The Alentejo is the land of wonders “além do Tejo”, meaning beyond the Tejo, between Lisbon and the Algarve you find mostly farmland, small towns and an incredible coastline. The beauty between the valley and the sea is worth discovering, if not for the sights then for the food and earnest company you can find here.
The Alentejo is still called the “celeiro de Portugal” because its agricultural might fills almost every barn of Portugal with quality produce and cattle that feed the whole country. Here you find some of the most delectable cuisines in the world and the best beaches in Portugal.
Here the population is aged but it’s where home feels familiar. Where the old men and women still cultivate the land for food and culture to make bread, wine and olive oil. The simple effort of generations on their backs gives beauty to their wrinkles and marks the Alentejo for what it is: a permeating palette of yellow wheat fields and clear blue skies, where cattle and their farmers rest under the sobreiros. The running joke of the land is the slowness of its people – o vagar alentejano – but in reality, it’s a secret of peace of mind only found in the Portuguese countryside.
For those drawn to scorching Summer beauty, you are welcome to discover the best beaches in Portugal from June to August. The Costa Vicentina is renowned for its sights and ecological significance as a Mediterranean treasure. The sea breeze calms the heat that beats down on the rest of the country and makes it a perfect spot for sunbathing and water sports.
The ideal time to visit is May or September when days are warm enough to visit the beach but cool enough to go exploring. It’s the peak season for hikers and tourists walking the Rota Vicentina as you don’t have to pre-book every step of the way since most accommodations and restaurants always have room for one more. It’s also a great time to enjoy horse riding and other outdoor activities that are more pleasant in the low season.
Locals and tourists start to vacate the streets in the cold months and you find deserted winter towns from November to February. It’s not a season for beach-goers but it's a wonderfully quiet atmosphere to wander the streets, enjoy meals and some outdoor activities without tourist noise and take amazing photographs of the towns and landscapes.
> For an immersion in history, the place to go is Évora. The entire municipality of Évora has historic roots of all ages. Within 30km of the city centre, you have Neolithic, Franciscan and Roman monuments and archaeological sites worth exploring.
> For the best sunsets and beach holidays, Zambujeira or Vila Nova de Milfontes are excellent choices. Although both are tourism hotspots, the character of both villages is completely dedicated to typical Portuguese hospitality.
> For some Safari fun, there’s a hidden gem in the Alentejo called Badoca Park. It’s located just outside Santo André, near Sines and has been running for over 20 years. It has African wildlife enclosures and exhibits for over 400 animals who adapted well to the hot climate of the Alentejo.
> Pego das Pias is a secluded natural pool connected to the Ribeira do Torgal. It’s an oasis hidden in the middle of the desolate and dry countryside near Odemira. The stillwater lies between amazing rock formations made smooth by the natural passing of the river.
> Rocha de Àgua d’Alto is a location made for wilderness hikers. Cars cannot pass beyond a certain point and then you have a 40-minute hike across untamed Alentejo wilds. The spot has a waterfall and pond to enjoy a refreshing dip after a walk through the deep woods before Vila Nova de Milfontes.
> Food Specialties:
If the Alentejo were a single dish it would be its namesake “Carne de Porco à Alentejana”, which has every main product of the region: pork, potatoes and clams. It’s a delicious combination of meat and fish flavours that embodies the motto of the litoral Alentejano “entre a Serra e o mar”, therefore all the flavours between the valley and the sea. Other noteworthy dishes are regional specialties like Açorda, Pão Alentejano, Linguiça and Migas. Then of course every meal is accompanied by amazing bread, wine and olive oil.
> Architectural Specialties:
Casas caiadas de branco is how we describe the whitewashed houses in Alentejo to keep out the long summer heat. Traditionally they are painted with lime-wash or cal in Portuguese, as it’s breathable and cheap. It gives houses that unfinished and rugged look. Then most houses have painted on the bottom a panel of bright colour, usually blue or yellow to give the streets more life. Councils even mandate certain colours to preserve the traditional aspect of the towns.
Across the region, you will also find the most incredible castles and forts leftover since Roman conquests to more recent renaissance strongholds.
> Cultural Specialties:
The Alentejo comes to life in the summer and almost every night you can hear the wind carry the lively music of the bailes, which are rural music and dance events. They are local gatherings that keep the towns and various ages connected with food, music and dancing.
The cante alentejano is a hallmark of Portuguese culture, recognised as a world heritage tradition this alentejano ballad is usually chanted by groups of men with songs about the Alentejo, the menial field works and simple country life.
This road trip has just over 400km of experiences and sights across the Alentejo. The best place to start is in Évora. The city has a long history with neolithic and Roman monuments like the Temple of Diana, the Aqueduct Água Prata and the standing stones of Almendres.
Departing from Évora takes a 40-minute drive to Monsaraz. A town that stands on the edge of the Alqueva, the largest dam in Portugal where you have vineyards dating back two centuries of wine production. Here you can try wine tasting, sightseeing off the top of Monsaraz fort and all kinds of watersports and fishing in the Alqueva.
After taking a dip in the Alqueva, travel to the Natural Park of the Guadiana. The longest river to cross the Iberian Peninsula. You can base yourself in Mértola, a town considered a living museum of Moorish influence dating back to 314BC. From Mértola you can visit the Guadiana for boat rides, kayaking and fishing.
Leaving Mértola and past Ourique you find the hidden paradise of the Alentejo: Quinta do Barranco da Estrada. Located in Santa Clara a Velha the lakeside Inn is known for its hospitality and quick access from your room to the waterside. The Inn provides meals, massages and birdwatching tips to explore the area.
Leaving paradise you quickly reach Costa Vicentina with over 60km of coastline. Each location is set for hospitality so you can work your way up to Zambujeira, Furnas, Milfontes, Malhão, Aivados, Ilha do Pessegueiro, Porto Covo, Samoqueira and Sines. This is where you can walk across the Rota dos Pescadores. You can ship your bags ahead of you with Vicentina Transfers to your next stop and walk your way up the coastline to stretch your legs and breathe in the Atlantic.
> Santiago do Cacém is a municipal city and many tell the tale of the first motorised vehicle whose route took it parading through the city only to hit a donkey on the outskirts. The city has erected a metallic sculpture to remember the vehicular achievement but the donkey’s poor tale remains only immortalised in folklore.
> The tale of revolution in 1974 is renowned for its peaceful outcome. The “revolução dos cravos'' is known for the parade of soldiers who took the capital with red flowers in their guns to symbolise the non-violent coup marking it as the “carnation revolution”. Lesser known is the song Grandola, Vila Morena which was planned to signal the armed forces over the radio that the revolution had started. The song is about the town of Grandola which now represents the Portuguese fight for freedom and is played across the country on the 25th of April.
> Évora has the most unique Chapel of Bones. The Capela dos Ossos is a historic monument built by Franciscan monks in the 17th century with human bones. Although it’s an unusual sight, the monks intended to pay homage to the deceased regardless of riches or class within the city.
> The oldest olive tree in Portugal was recently dated to be over 2010 years and is still standing in the small town of Vieiros. As for cork, the Whistler Tree planted in 1783 in Palmela is the most productive tree ever harvested with over 12000kg of cork.
/ travel guides
Travel Guides with nice tips on how to spend a short break or a week or more in Alentejo.
/ road trips
Detailed and very informative road Trips with everything that you need to know to get you ready for your adventure on the road.
/ where to eat & where to stay
The best way to know a place is to taste the local food. So, in here we let you know the best and most authentic places to grab a bite. And also, the most beautiful places to stay when you are visiting.
We are passionate about our writing, but we also need to make some income, so on our site there are some affiliate links – this means that if you follow one of these links and make a purchase, we will receive a small commission on it, which will help to pay for the upkeep of the site. Please note that by using an affiliate link you will not pay any more for the product you are buying.