MOINHOS VELHOS, NEAR LAGOS, PORTUGAL
BEST FOR: OPEN-MINDED SEEKERS AFTER SQUEAKY CLEAN INNARDS (WITH A SIDE ORDER OF BIG-HEARTED HIPPY DIPPY)
NOT FOR: THE OVER-FUSSY, FINICKITY OR FASTIDIOUS – IT AIN’T LUXE, LOVE
The world is drowning in juice fasts but follow the stream back to its source and you’ll find MoinhosVelhos, set in a Portuguese valley near the coastal town of Lagos. They’ve been running juice cleanses here for 25 years and what they don’t know about scrubbing you squeaky clean from the inside out is probably best forgotten.
People tend to come here looking for serious health results, rather than just shedding a few bikini pounds – many come back year after year, using it as a body MOT (with optional mind dump and soul sync).
It’s a cliché but it really does feel like you’re stepping into a time capsule here. 23 years ago Frank and Anne Karine stumbled upon a farm and a bunch of tumbledown mill buildings and had one of those frisson moments – they just knew this was going to be their own private Eden. They reached an agreement with the devas (nature spirits) who, to this day, have a slope of the valley that is left strictly untouched. A bit hippy-dippy? A smidge Findhorn? You betcha.
The detox programme itself is squeaky clean and sharp as a pin, It’s that tried and tested formula of freshly squeezed juice + bentonite clay + psyllium + DIY colonics (though, remember, these guys have been doing this for decades and doubtless provided the inspiration for many of the new detox brigade).
That’s where the comparisons stop. MoinhosVelhos as a whole beats to a far deeper, way more spiritual drum than most detox retreats. Before you even sip your juice, everyone clasps hands to chant three belling Oms, followed by a jaunty round of Om NamahShivaya and a prayer to the devas. Shaking your head? Don’t be so sure. By the end even the most uptight sceptics join in with gusto.
There’s masses to intrigue, entice and (sometimes) bemuse: you need wide-open chakras and an infinity-stretched mind to follow the outer reaches of the program here.
Want to get rid of parasites? Apparently you can just sit and zap them by holding two bits of copper tubing. Need a map of your interior health and wellbeing – let ex-nurse Janni(the third owner of MV) hook you up to the Physiospekt, a Russian diagnostic computer programme which scans your body and is said to be able to pinpoint problems before they are even detectable with standard analysis.
A team of therapists are on hand (at extra cost) covering everything from the standard (deep tissue, reflexology, acupuncture) to the more esoteric (past life therapy, rebirthing, and the wondrously titled Herbal Stamp which, somewhat disappointingly is merely massage with an added herbal poultice).
The ‘temple’ is a purpose-built serene space – a huge statue of Shiva presides, while gurus, teachers and masters from a heavenly host of traditions keep a beady eye on proceedings from around the walls. Yoga mats splay out in a mandala from the central shine – no rigid old rows here. It’s a lovely space for morning yoga, evening meditation and activities from guided visualisation, Biodanza (therapeutic dance) and Osho shaking meditation to gong baths and a Hindu fire ceremony to release whatever is holding you back.
A psychic step too far? No probs. Simply do your own thing: wander the grounds, curl up in your room or cosy up in the sitting room which has a perfectly normal DVD player and PC.
There’s a pool (a bit fraggled around the edges), a wood-fired sauna for sweating out yet more toxins and a Jacuzzi for star-gazing. One day you get the option of a trip out to the beach for the day, taking juices with you of course (and, yes, you Om on the beach) or to the nearby town of Lagos for a bit of shopping.
There’s a wide range of accommodation – some rooms are carved out of old farm buildings; some are custom-built cottages – very Hansel & Gretel. They’re all clean and wholesome but don’t expect high luxe. MV has a large team of staff and volunteers so you’ll come across the odd caravan or line of shambolic huts – adding to the hippy commune vibe. But it’s this mix of people that gives MV a lot of its spice. There are usually three yoga teachers presiding, each with a different style.
MV isn’t as smart and shiny as many juice retreats but, frankly, that’s part of its charm. You come here for the depth of knowledge and the free spirit of open-minded enquiry. It has the feel of a true community of seeking souls, rather than a purely commercial enterprise – and that’s rare and rather wonderful.
CONTACT: Tel: +351 282 687 147 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PRICE: From approx £810 for seven days in a shared room, all inclusive (apart from additional therapies and transfers).
NEAREST AIRPORT: Faro
TRANSFER TIME: One hour by car
First-Hand Visit Write-Up By: Jane Alexander