Casa Arte is a beautiful villa rental for sunny holidays with friends and family located on two hectares of private land and minutes away from deserted beaches on the Algarve.
What was the inspiration/story behind Olhão Retreat?
It all really happened by accident and we had no intention of buying a place in Portugal. My husband visited back in 2013 when a friend of his was renovating a house in Olhão and he immediately felt there was something special about the town. He suggested we return together for a weekend and before you know it, we were on the rooftop of a derelict building, looking out towards another. Within three months, we were the proud owners of two derelict buildings in Olhão, most of which we hadn’t seen yet as they were occupied by scary dogs.
Once we did get inside, we realised the full potential of the spaces and just how big they really were, then got to work creating what you see today. So I like to say that we didn’t find the house, but the house found us!
Initially, we were just looking for a place for ourselves to use as a family and for my husband to meet with a group he collaborates with on spiritual land and energy work. But due to the size of the casa, we began considering how it could be utilised for the rest of the year.
I was aware that yoga and wellness retreats were taking off in a big way, so was quite proactive in reaching out to people who might be interested in hosting at the casa. It’s been a bit of a snowball effect really and we’re really lucky that people have been on board. Aside from retreats, we also think it caters well to intergenerational families and small, intimate weddings, as well as a venue for photoshoots.
How would you describe the atmosphere of Olhão Retreat and what do you love about it?
I would say that it’s relaxed, calming and very chilled. We’ve aimed to create a space in which everyone can feel at ease and comfortable the moment they walk through the door.
The casa has an extraordinary concertina effect — it can feel just right for two people or expand when full with 24 guests and still offers plenty of space and quiet corners for everyone to enjoy. I think its central location in the old town also adds to the energy and atmosphere of the space, as it’s within walking distance of everything and everyone is free to come and go as they please.
What do you particularly like about this part of the Algarve and Olhão?
The eastern Algarve is a rare corner of Europe that remains authentic, down to earth, real and where you are welcomed into the local community, without being pandered to. Olhão is not a tourist town, it is an everyday working town with a proud and ancient heritage, best explored on foot, getting lost wandering around the cobbled streets and alleys of the old town.
How far away is the beach and what is your favourite beach?
Olhão is on the coast but doesn't have a beach in town. Instead, a short walk from the waterfront market (which is within easy walking distance from Olhão Retreat), small ferries and river taxis await to whisk people off to a choice of different islands.
There is also a lovely mix of boat companies starting to offer private tours and trips, to explore the natural wonders of the Ria Formosa or for a picnic on a deserted beach.