Monte Velho Equo Resort is one of the most stylish riding holiday destinations I have ever seen. It opened two years ago and has never looked back, successfully growing at a fantastic rate.
Monte Velho is a family owned business with a number of activities and at the fore front is their Lusitano Horse Breeding. They have a breeding philosophy a little different from most breeders and it’s proving to be a huge success producing top horses. Their aim is to breed a small amount of ‘Sport Lusitanos’ each year – learn more about their stud in our breeders section.
Monte Velho means ‘Old Estate on a Hill” and there are remains of an ancient Roman Settlement at Monte Velho Resort.
The resort is situated 7 km from Arraiolos at their stud farm (coudelaria). The property is in the heart of typical, almost prehistoric looking landscape of the Alentejo. Vast grey boulders, ancient cork old trees, holn trees, vine yards and long grasses. In the spring it’s an array of bright flowers which eventually turns to shades of greens and greys giving an almost modern Architectual feel. There’s a spiritual quality of times past and lingering thoughts what may have wandered the lands then. The views are wide open landscape with an expansive sky. At night the sky is a bed of bright stars made brighter for the absence of excessive light pollution.
We arrived along a dirt track between the impressive boulders through an arched entrance. The white and blue farm buildings are a blend of a traditional Alentejo farm and modern design. The main house and Equo resort architecture is designed by Arq. Diogo de Lima Mayer, the owner, and the interior design by Margarida de Lima Mayer, his wife. It all flows together organically blending perfectly with the surrounding countryside.
Diogo de Lima Mayer greets us in the courtyard. He a good looking man with a big friendly smile and sparkling eyes. He whisks us off for a coffee and chat on the patio before a tour around the farm. Coffee and tea is served in very trendy colourful china. However Lena can barely sit to drink hers, inspired she is immediately busy with her camera with so much to capture she’s off. Despite being a dull day, the grey clouds actually added to cool chic image and drama to the landscape colours.
On the their website it’s described as a boutique hotel but I would describe it as something a bit more than that. For me the word ’boutique’ suggests something very small, chic and limited to a certain area but here you feel you have the boutique-ness of modern styling and individual space but you also have a feeling of so much more space available to you and there is. I loved the bedroom suites which are very modern in design with comfort and ease to move around. They have super bathrooms with glass dividing walls and excellent showers.
Best of all each room has a private balcony looking out the landscape and a lake. I was delighted to see the balconies even have outside showers and comfortable furnishings. The perfect place to relax after riding with a glass of lightly sparkling vinho verde.
The more public areas are also well designed consisting of a bar, restaurant, plenty of outside seating and a really cool rooftop swimming pool. Which is surrounded by the boulders so you have the blend of the grey of the stones and fresh aqua of the pool, you can swim while enjoying stunning panoramic views. The sun sets from here are spectacular.
After our hotel tour we were itching to see the horses and the riding facilities. To get to the stables we crossed the sloping courtyard with peacocks and exotic planting. The stables are a good size in barn stabling, a spacious tack room with modern and Portuguese traditional tack clean and well displayed….. Another example of traditional and modern blending perfectly. The horses were in their stables all calmly munching their hay. Diogo proudly took us into each stable to introduce them. Most were from their breeding with a couple of other lesson horses. They all looked happy and well. Diogo is sensitive to ensuring the horses are happy so they have paddocks for relaxation time. We saw Diogo’s favourite, now retired stallion in the paddock enjoying life.
For the riding lessons there are two arenas available. The indoor arena is a good size with a super viewing gallery. Then there is the outside Carriere which has Olympic dimensions (60mx30m) an excellent surface and a seating area for viewing.
In addition to dressage lessons covering all from basics right up to advanced movements on a choice of 14 school horses you can go riding out in the countryside. Monte Velho has 250 hectares with all the surrounding area being National Ecological Reserve you will not have to ride on any roads but enjoy lakes, dams, soft tracks and 100% nature. Maybe even a picnic ride. You can choice to ride in normal tack or traditional Portuguese for comfort and style.
When we arrived at the Carriere we had the pleasure of watching João Torrão riding Equador MVL. What a spectacular young horse he is and with João onboard they make a perfect team. Now they are proving themselves in dressage competition. João is a talented young rider being trained by Paulo Caetano and is showing real potential as an international competition rider. Later Doigo treated us to some fun photographing Equador in liberty. Equador proved to be a natural born star and certainly likes to demonstrate this.
We were invited to enjoy lunch with Diogo and his wife Margarida at the main house on their patio. What a patio! What an amazing stone table! Both Lena and I were marveled at just the simple logistics of how they managed to install such a huge stone table top…. Diogo of course is a man that can :-). The lunch was delicious healthy fresh and imaginative. The conversation equally delightful. These are people that make a difference and know what makes others happy. They have style, an eye for detail and a true understanding of customer care. All in all I think to come for a riding holiday at Monte Velho will be a fabulous experience from your room, food, happy feelings and quality riding. For those that go I am certain will return again and again.
Even if you are not a rider you can enjoy nature, have a bike, take a boat on the lake or visit the city of Évora, considered World Heritage by UNESCO. Which is only 30 km from the Monte Velho Equo Resort.
Thank you Diogo and Margarida for such a super visit.
For further details go to Monte Velho Getting there fly to Lisbon or Faro and I recommend a hire car. It is certainly worth getting out during your stay to visit Evora buy some of the wonderful local produce typical to the Alentejo region – such as cheeses, wines, smoked hams and sausages.
CREDITS – Editorial – Teresa Burton Photography – Lena Saugen Photography
Written May 2015.