Top 10 Reasons We Love Alentejo
The Alentejo is one of Portugal’s hidden gems, even if it does take up one third of the country! It’s rich culture, fantastic landscapes, wild untouched beaches and delicious gastronomy make it a dream destination for those looking for an authentic Portuguese experience! Visiting the Alentejo means exploring ancient towns, rugged mountains, orchards of twisted cork and olive trees, the wide sweep of the River Guadiana and jagged untouched natural beauty of the coastline. Despite the Alentejo’s vastness and austere beauty only three-quarters of a million people live there, and it is a region still unexplored by tourists. If you plan on visiting, you may want to consider some of our suggestions:
1. We love exploring Evora
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Evora is a wonderful destination, boasting many exciting attractions! The city is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, so you’ll find it can be quite an animated place to visit! We recommend wandering around the city, along its cobblestone streets and traditional houses. Main attractions in Evora include: the Diana Roman Temple, The Bone Chapel, the Evora Aqueduct and City Walls and the Evora Cathedral.
2. You can rent a houseboat on the Alqueva Lake!
The waters of the famous man made Alqueva Lake a great way to get away from it all! You can even cruise along the river yourself – no need for a license! You can find a variety of boats for up to 12 people, and they’re equipped with all the basics you need for a comfortable stay on the water. It’s a great option for families and groups to enjoy a few days in nature. In checking in, you’ll get a guide to the nearby villages, as well as a restaurant guide. You can even rent bikes, canoes and stand up paddles!
3. The Alentejo has lots of cool castles!
If you travel to Alentejo, visit as many castles as possible! The region has a rich history, so all of the region is dotted with medieval villages, forts, watchtowers, palaces and castles. Each castle has its own unique design and surrounding landscape, and we’ve narrowed down a list of some of our favorite castles to visit including: Vide Castle, Marvao Castle, Monsaraz Castle, Moura Castle, Beja Castle and Mertola Castle.If you’re into a more military type of architecture, there is the option to visit the fortifications in Elvas and Marvao. If you’re coming out in the summer and want to immerse yourself in history, the Alentejo hosts a large number of medieval festivals in castles! You may want to check our the Medieval Festivals in Alvalade and Portel
4. We can explore the Megalithic Monuments!
The Alentejo is filled with prehistoric monuments, dating back to the Early Neolithic Period, from 5500 to 4500 BC! There is even a megalithic circuit you can follow that will take you along the Almendres Megalithic Settlement, Almendres Menhir, Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, Alto de Sao Bento Settlement and Megalithica Ebora. If you’d like to dedicate your holiday to exploring these prehistoric wonders, we recommend renting a car and even staying at Vitoria Stone Hotel! It’s a great hotel, modern in design, but with a prehistoric themed decor!
5. It’s got the most beautiful beaches in Portugal!
The Alentejo coastline is spread out between the mouth of the Sado River to Zambujeira do Mar. The northern coast of the Alentejo is a long strip of lovely golden sand, home to some of the most popular beaches such as Troia, Comporta and Sines. From here, the beaches change in aspect, as they become quite rugged, with beautiful rocks and cliffs! Some of our favorites include Porto Covo, Morgavel, Vila Nova de Milfontes and of course Zambujeira do Mar.
6. The food is out of this world!
The gastronomy of the Alentejo boasts some of the most beloved recipes in the country! Surprisingly, the recipes were mainly created by poor rural farmers, so you’ll find lots of simple and natural ingredients, such as olive oil, pork and lots of fresh herbs! Must try dishes in the region are the Acorda Alentejana and the Black Pork. The Alentejo is also widely known for it’s delicious bread, which is crusty on the outside and soft on the inside! The cheese is also to die for, so make sure you taste these when traveling to Alentejo!
7. It’s got beautiful Natural Parks!
Nature lovers can’t get enough of the beautiful natural parks of the Alentejo, from the breathtaking Arrabida Natural Park to Serra de Sao Mamede, Vale Guadiana and the Sudoeste Alentejano and Costa Vicentina. Filled with varied fauna, flora and wildlife, the hiking trails are spectacular and you can join in fun outdoor activities like horse riding, hiking, rock climbing and more!
8. They make the BEST wine!
The Alentejo is known for its wine culture, and you’ll find over 250 local wine producers, with some of the best Portuguese brands in the country. Even if you’re not a wine drinker, tasting Alentejo wine is a must-do activity! There is actually a Wine Route you can follow with over 60 producers ready to open their doors and teach you all about producing wine! Some of our favorites include Adega da Cartuxa, Adega Mayor, Herdade do Esporao and L’and Vineyards. You can get a guided tour of the vineyards and cellars, and most importantly you get to taste these delicious wines!
9. The Rota Vicentina Walking Trail
If you love walking or hiking, the Rota Vicentina is the way to go! Stretching over 700 kilometers over beautiful untouched scenery, it is considered one of the most popular walking trails in the country. You can opt for two distinct trails – the Fisherman’s Trail or the Historical Way. The Fisherman’s trail takes you along the coast, over 125 kilometers of breathtaking cliffs, beaches sleepy seaside towns and a taste of the delicious local cuisine. If you choose the Historical Way, you will get to explore the forests, olive and cork groves, medieval villages and a quiet rural lifestyle. The Rota Vicentina can also be explored by bike, boasting over 1000 kilometers of mountain biking trails!
10. It has really cool festivals!
Alentejo is rich in tradition and culture and is home to some of the loveliest traditional festivals in the country! One of our favorites, and the most colorful festival of all is the Flower Festival in Campo Maior! The locals spend weeks, and even months, decorating their streets and squares with paper flowers lovingly made at home. You’ll frequently find grandparents teaching their grandchildren to make these flowers and participate in the festivities. Another one of our favorites is the Medieval Festival in Alvalade. One of the best in the region, this is considered a live history class! The town is transformed and filled with entertainment, as well as food and drink inspired by the era! The summer is also time for one of the biggest and coolest music festivals in Portugal, MEO Sudoeste in Zambujeira do Mar!
Bonus: It’s a surfer’s paradise!
The amazing beaches of the Alentejo offer great surfing conditions! Add to that the fact that the region is never overcrowded and you have the makings of the perfect surfing getaway! Some of the best surfing spots in the region include Vila Nova de Mil Fontes, Zambujeira do Mar, Arrifana and Sao Torpes. You can also find a variety of surf school in the Alentejo that offer affordable accommodation and daily surfing trips for both beginners and experienced surfers!