In the southern Alentejo, in the middle of the Chanza River, which forms the border between Spain and Portugal, lies a small, wild paradise. On the Ilha da Tartaruga, the turtle island, which covers just half a hectare, life artist Theo invites people from all over the world to do the same as the island's namesake. And for a few days, like a tortoise, to slow down completely.
The trained winemaker and experienced agricultural consultant has planted the island with trees, flowers, fruit and vegetables so lavishly that it stands out from its surrounding landscape like a small oasis. If you land at Theo on foot when the tide is low or by boat when the tide is high, you can confidently leave your luxury needs at home. And bathe in the simplicity of being instead. Fridge, shower, entertainment program, flush toilet? There is not any. And yet here you will find everything that people need to switch off and find themselves – in addition to chickens, dogs, buzzing insects and even a friendly fox.
Simple huts, tents and caravans, which Theo has embellished with a lot of love, wood and natural cork, serve as accommodation options. The real life, however, takes place outdoors: swimming, paddling or boating on the Chanza; swing in the hammock under passion flowers; read, meditate or just be - and calmly observe what happens to you when you're doing nothing.
“On my island, we consciously celebrate the simplicity of life: there is healthy food, lots of rest and few distractions in beautiful surroundings. This gives my guests the opportunity to question their own habits and needs. You can experience in harmony with nature how little it really takes to be happy,” says Theo.
FoodOn the Ilha de Tartaruga, Theo provides full board that pampers body and soul. The day begins with a healthy breakfast and ends with a light dinner. Lunch is the main meal. Anything Theo doesn't grow organically in his own garden, he buys from a nearby organic cooperative. He describes his cooking skills as "something between Indian and Italian2. Theo mainly cooks vegetarian food, but he can also get fresh fish from the coast on request. "And if you absolutely don't want to live without meat, you can bring your own," he says with a smile.
EnvironmentTheo's motto in life is: less is more. "What you don't have is more sustainable and ecological than any great product with an eco-label," says the self-confessed minimalist. That's why there are no unnecessary frills on his island, but above all: plants, trees, bushes and hedges. All energy, including that for watering his oasis, is generated by his own solar system. An open-air composting toilet (yes, you have to want that!) reduces water consumption, and instead of showering, a dip in the river or in the water reservoir refreshes you. The solar-powered pump continuously pumps cold water from the bottom of the Chanza into this, which has a pleasant temperature of 17°C even in midsummer. Theo also uses this deep water to cool food and drinks – because he doesn't have a refrigerator.
Well-BeingWell-being on the turtle island has less to do with external massage offers and more to do with the space for inner encounters that prevails here. Between relaxing hours in the hammock, you can swim your head free in the river. Particularly refreshing: Dive into the hexagonal water reservoir with 17°C cold deep water. Especially in winter and spring, the area around the Chanza is ideal for hiking and walking.
It takes about 2 hours to drive from Faro to the Ilha da Tartaruga (133 km). It takes a good 2.5 hours to travel from Lisbon (248 km), from Huelva (ES) it is a good hour (85 km) and from Seville it takes about 2 hours to drive to the island (165 km). The exact coordinates can be found on the website.
If you land in Lisbon by plane, you can take the bus to nearby Mértola, where Theo will pick up his guests by car. Otherwise, arriving by car or rental car is recommended.
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