The sun had already set by the time we arrived at Hotel Minho in the Alto Minho. Exhausted after a full day itinerary, it was comforting to arrive at the place we’d be calling home for the next few nights. An illuminated deer on a wooden structure – signposting the area’s long-time history with the animal – greeted us on arrival.
What to expect from your stay at Hotel Minho
As the title of the post suggests, the wooden design in some parts of the hotel are more Scandinavian in feel.
The lounge, with its simple yet chic furnishings in hues of red, green and blue reinforce this, as do the small touches like the wooden deer on the walls. However, this is where the northern European similarities end, and southern European warmth shines through.
To say that the staff at Hotel Minho are extremely helpful doesn’t do them justice. The service is exceptional and extends well beyond its 4-star rating.
The hotel director, David, manager Riccardo, and the rest of the front-of-house team are accommodating and always helpful. Nothing’s too farfetched – within reason of course, and their patience and first-class hospitality made me sad to leave.
Hotel Minho is in the picturesque town of Vila Nova de Cerveira in the Alto Minho region of Portugal. Sitting very close to the border with Spain (Galicia), staying at Hotel Minho is ideal for exploring the region, and then heading onwards across the border.
The nearest airports to reach the hotel are Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto, Portugal (about an hour’s drive) or Vigo airport in Spain. Personally, I found flight prices to and from Porto much cheaper and with more availability than Vigo.
Train travel from São Bento in Porto to Vila Nova de Cerveira takes approximately 2 hours, offering a scenic way to see the country. To get the most from your time in the Alto Minho however, I recommend hiring a car. There are endless number of vineyards, historic sites of interest, and restaurants to discover.
Room with oh what a view
One of the simplest pleasures is to stay somewhere with a wonderful view – and Hotel Minho doesn’t disappoint. Enjoy the views from the huge private balcony in your room. A big, concrete space with views overlooking the green Portuguese landscape, it’s the perfect spot for some quiet reflection.
The view’s even more breathtaking first thing in the morning. You’re guaranteed a comfortable night’s sleep with a generous sized bed, and mammoth pillows to sink into. The bathroom’s also a good size with a large walk-in shower stocked with complimentary toiletries.
It’s a spa life
Don’t miss an opportunity to visit the hotel’s spa. Surrounded by trees, woodland and close to the River Minho, it’s a peaceful setting for some serious relaxation.
The design’s an extension of the Scandinavian wooden-themed design. You’ll find the typical spa facilities though with a slight twist.
Take the full-length pool. It’s not only for there for swimming, but also has 2 jet sprays at one end allowing for a neck and shoulder water massage. Ignite the sprays by pressing a poolside button, and let the water pressure soothe away any tension.
My favourite, however, is the Jacuzzi. A press of the button ignites a bubble frenzy, while you hold onto a steel curve and let the bubbles send you into relaxation overdrive. After a considerable amount of time in the steam and sauna room, your skin feels hydrated, plus you leave with a healthy glow. However, the best was yet to come when I arrived for my massage.
Prior to the massage, my therapist, Alexandra, poured me a glass of ginger tea before leading me to the treatment room. A transition in design from west to east, I immediately felt I was in a Balinese sanctuary. I had the signature massage – a 50-minute treatment (€50/£36/$55*) that uses a blend of honey-based oils.
At the end of the massage, my body, and mind, were completely at ease. Once I’d managed to wean myself from the bed, I followed Alexandra to the relaxation room, drank some more ginger tea before returning to the outside world.
A flashpacker’s feast
Going hungry, or even feeling hungry, is simply not possible at Hotel Minho. I began my days by filling up on the superb breakfast in the dining room, followed by dinner in the next door restaurant, Braseirão do Minho.
Breakfast includes the usual morning staples of toast, cereals, pastries, tea and coffee. Anyone feeling more gluttonous can request a cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon or sausages. This is definitely not the place to start a diet! Portions are generous and will take you all the way to lunchtime or beyond.
Braseirão do Minho
Braseirão do Minho dishes up local home-style cooking in a gourmet dining fashion. Beautifully presented, each course is a bigger and better party in your mouth. The most notable dishes were the superbly tender Polvo à lagareiro (octopus) and the deer served with thinly sliced potatoes and a delicate gravy.
We drank bottles of the famous Vinho Verde wines of the region to accompany the meal. This was followed at the end by either a port wine, or the popular Portuguese liquor, Beirao. You won’t be surprised to read that my jeans fit a little more snug after 3 evenings of exquisite wining and dining, but it was totally worth it.
The experience wouldn’t have been so memorable had it not been for the amazing staff at the restaurant. They delivered first-class service, and were also extremely patient when we stayed beyond closing time.
Don’t go, there’s more…
Hotel Minho is conveniently located near the Ecopista, a trail that runs along the path of the nearby river and connects to other towns. A bike’s the best way to get from one town to another; something that the reception are happy to help you with. It took me over 2 hours to cycle to Valença, after which my butt was never the same.
In spite of this, cycling the trail is so liberating and something I highly recommend. Forget your level of fitness; just grab your helmet, a bottle of water, and go.
There’s no better way to unwind after a day’s cycle, than with a glass or 3 of vinho at the hotel bar. The bar’s on the ground floor next to the lounge.
If you’re as lucky as we were during our stay, you’ll get to meet bartender and all-round wine expert, Bruno. He served us some of the most delicious wines from the region, as well as an interesting fact or two on each bottle.
Stop thinking, just go
If I haven’t made it clear in this post, I highly recommend staying at Hotel Minho. While some might say it’s a slight distance from the train station or airport, for me this is actually a bonus. The hotel maintains its individuality and there’s less chance of it being overly busy.
Moreover, its location is ideal for exploring the neighbouring towns of Valença, Caminha, Monção and Melgaço. What’s more, you can easily continue your travels into Spain if you wish. Portugal for me, and particularly the charm of the north, continues to entice me to return, and Hotel Minho is only the icing on the cake.
Name: Hotel Minho
Address: Estrada Nacional 13, 4920-140 Vila Meã, Portugal
Tel: +351 251 700 245
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