Rural tourism: country and manor houses

An increasingly popular mid-range alternative is to stay in a privately owned country or manor house, promoted under the banner of Turismo no Espaço Rural (TER). You may also encounter the following terms: “TR” or Turismo Rural (country houses); “TH” or Turismo de Habitação or Turihab (old manor houses and palaces); “CC” or Casas no Campo (simpler country houses); and “AT” or Agro-Turismo (farmhouses, often on working farms or wine estates). Properties vary from simple farmhouses offering just two or three rooms on a bed-and-breakfast
basis basis, to country manors, often dating from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and complete with period furnishings. Quintas or herdades are farm estate houses, and you can even stay in palaces (palácios), owned by Portuguese aristocrats who have allowed their ancient seats to become part of the scheme.

There are hundreds of properties available, all of which have been inspected and approved by the government tourist office. In terms of facilities, surroundings and atmosphere, they are often unbeatable value – rates start at around e60 a night, though the grandest places might charge up to e120 for a double/twin room, or a little more for self-contained apartments or cottages within the grounds (sleeping up to six). Large breakfasts are invariably included, while many will provide typical dinners made from local ingredients, sometimes accompanied by wine and other produce made on the estate. Others offer suitably rural activities like fishing, rambling, horse riding and wine-tasting.

Owners tend to join one of several marketing organizations (see list below), though you can of course book directly with the houses themselves (details in the guide) or via specialist holiday operators in your own country (see “Getting there” for details). Minimum stay requirements (up to three nights in some places) are more likely to be waived if you approach the establishments directly.