The Alentejo is a beautiful rural southern region in Portugal. It is a very diversified area with a rich history, known for its plains, rugged coastline, olive trees, historical fortified towns and intense summer heat. The region extends from the Algarve towards central Portugal and goes from the Atlantic ocean to the Spanish border.
On the western coastline, you can find the wildest and finest wide-open beaches in Portugal, much sought-after by surfers. Alongside the beaches, you can find charming fishing towns, offering delicious local seafood. On the other hand, in the interior part of the region, there are picturesque towns rich in history and vast plains. Alentejo is also worldwide known for its music genre, named “Canto Alentejano”. It is a vocal type of music without instrumentation. In 2014, UNESCO recognised it as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, after Fado - another Portuguese traditional music genre - had been granted the same status in 2011.
UNESCO has also recognised other treasured heritage of Alentejo. Évora and Elvas were both subject to UNESCO’s nominations. As this region was colonised by different peoples throughout history, from the Visigoths and Romans to the Arabs and Knights Templar, there is an incredible diversity of historical and cultural sights. You can either visit the impressive hilltop castles and fortifications, as well as the Roman temples and cathedrals. Alentejo´s history and beautiful nature landscapes make it a fascinating destination to discover.
The Alentejo’s coastline is much diversified and it is where you can find the finest and less populated beaches in Portugal. The 100km-coastline, from Porto Covo in the Alentejo to Sagres in the Algarve, is one of the most stunning in Europe. Walkers come to admire the views, surfers to ride the best waves in Europe, and most people just to enjoy great days under the sun. Even though the area welcomes more people during the summer months, when the Portuguese come for holidays, it is never too crowded, reflecting the general low pace of life in Alentejo.
Besides the wild beaches, you can find charming fishing villages known for their cobbled streets filled with local markets and restaurants offering fantastic fresh seafood.
Alongside the coastline, there are beautiful farms, wheatfields, cork oak forests and wildflower meadows where you can really enjoy nature.
Évora is the capital of Alentejo’s region. Filled with impressive historical and cultural landmarks, the city is one of the most popular places to visit in Alentejo. The Historic Centre of Évora was elected a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.
The city’s roots go as far back as Roman times. Évora still retains ruins from that period, such as from the Temple of Diana. Three centuries later, during the Moorish period, it was built a fortified gate to improve the city’s defensive system, as well as a Kasbah. The presence of the Moors can also be felt through the old labyrinthine quarters of the city, which are filled with typical Moorish arches.
Évora is also home to a beautiful Cathedral built during medieval times, in the 13th century. In the 15th century, when Évora became the Portuguese king’s residency, a number of royal buildings start to pop up. St Claire Convent, the royal church and the convent of São Francisco are some examples of those. The Manueline style of architecture characterises these remarkable buildings.
Besides Évoras’s rich monumental heritage, the city is also known for its beautiful whitewashed houses decorated with tiles and wrought-iron balconies, its colourful handicraft stores and the family-run cafés and restaurants, which offer the tastiest gastronomy in the land.
With a short distance from the border of Spain, Elvas is a fascinating town, with a vast monumental heritage. Its history is mainly related to its neighbourhood. Several fortifications and walls were constructed around the frontier, along with a stout castle, with the aim of protecting the realm from being attacked and conquered. UNESCO recognised the garrison border town of Elvas and its Fortification as a World Heritage site. It dates back to the 17th and 19th centuries and represents the most extensive bulwarked dry-ditch system in the world.
Within the town’s walls, you can find military buildings, churches and monasteries. Along with the defence system, Elvas also shelters a 16th-century aqueduct - Amoreira Aqueduct - that crosses the Portuguese municipality of Elvas. It was built to bring water to the fortified seat.
Elvas is also home to contemporary attractions. If you want to be thrown back to the 21st century, you can visit the city’s contemporary art museum. It is hosted in the splendid Renaissance Misericórdia Hospital and its permanent exhibition is based on António Cachola’s collection, composed of art pieces from some of the most reputable contemporary Portuguese artists, like Pedro Calapez, Rui Sanches and José Pedro Croft.
The Almendres Cromlech consists of a megalithic monument located in the municipality of Évora. It is the largest complex of structured menhirs in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most important in Europe, thanks to its dimension and its state of conservation. This archaeological site is composed of 95 megalithic structures - cromlechs and menhir stones. Its construction dates back to the 6th millennium BC and was discovered in 1966 by Henrique Leonor pina, a Portuguese archaeologist.
Since 1974, the complex was classified by IGESPAR as a Property of Public Interest and was considered a National Museum in 2015.
This rare monument is located in Herdade dos Almendres. This mystical place gives us the feel of travelling through time, playing with our imagination and transporting us to our origins.
The Great Lake, resulting from the Alqueva dam in the Guadiana river, is the largest artificial water reservoir in Western Europe. It has 250km2 and covers five Alentejo municipalities. On the right bank, you will find the castles of Juromenha, Alandroal, Terena, Monsaraz and Portel, whereas, on the left bank, you have Mourão and Moura, that provide excellent views over the reflecting pool.
The formation of this lake completely changed the landscape, the ecosystem, and the riverside populations’ lives. Instead of fields of olive trees and cork oaks, today, there is an immensity of water surrounded by an astonishing natural landscape.
The lake provides perfect conditions for the practice of water sports, such as sailing and wakeboarding or for relaxing canoe and kayak rides. On the other hand, you can simply spend a day enjoying the sun and having a swim. There are even two brand new river beaches being constructed to be ready this year, which will improve the lake’s summer attractiveness.
If you are fond of hiking and cycling, you should also know that there are marked trails in the area. Additionally, thanks to the variety of bird species hidden in the golden plains, the site is also a good place for birdwatching.
Alqueva is, above all, an excellent place for stargazing, having been considered by UNESCO a “Starlight Tourism Destination”. At night, the sky at Alqueva allows the observation with the naked eye of a large number of celestial objects. The municipalities around the large lake turn down the lights at night to help to provide the perfect conditions for this natural phenomenon.
The Alentejo is a wine region with a great tradition. Its wines delight us for their excellence, aromas and colours.
This region of vast plains was once an extensive field of wheat, which eventually gave way to huge vineyards, whose wines are among the most recognised in Portugal.
In addition to the Alentejo Regional Wine, which is found in all the region, wine producers are spread through the following areas - Portalegre, Borba, Redondo, Reguengos, Vidigueira, Évora, Granja and Moura. This variety offers multiple choices to wine tasters.
The specific characteristics of the soils, the countless hours of sun exposure and the selected grape varieties allow the production of high-quality wines in this region. The producers manage to have both the ability to preserve the flavour’s tradition and innovate in the art of winemaking.
As for what distinguishes them, white wines are aromatic and fresh, while reds, ruby in colour, are more intense, full-bodied and at the same time slightly astringent.
In Alentejo, you will find plenty of vineyards offering wine tasting tours all over the region.
Badoca Safari Park is a theme park located in Vila Nova de Santo André, in the municipality of Santiago do Cacém.
It has 90 hectares and allows visitors the unique opportunity to get close to wild animals in full freedom, having direct contact with nature and animal life.
Badoca Safari Park has the advantage of having animals living freely, which enables the possibility of providing a more realistic representation of the functioning of ecosystems, which does not happen in traditional zoos, where animals are kept in captivity.
It currently has about 18 different animal species cohabiting, which converts into a total of 230 animals, among which are oryxes, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, impalas and much more. They all can be watched throughout the park’s journey into the wild.
The best way to get to Alentejo is from the Lisbon airport. To travel from Lisbon to Alentejo, you can either go by car, train or bus.
Driving is the quickest way to get to Alentejo. It is a 2-hour drive taking the A2 highway for most of the trip and changing to IP8 for the last leg of the journey.
If you prefer to go by train, you can catch it at Entrecampos, Oriente Santa Apolónia or Sete Rios. There are trips at different times of day, during the morning and evening. The train travel is about 2 to 4 hours.
Travelling by bus is pretty straightforward, with many departures daily from Lisbon. Rede-Expressos is the bus company that provides bus services, offering frequent trips departing from the Sete Rios Station. The journey will take between 2 and 3 hours.
The best way to get around Altentejo is through the bus network or by car. Buses are covering all the region’s smaller towns and villages. The main companies that operate in the Alentejo region are: Rede Expressos (www.rede-expressos.pt) and the national label Rodalentejo (www.rodalentejo.pt). However, if you want to get to more remote places, as some hilltop villages or to Alqueva Lake, the best option is to rent a car.
The local commerce in Alentejo is vital for the region. Everyone who visits Alentejo falls in love with the local-made products the area has to offer. You can find many handicrafts items in Alentejo, like furniture and products made of cork, leather and tapestry. You can explore all the local shops you can find in each town and village and take with you some of the regional culture.
Alentejo also has rich gastronomy, so visiting the traditional markets and grocery stores is a top priority. You will delight yourself with Alentejo’s delicacies, such as the wines, the high-quality meat, the seafood from the coastal regions, the dried fruits, the olive oil and the olives.
If you want to find a large variety of national and international brands, you can visit the Évora shopping mall - Évora Plaza - as well as the central streets of the city, which are filled with well-known brands stores.
Portugal tends to have pleasant weather conditions throughout the year, even with some differences between the north and south. The south area tends to have higher temperatures than the north. The interior Alentejo region, located in the south of Portugal, is the hottest part of the country. The area is mainly warm and dry, but average temperatures can vary greatly. During the summer months, the temperatures range between 33ºC and 16ºC, while in the winter, the temperatures go from 14ºC to 5ºC. However, these numbers can vary even more. Sometimes, on winter cold days, you can get 0ºC or less, whereas it is common to have heatwaves in the summer, with temperatures reaching 40ºC. Spring and Autumn’s months usually have mild temperatures. The months with the most rainfall in Alentejo are October, November and December, with around 75mm of precipitation.
The Alentejo region is mainly known for producing almost half of Portugal’s wine. The food is rich in sheep's cheese, black pork, salt cod, wild mushrooms and asparagus. Towns have their own specialities, such as peppery olive oils or egg-yolk based desserts. In the coastal region of Alentejo, you can find the best seafood dishes of the country, such as fresh grilled fish, fried cuttlefish or clams.
Here follows a list of the best places to eat in Alentejo:
- L’And Vineyards Resort, Montemor-o-Novo
- Taverna Os Templários, Monsaraz
- Restaurante Maçã, Lavre
- Fialho, Évora
- A Escola, Alcácer do Sal
The Alentejo coast is a calm place that has been resisting mass tourism - being considered the wildest coast in Europe and one of the most beautiful in the world. Its preserved nature has a strong, wild character, creating landscapes of breathtaking majesty.
It is the longest stretch of the protected Portuguese coast. It starts in Comporta and goes until Burgau in the Algarve. The beaches follow one another, being some of them long swathes of sand stretching into the distance, and others small beaches, framed by magnificent cliffs. They are all popular among surfers, being one of the best spots in Europe for the practice of this sport.
Explore Alentejo’s beaches where you can enjoy the sun and nature to the fullest.
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