7 Reasons To Visit Alentejo, Portugal
However, Alentejo is often overlooked by tourists. There are no major cities in the region and very little luxurious resorts. Which is exactly why you should plan your next holiday in Portugal there.
If you want to experience authentic Portuguese culture, cuisine, and nature, Alentejo is the place to go. You can have lots of fun at great prices, and without crowds of tourists getting in your way. Anyway, here are the 7 reasons that will convince you to visit Alentejo!
1. Old Towns, Ruins, and Castles
Most of Portugal is full of medieval ruins, walls, towers, and fortresses. The Alentejo region is no different whatsoever – except that it is one of the few parts of Portugal that has entire old towns. Evora is the capital of the region, and probably the most touristy place in the area. That’s because the town is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to many ancient monuments and buildings.
Perhaps the most famous part of Evora is the Roman Temple. It was built in the 1st century AD, and it is among the most significant historic landmarks in entire Portugal, which relate to the ancient civilizations.
Another old town worth seeing in this region is Elvas. It is most famous for its military architecture, which includes bastions and forts. In fact, this was the main frontier fortress south of the river Tagus for quite a long time.
Today, the town is considered a World Heritage Site, thanks to all the remains of ancient architecture. A good part of it is encircled by old town walls, with many monuments, churches, a castle, and two magnificent forts. The Amoreira Aqueduct is also an astonishing sight, and an attraction you can’t miss if you’re ever in the area of Central Portugal. Elvas is like entire Portugal a great place to visit with kids.
2. Beaches of Alentejo Coast
In addition to that, there is rarely beachside accommodation in Alentejo. That’s another reason why most people opt for a resort option in the Algarves instead. And while you can’t get a room directly on the beach, you can get one that’s just 15-20 minutes away from one. But here’s the thing – fewer people means less litter, fewer crowds and more privacy and space for you.
Alentejo encompasses the western coast between the Algarve and greater Lisbon area. That is almost a hundred miles of sandy beaches along the coast. Praia da Vigia and Praia da Aberta Nova are just two examples of miles and miles of golden sand.
So, if the thought of being alone on a huge beach in Portugal sounds appealing to you, Alentejo is where you should go for your holiday. Especially if you love the idea of staying in a small village where you’ll barely see any people during your week off.
The Alentejo Coast and Costa Vicentina are one of the prettiest in Europe. Read more about the beaches of Alentejo.
3. Enjoy Alentejo Wine
A few years ago, the Alentejo region was crowned the best wine region in the entire world. And you don’t have to be a true sommelier to enjoy some of the finest wines ever made. But it is not just the wine that makes this wine region one of the best ones in the world – it is the entire experience.
The environment plays a big part in this. After all, who doesn’t like a wine tasting with a scenic view?
A great Alentejo winery is Adega da Cartuxa, right in the city of Evora. They offer tastings of best food and wine in the region, as well as tours of their wine cellars. There’s also the Herdade do Esporão winery, which is great for people who want to experience something unique.
How does a blind wine tasting sound? Or a bicycle tour of the area, which ends with a tasty picnic? Throw in some bird watching as well.
Of course, I can’t go without mentioning João Portugal Ramos. Because, how often do you have to opportunity to try and make your own wine? And that’s just one of the several different things you can experience there. The wineries are one of the many reasons why you should visit Alentejo.
4. Great Hikes
The landscape of the Alentejo region consists mostly of vast plains and rolling hills. Which means lots of different hiking trails, from ones that are really easy, to trails that even a pro would have to think twice about!
But they all have one thing in common – the views are incomparable to anything else you can imagine. The entire region is picturesque, and wherever you look, it is almost like you are looking at a postcard. One attractive option is to just put on your hiking boots and explore the hills at your own pace.
Or you could take on any one of the existing hiking trails. The best ones are in nature parks – Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, in particular, has several great hiking trails. Rota Vicentina is a particularly popular one, since it takes you through eucalyptus plantations, across the vast plains, and along the coastline.
There are also some amazing routes near Santa Clara Lake. Most of them go from Santa Clara a Velha to the dam on the lake, which is a magnificent sight on its own. Especially when you think of the significance dams have in this region.
5. Visit Alentejo Nature Parks
If you want to spend your holiday in nature, you really don’t have a lot of options other than Alentejo. The region encompasses 30% of Portugal, which includes some of the best natural parks in the country.
Guadiana Valley Natural Park is just above the eastern Algarve region, and close to the border with Spain. This natural park lies in the valley of Guadiana river, and it even includes a few small towns that are the definition of traditional architecture. You can have some amazing experiences here, like canoeing down the river.
Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park stretches through both Alentejo and Algarve and encompasses most of Portugal’s western coastline south of Lisbon. The park has several amazing beaches, dramatic cliffs, lots of wildlife and even a fortress. There are several great birdwatching spots here, and you can also see other wild animals like sea otters and raptors.
There’s also an awesome safari park, just north of Sines. It’s the Badoca Safari Park, and it’s an amazing place for adrenaline lovers. Not only do you have the chance to go on some amazing rides, but you can also try rafting. And there are over 600 different animals in this safari park – just how many do you think you will see?
6. The Portuguese Food
Most wineries in Alentejo include food tastings in addition to wine tastings. And we’re not talking any plain store-bought snacks – we’re talking homemade, fresh and possibly unique treats.
While you won’t find any Michelin star restaurants in Alentejo, you will find unique specialties in almost every town. Isn’t that a better way to get a true sense of Portuguese cuisine? You can try things like peppery olive oils and desserts with egg yolk as the main ingredient. And proper, delicious meals with some of the region’s staple main ingredients – black pig, sheep’s cheese, salt cod, and many others.
If you want a proper Portuguese meal, Alentejo will not disappoint you. There are lots of great restaurants in the region, which are not nearly as expensive as the ones in Lisbon or Porto. No surprises there.
A lot of those restaurants are in Evora, the capital of the region. One of the best restaurants in the town is the family-run Taberna Tipica Quarta Feira. It’s a place where the locals go, which tells you a lot. You just have to be open minded – there’s no menu, so you can’t really choose what you eat. But every course you’re served will leave you wanting more.
Another that I absolutely loved, but might be too pricey for some, is Origens, down one of the smaller side streets. It’s quite small, so you need to book ahead, but it’s worth it. The chef is top-notch, as is the food and wine, and you can see the kitchen from your seat. We were right next to it, so the experience was even better!
The tasty food is definitely one of the reasons why you should visit Alentejo.
7. Serene and Affordable
If you want a peaceful location, you will have a much better time in Alentejo than in any other part of Portugal. The region is usually overlooked by tourists – most people flock to Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. And that means empty beaches, deserted roads, and untouched nature.
If you’re someone who hates crowds, then you will truly enjoy Alentejo. You get all the beauty of Portugal – the long sandy beaches, medieval castles, and amazing hiking trails, but without dozens of other tourists getting in your way. If that’s not true relaxation, I don’t know what is!
This region is also great for families with children. You can fly a kite for miles on the beach with your little one, and you don’t need to worry about bothering other people or tripping over someone. The entire beach can be a playground for you and your kids!
And it goes without saying that this region is much more affordable than resort towns and big cities. Hotels and apartments are obviously cheaper, but so is everything else – food, wine, museum tickets, etc. This is great if you’re on a budget, but you still want to go on a long holiday.
About the author:
Anna was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on her travel blog with her husband.