden as a greenhouse to grow fresh organic vegetables for the kitchen.

Undoubtedly the main local attraction for guests is the Ria Formosa Nature Park, a unique coastal lagoon classified as one of the seven wonders of Portugal that encompasses a wide range of habitats such as barrier-islands, tidal flats dunes, saltpans, fresh water lagoons and woodlands, and an impressive diversity of flora and fauna. Visitors can explore this wonderland through guided walks, bike rides and boat or kayak trips as well as participate in local traditions such as gathering clams, pottery making and harvesting and drying fruits The area is also ideal for bird-watchers as it hosts hundreds of different aquatic birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods as well as several sandy beaches ideal for swimming and sunbathing in the summer.

Back in the retreat visitors can relax by the pool, treat themselves with a range of spa rituals based on local ingredients like olive, almond, salt flower and seaweed, or just sit comfortably on the terrace and gaze at the star-filled night sky.

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