An eco-friendly rural retreat where relaxation is compulsory: Muxima, Algarve, Portugal

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The Independent Online

Arriving in this patch of Portuguese countryside after a long journey, Muxima was the perfect journey's end. A single-story farmstead-turned-guesthouse, surrounded by lavender, eucalyptus, rock roses and jasmine, relaxing is pretty much compulsory here. There isn't much to do, except cool off in the reed-filtered swimming pool, have a massage or sprawl on a daybed on a shady terrace, watching swallows and dragonflies dip and soar and the wind tug at the trees.

Jorge and wife Sofia – two itinerant Lisboetas looking for a new life in the country – moved to south-west Portugal in 2005. The arrival of sons Vicente and Balthazar had sent this former aid worker and TV producer looking for an alternative lifestyle closer to home, but one that would satisfy their nomadic souls.

When they found this 70-acre farmstead they named it Muxima – "heart" in the Angolan dialect of Kimbundu. They then set about spending the next 10 months turning the ramshackle building at its core, and the neglected pasture and forest that surrounded it, into an environmentally sensitive retreat. "From the beginning we decided the house should operate with as low energy as possible," explained Jorge, adding that, with nine sunny days out of 10 days, it's a great place to use solar panels.

Principled it may be, but Muxima is indulgent, too. Take the breakfasts. Eaten in a little open-sided terrace just below the main building, the food is laid out each morning so you can help yourself without the intrusion of service. Pick a seat at one of the colourfully painted tables, looking out over the garden, and tuck in to freshly made bread, plum and fig jam, flasks of coffee and hot milk, a jug of freshly squeezed orange juice and, on the day I was there, homemade cake laced with a variety of sweet potato that only grows in the surrounding area.

For dinner, you have to head out. Take a gentle 20- to 30-minute stroll into the local village, Aljezur, and order fresh fish and a bottle of local wine at Restaurante Pont'a Pe by the river, before walking home in the moonlight. Or buy a picnic from the shop by the bridge and eat back at Muxima, on the terrace outside your room, by candlelight.



Location

Around an hour's drive northwest of Faro, slightly southeast of Aljezur, Muxima is in "the only part of Portugal that remains quite wild", according to Jorge. "It is technically in the Algarve but the lifestyle here is more like that in the Alentejo, so we call it the 'Alengarve'."

Most guests hire a car from the airport and drive direct but you can take a (four-hour) bus straight to Aljezur from Lisbon and they'll come and pick you up. Borrow a Muxima bike, for free, while you're there and you can pedal to two of Portugal's best beaches in under an hour; at Amoreira you can watch the river Aljezur tumble into the ocean while tucking into a plate of garlicky prawns at a rustic cliff-top restaurant; or, for surfing, carry on slightly further to Arrifana.



Comfort

The seriously stylish décor was inspired by the couple's travels. "We had both travelled and brought back things we loved over the years. At the time I didn't know why I was buying all these things, but when we came here it was obvious. We started unpacking our boxes and I thought 'wow', we have to use these things in our guest rooms," said Sofia.

The result might have looked like a student house after an exotic gap year, but with Sofia's design skills it's anything but. Wooden floors, brightly painted walls and polished concrete shower rooms form a simple backdrop on to which the souvenirs – from woven rugs to punched metal lanterns – have been subtly displayed.

Each room comes with complimentary Wi-Fi, Portuguese chocolate, olive oil toiletries and fresh fruit. In the main building are three doubles named and styled after places close to Jorge and Sofia's hearts. Similarly, five minutes' walk away at the top of a small hill, there are three further family-friendly suites, each with kitchenettes.

       rhiannon batten

Muxima, Montes Ferreiros, Aljezur, Algarve, Portugal (00 351 91 601 28 30; muxima-montesferreiros.com). Double rooms start at €100, including breakfast. Suites, sleeping four, start at €125.

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