Be active or slow it right down. Whatever your choice leave feeing totally refreshed after a stay at FeelViana..
Setting out to curate our Mediterranean portfolio has been a joy. Many of our destinations have been long standing favourites, whilst a few have come highly recommended by Fish&Pip guests. Our standards are high and our checklist is long, so it was with interest that we listened to one of our well-travelled and trusted families who’ve skied with us for many seasons, about their stay at the eco FeelViana. So we packed a case and went to stay there, and immediately knew it was for us.
Tucked in dunes and pine woods behind the interminably long Cabedelo beach in an unspoilt corner of northern Portugal, FeelViana could not be more different to the better known and popular resorts of the Algarve. It promises the perfect blend of activity and non-touristy off the beaten track charm that we love so much. Owned and run by ex-professional windsurfers, it’s definitely not your Mediterranean fly and flop destination, although we’ve obviously thoroughly researched the Spa options. This stretch of the Atlantic is one of the best places in Europe for water sports, and on windier days, you’ll see why this is such a mecca for wind and kitesurfers. FeelViana has all the equipment you need, as well as qualified instructors. They’re on hand for all abilities, so if you, or your more active teenage children are looking to learn to surf, or you just need a refresher windsurfing lesson, then a couple of days of instruction can easily be booked. Or for those who prefer a more sedate pace of life on the water, a pre-breakfast paddleboard session is surely one of the best ways of clearing the cobwebs and starting the day.
It’s not just all about water sports however. There are boardwalks stretching for miles through the dunes, so a fat bike adventure is a must – just keep the ocean to your right on the way, and on the left on the way back, and you won’t get lost. A cycle along the Limia River and back should also be on your itinerary. Give yourself an entire day, especially if you want to get to Ponte de Lima – reputedly the country’s oldest town. And once there, you should definitely reward yourselves with lunch. The FeelViana team could not be more helpful, and is very happy to recommend where’s best and make the booking. Of an afternoon, you can take a little ferry over to Viana do Castelo, a traditional fishing town with centuries of history, evident in its mix of rococo, renaissance, baroque and art deco buildings and wide boulevards. It’s a good place to watch the world go by over a glass of something local.
We’ve mentioned the Spa, and the list of treatments and therapies is impressive, and there are a number of yoga and pilates sessions you can join. Indeed, FeelViana is fast gaining a reputation as a popular yoga retreat – and is firmly on our bucket list. Finally, and most importantly, this hotel takes food seriously, with more than a hint towards typical Portuguese cuisine. As you’d expect, there’s a lot of seafood on the menu – fresh from the ocean, as well as local and seasonal ingredients. The beach shack taverna gets the thumbs up for being excellent value, having a variety of dishes that children will definitely enjoy – if you can drag them away from the skate park underneath the main hotel building!
If you fly to Porto (just over half an hour’s drive from Viana do Castelo), you should try to spend a day there on your way back. Portugal’s second largest city, it’s also a food lover’s paradise. But more about that another time…