Authentic places to stay
Travel is not just a means of escape, it´s an opportunity for discovery. Travel is about experiencing different surroundings, people, tastes, climates and cultures. At Secretplaces, we believe that the best way to experience all this is by staying in smaller, authentic accommodations set in historic urban environments, charming villages or unmarked settings in nature.
We understand that there are different tastes and needs to cater towards. While some travellers want to stay in a rustic place, others prefer 5-star luxury with avant-garde design. When it comes to service, there are those that feel they deserve to be treated like kings or queens in a hotel, and others want to savour the liberty of being on their own; cooking local produce in the kitchen of their holiday homes.
There is no hard and fast rule as to what makes a secret place. Beauty, by its very nature, is subjective. Our criteria is simple: we must feel at home, and we must feel good while we’re there.
Secretplaces has searched for the best small hotels and the most beautiful and authentic accommodations based on their uniqueness, excellence and authenticity, independent of price. Whether it is that romantic guest house committed to fine local cuisine, the small charming countryside hotel immersed in a breath-taking landscape, the elegant boutique hotel in the bustling city centre, or the beautiful self-catering cottage nestled above the ocean; they all give you that singular feeling of happiness and wellbeing.
At Secretplaces, we believe travel is not just about leaving your home and going to another place–it's about discovery.
Growing up in 7 countries on 3 continents and having travelled the world most of their lives, Michael Bendixen and Beatriz Parra Stucky decided in 1999 to share their private passion of discovering beautiful and authentic places to stay.
When Secretplaces was founded, the Internet was still in its infancy and so was digital technology. Michael made his initial trip to discover secret places in the Azores in 1999 with one of the first digital cameras, a Sony Mavica, which stored images on diskettes, each able to store only 5 images. The result was Michael visiting hotels with his pockets full of diskettes and long nights spent downloading all those images to his laptop. Bea got lost in dense fog in Emilia Romagna in Italy with only a printed map at her disposal to find that beautiful hotel she wanted to visit in the nearby mountains.
We did not really have any idea of how to build a hotel guide on the Internet at the time, but with the help of our techie friends we launched our first site in early 2001 with Spain and Portugal as destinations. You cannot imagine our surprise when we won a Bronze Cyber Lion at the world famous Cannes Advertising Festival for the most creative Internet sites a few months later. The first ever for Portugal. An article in the New York Times and the Times of London followed. Motivated by this we expanded our portfolio to many more European countries, as well as Morocco and Brazil.
To discover especially beautiful and authentic hotels and holiday homes we had to rely on printed travel guides and some basic information that could be found on the Internet. We were never sure of what to expect at our next destination, sometimes driving for hours up winding mountain roads only to find out that we had made the journey in vain. Mostly though, we had the tremendously gratifying experience of finding beautiful places to stay in astonishing surroundings, with welcoming and charming hosts.
The art of hosting a traveller is a gift, so much so that the few accommodations we had to eliminate from our selection over the years were not because of the place itself, but rather because of the lack of a welcoming atmosphere.
Secretplaces is, above all, a hotel guide that is not defined by the search for a certain category or style of accommodation. What we are really looking for is character and the ability to offer our travellers a unique and unforgettable stay.
Our guide now spans over 30 countries with more than 1,400 accommodations, including boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, guest houses, luxury hotels as well as stylish self-catering apartments, luxurious villas and holiday homes.
If you cannot find the ideal accommodation on our site, it does not mean that it does not exist. Whatever your interests and budget, we are happy to share our experiences with you to help you find the perfect place to stay or put together interesting routes and itineraries. Totally free of charge.
Behind the website there is a team of people who speak Portuguese, French, Italian, English, German and Spanish, and who enjoy guiding you through Europe, Brazil or Morocco in the best way possible.
Michael Bendixen, Founder
Michael was born in Marin County, just across the bridge from San Francisco to German parents. After a short stint as a young child in Germany his family moved to Brazil when he was seven. The experience in Rio de Janeiro, going to an American school without knowing any English, the new language, different culture and the overwhelming sensations of the tropical surroundings made a lasting impression on him. With twelve they moved to Portugal, a very special place at the time on the south western end of Europe. He lived in Portugal until he was eighteen.
After finishing his studies of business administration at the University of Cologne he worked 9 years in the computer industry in Germany as senior consultant and District Manager Germany. In 1992 Michael decided to move back to Portugal, where he spent 3 years as Marketing Director for Mercedes Benz Portugal, until he took over the job of Sales Director and member of the board of Directors of Printer Portuguesa, a Bertelsmann company, which he held for five years. Michael speaks fluent German, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Beatriz Parra Stucky, Founder
Beatriz was born in Madrid with a Dominican passport to a Spanish father and a half French, half Swiss mother. Beatriz spent most of her youth moving from one place to the other, almost yearly, mostly within Spain, Portugal and Brazil, a boiling pot of different cultures, traditions and natural environments.
She has a degree in “Técnico en empresas y actividades turísticas” from the Official School of Tourism in Madrid. Beatriz gained experience working as a tourist guide in Spain and at official events in Portugal such as the Portuguese Presidency of the E.U. and Expo 98 world fair. Bea speaks fluent Spanish, Portuguese, French and English.
Since its inception, Secretplaces has won some of the industry's most important global awards, amongst them Cannes, the New York Festivals and Montreux Golden Awards. All testify to the excellent design, concept and ingenious content of Secretplaces.