Family-run detoxes in Portugal
The Quick Read: Vitalisé Portugal knows detoxing inside out – they’ve been offering detox retreats since the early Nineties. Their juicing and light fasting programmes are designed to reset the body through a combination of diet, exercise (to encourage muscle tone and support gentle weight loss) and relaxation. The surroundings aren’t top-end glamorous, but Vitalisé offers a total holiday for the body and soul in a relaxed environment. There are reassuringly professional therapists and nutritionists on hand, plus a gorgeous beach close by for chilled downtime. The majority of guests are Dutch but that’s changing month by month and everyone speaks English.
More on the detoxing: You can choose between juice fasting or ‘mild’ fasting and, if you find one isn’t working for you, you can always switch to the other option. The juice diet includes fruit and vegetable juices three times a day and vegetable soup in the evening – read a word from the queen on her detox. The juices, designed by a nutritional therapist, contain vitamins and minerals to support the body while detoxing. Your daily calorie intake is 400-500 kcals. Mild fasting includes juices taken with light meals made from mainly alkaline foods such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. For example, beetroot salad with apple and feta, or roasted vegetables. The diet reduces acidity in the body caused by unhealthy eating, stress and environmental factors. Daily calorie intake on this programme is 800-900 kcals.
You eat (or drink) in the spacious indoor dining room area at 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. The food – what little there is of it – is fresh, delicious, nutritious and chosen by nutritionist Sandra Dos Santos to aid detoxification. You can cheat and buy food outside – the villa isn’t isolated – but really, what would be the point? Packed lunches and juices are provided for the beach and day trips. A variety of organic herbal teas are always available. You also take Epsom salts to cleanse the intestines every night. On the last day, to ease you back into normal eating, guests are taken to the local beach restaurant for a farewell supper of carefully selected dishes such as fried local fish and vegetables.
More on the exercise: The exercise regime supports detoxification and ensures that muscle tone and fitness is maintained (so you don’t start burning muscle rather than stored fat). Each day starts with a 90 minute walk to the local nature reserve or along the cliffs. There are three optional exercise classes throughout the day. Bodytone is a combination of yoga, stretch and tone and Callanetics (with weights and belts) taught by Debbie, an experienced physical therapist. It’s a challenging work-out for all levels and while many people consider Callanetics a bit old-fashioned (it hit its heyday in the 80s), it’s enjoying a resurgence in recent years with celebrities such as Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow supposedly fans.
Aqua-jogging is a musical work-out in the pool using floats and buoyancy belts. It’s a highly effective, fun way to tone muscle – and completely non-impact – your entire body weight is supported by the water.
At 6pm there’s a relaxing yoga class with yoga teacher Lisa Howe. It stretches and opens the body with a focus on the breath and relaxation. It’s all about letting go – an important concept when you’re detoxing.
More on the therapies: The programme includes three therapy sessions – Swedish massage and lymphatic drainage sessions. The latter involves wearing an inflatable suit for 45 minutes which encourages lymphatic drainage (helping to expel toxins) and can help reduce cellulite too.
Additional (paid) treatments include colonic hydrotherapy with Kirsten Hodge and enemas (an optional extra when you’re detoxing and by no means essential), body wraps (with green tea and citrus), aromatherapy massage, manicures and pedicures.
More on the outdoors & indoors: Vila Mimosa was originally two villas, now joined to sleep up to 18 people. It’s situated a ten minute walk from the charming and never-too-crowded beach of Galé (in between Portimao and Albufeira). The building is Moorish in design, all white walls with a bright primrose trim. The colour scheme even extends to the garden furniture. Inside, the décor is basic and a bit Ikea in places, but it’s comfortable with a mixture of large and cosy communal spaces, including a snug spot by the open fire.
A spacious covered roof terrace becomes an outdoor exercise studio during the summer but there are also two indoor exercise spaces that are used in winter. The pool is a reasonable size and kidney-shaped; there’s a Jacuzzi and a mini spa centre with sauna, therapy rooms and a chill-out room with loungers – it’s a peaceful spot with a relaxed atmosphere.
More on the bedrooms: The rooms are bright, clean and simply decorated. Most are en suite with good outdoor space or a balcony. There’s not a great difference in price but try to get an upstairs room if you can or one away from the pool, which can be noisy during the day.
More on the trips: Two day trips are included in the price. The first visits tourist hotspot Albufeira, with stunning views overlooking the ocean. The second is to the Moorish town of Loulé on market day.
Fellow guests: The minimum age is 18 but most guests tend to be in their thirties and above (most come alone or in couples). The majority come from Europe (predominantly the Netherlands, although also from Britain, France and Germany. Over half the guests return for further visits.
What’s queenly: A straightforward professional detox that runs like clockwork yet still offers the personal touch. You feel safe, well-cared for, and return home well-informed on nutrition and the detox process.
What’s lowly: Vila Mimosa is not Shangri-La, nor is it a ‘spiritual Club 18-30’. If you’re after top-end luxury or spiritual enlightenment, it’s not for you.
Costs: Retreats start at €900 (£780) per person for an eight day programme (based on a double room with two people sharing). Twelve days costs €1,280 (£1100) and 15 days costs €1,500 (£1,290). Single occupancy costs from €1140 (£980) for the eight day programme rising to €1,890 (£1,700) for 15 days. The price includes accommodation, food and drink, transfers, plus two lymphatic drainage treatments, one Swedish massage, daily liver flush, a green clay detox face mask, a farewell dinner at a local restaurant and two trips. Some therapies cost extra. For example, a manicure costs €25 (£21). Colonic hydrotherapy sessions cost €95 (£81).
Getting there: Fly into Faro. The 30-minute transfer from the airport is free both ways.
Reviewed by Imogen O’Rorke
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