The secret valley

The secret valley

Refreshed and re-energised in a secret Portuguese valley, Paula Hines discovers the delights of juice fasting retreat Moinhos Velhos

Located in a secluded valley by the Barragem da Bravura in the Algarve, Moinhos Velhos is a haven that has been helping people find their way to optimum health and wellbeing for more than 25 years. Over this time, and with a wealth of experience, they have developed and fine-tuned a detox juice fasting programme that regularly attracts returning guests from around the world.

I had never embarked on a juice fast before, so while I was looking forward to the experience, I arrived at Moinhos Velhos late on a Saturday evening feeling a little trepidation. I was warmly welcomed by bookings manager Mel, and I had my last meal for the next week – a delicious fresh vegetable soup – before being shown to my comfortable, spacious room to settle in.

In the daylight of Sunday morning I was woken by birdsong and the bell that rang outside our rooms at 7am each day, and I got to appreciate my new surroundings for the first time. On my walk up the hill to the main house for lemon tea, there was lots of lush greenery, vibrant colours, orange trees, clean air and a welcome sense of peace (the venue is located in 16 acres of land away from the main tourist areas). I met one of my fellow guests on the way who revealed that she has already been there for one week. I took the fact that she looked glowing as a good sign of what was to come.

A special place
Founded by Frank Jensen and Anne Karine Moss in 1992, Moinhos Velhos has a special atmosphere that is hard to describe .There is a natural slowing down that happens here. As Mel explained: “During the time you are here you don’t belong to anyone else. There are no obligations. It’s secluded and it’s magical.”

Sadly, Anne passed away in 2018, but Frank, though semi-retired, still offers guests treatments in his speciality, Physiospect – a Russian diagnostic computer programme that scans the body to analyse its health. On our second day we got to meet Frank when he joined us for morning juice and his infectious, playful spirit belied his 89 years.

The venue is spilt between several buildings: the main house with the dining room where we had our juices and evening vegetable broth every day and the lounge; the temple where we practiced yoga and meditation and which is adjacent to the salt water pool, sauna and hot tub; the clinic where treatments take place; and then located down a hill is the guest accommodation.

Yoga, organic produce  and surprisingly…no hunger!
Within a day, my fellow guests and I slipped easily into our new routine. Every morning began with lemon tea followed by two hours of yoga. Over the course of the week, the yoga was a mix of slow, steady Sivananda and Satyananda with our teachers Chris, Ana and Karen. 10am was the first juice of the day: freshly squeezed orange juice with bentonite clay and psyllium husk.

The secret valley room

Juices at 1pm and 4pm respectively were made with different organic vegetables and fruit each day and it was helpful to receive information on the properties and benefits of each of the ingredients. All of the juices were made with organic produce, much of which is grown on the land at Moinhos Velhos and one of the biggest surprises for me was to find that I was not hungry during my stay.

Afternoon juices were usually accompanied by a talk on subjects which included fermented foods, how to use a neti pot (we all received a neti pot each to keep), tongue scraping and dry body brushing. In between juices we were given supplements to take and we were required to use a Clysmatic to aid the detoxification process. This form of DIY colonic hydrotherapy was an unusual sensation at first, but it was easy to administer. 

In the evenings after vegetable broth was meditation. On a couple of evenings, we were lucky enough to be treated to some wonderfulyoga nidra by Ana and in a beautiful fire ceremony (Agni Hotra) with Chris I let go of feelings that no longer served me. 

Later in the week we took our juice on the road for a day trip to the beach and the town of Lagos, which provided a lovely opportunity to take in some of the local area away from our secret valley. Closer to the end of our stay we received tips on how to break our fasts and maintain healthy eating habits once back at home, as well as a booklet full of helpful information.

Terrific treatments
There are some fantastic therapists at Moinhos Velhos offering a range of treatments including massage, Five Elements acupuncture, Reiki and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to name a few. I opted for a therapeutic massage with Anne – a mix of relaxation and deep tissue work – and it was easily one of the best massages I’ve ever had.

Also, curious to experience Physiospect for myself, I booked in for a treatment with Frank. The idea is that once hooked up to the computer, the program is able to pinpoint problems in the body. Once detected, a specific frequency can be bounced to the relevant part of the body in order to help facilitate healing. I found it both informative and intriguing. 

The secret valley pool

Moving forward with a fresh perspective
The closing ceremony on our final evening with Chris was very special. It took the form of a meditative spiral walk with candles. We were asked to think about what we would like to leave behind and then what we would like to take home with us.

It was then that I realised I was leaving behind some weight (both physical and emotional) and returning home deeply cleansed in more ways than one. Spirits lifted, re-energised, and full of gratitude .

Prices at Moinhos Velhos start at €1150pp for 7 days based on two sharing. The price includes accommodation, juices, supplements, daily yoga and meditation. Dates, prices and further information at

OM readers get a 10% discount this month. Quote code OM19 when booking.

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