A sustainable & organic retreat, that fuses simplistic charm with nature, design & modern cuisine, all hidden in the countryside of Castro Marim, Portugal.
Hidden in the southeast corner of Portugal is a little village known as Castro Marim and hidden in that little village is a little farm, completely surrounded by nature. Fig trees, carob trees, olive trees, apricot trees, cork trees, let’s just say the list goes on an on. This sustainable and organic agriturismo is known as Companhia das Culturas (CC) and is undoubtedly one of the coolest hotels we’ve ever stayed in.
Living up to its name (translated as companion of cultures), CC brings the culture of Algarve to life by playing with all your senses and forcing you to slow down and appreciate your surroundings. When you look around, you see nothing but the pure, untouched beauty of nature and design. Branches and twigs seem to lead the way around the property and little pieces of curated treasures can be found in every nook and cranny. You can feel that this place is old and that the walls tell a rich history that is decades old. You can help but be impressed and in awe.
The Experience at Companhia das Culturas
Imagine having property in your family, located on in the Algarve countryside, that has been passed on for 7 generations. Over time the property has changed and parts of it have become ruins, yet there still is beauty in the bones of each ruin. Well this was the case for Eglantina Monteiro, who with her husband are the owners of CC. Together they envisioned transforming the ruins into an elegant boutique hotel, where the natural elements are merged with the modern. The result is Companhia das Culturas, a relaxing place, hidden in the countryside and where nature is center stage.
It’s a place where objects are repurposed to create a beautiful and charming ambiance. Old iron framed beds are transformed into sun loungers, the dining room is a mismatch of different tables and chairs, antiques are spread throughout and yet somehow, magically, everything comes together to create a modern, simple and comfortable vibe. It’s like wandering through a perfectly staged antique market with a mix of the old and new.
About the Rooms
Although the property of CC spans over 40 hectares, the actual living area is quite small. The hotel itself is made of 9 suites, 4 apartments, plenty of outdoor space and several large communal areas. We stayed in one of the twin suites, which is located off a labyrinth like walkway with all the other suites. Although I knew we were close to our neighbors, I never heard a sound and often felt like we were the only ones on property. Maybe it’s because the pace here is quiet and tranquil, or maybe it’s the 12-inch wide walls.
Our room was simply furnished in variations of white with a few touches of repurposed wood furniture, to give it some style. A large exposed wall acted as the focal point and it almost felt like we were sleeping in a cave , with the textures of the exposed wall staring down at us. Recessed lighting shined on the exposed wall revealing the rich layers of burn-orange stone - a great contrast against the whiteness. All the rooms are styled differently, yet cohesive in design. It’s the eclectic style of furniture that brings everything together.
There was no TV in the room, or air conditioning, but we had all that we needed. Our bed was incredibly comfortable with soft white linens and fluffy pillows. We had a powerful fan overhead, a small refrigerator in the closet and a small desk. Although a bit small in size, we were both comfortable and felt really relaxed in our space.
Dining at Companhia das Culturas
For my first meal in Portugal, I was expecting to have a typical dish, with plenty of meat. Now I have no idea what those dishes would be, but I expected the chef to do his normal spiel and to hear the word traditional over and over. I was so wonderfully wrong. The chef created a story and used the ingredients as words.
As each dish was presented I could taste the history, I understood the passion and I knew I tasted something really special. You see, Companhia das Culturas uses what’s around them. The chef creates menus based on what’s in season and what the land is providing. You get asparagus in October, figs in June, apricots in March and carob all year round. So when you mix the talent of Chef Pedro and the bounty of the surrounding crops, you’re left with truly creative and delicious cuisine.
The food at Companhia das Culturas is the attitude of Algarve. It’s taking what’s around you, what’s quality and what’s it season to produce truly spectacular dishes. It’s taking everyday produce and introducing it to naive pallets in a recognizable way. It’s taking carob flour, typically sweet (think chocolate mixed with coffee) and making it savory in a delicious risotto dish. It’s taking gastro-molecular techniques and making them seem simple. It’s creative.
Although there are a few restaurants, a short car ride away, we never once wanted to leave the property. Chef Pedros food was that delicious and we couldn’t get enough. Breakfast is served at your leisure and consists of fresh fruit, juices, granola, meats, cheese and my favorite - homemade jam. Before you leave, make sure to stop in the office and buy some jars of jam for the road, it’s that good.
What to Do
To be very honest, there isn’t much to do in the area. But as I quickly learned that’s the point. When you come to Castro Marim and especially when you stay at Companhia das Culturas, you’re senses are meant to be heightened but not overly stimulated. There is no music, no loud bars, no television, instead there are the quiet sounds of nature, the dark starry night to stare into and the peacefulness that comes with relaxation.
You can spend your days hiking through the nearby trails, or walk around the town and admire the colorful Portuguese style row homes. There is even a castle you can venture to, or a beach if you wish. But truth be told we liked staying around the hotel. We slept in, had late breakfasts (with the most amazing jam) and then explored around the property.
There is a fantastic pool to cool off in and a recently built Hamam to steam away. Even if you don’t care for steam baths, the Hamam is quite an impressive building (and the only one in Portugal), so make sure to stop by and take a look. You can also book an array of spa treatments, from massages to facials and body wraps.
Who Companhia das Culturas is Best For...
Companhia das Culturas is perfect for honeymooners, couples looking to getaway and even individuals that just want to rejuvenate themselves. This would also be a great family vacation spot if you have older children… I’m pretty sure the cries of babies would be unappreciated by those looking for peace and quiet. The property is full of comfortable and inspiring areas to read that book you’ve been meaning to, catch up on life, or just take a nap in the warm Portuguese sun.
For more information about Companhia das Culturas make sure to visit their website: