I was lucky enough to discover the Alentejo region of Portugal and here is why I think you should go.....
Nature, hikes, wine, history, culture, food. Is there anything missing in Portugal’s Alentejo?
We all want to discover something a bit different. Somewhere off the beaten track, with few other tourists, tranquillity, perhaps even have a bit of an adventure…
Well, the Alentejo region in south-central Portugal ticks all those boxes, with the added bonus of being close to home. It’s known for its great food and wine - there are some fantastic wine routes - but it’s also famous for its cork, deserted coastline, whitewashed towns and medieval villages.
With secluded sandy beaches (my pictures speak for themselves!) on an unspoilt Atlantic coastline, it’s often described as the Algarve of 40 years ago, and it has over 300 days of sunshine a year. For nature lovers, photographers and hikers, the 75 kilometres of self-guided walking trails along the coastal Rota Vicentina are incredible. We followed the six-and-a-half-kilometre-long Fisherman’s Trail, paths used by locals to reach the beaches and best fishing spots. It was stunning and a real highlight.
If you love the tiny, ancient towns which are so quintessentially European, Alentejo has that in abundance, with its historic hilltop towns, medieval castles and whitewashed village still home to generations of the same families. I particularly loved the village of Monsaraz with its vineyards views, and the gorgeous Alqueva Lake. In the UNESCO city of Évora, one of Portugal’s oldest and most fascinating towns, seeing the Chapel of Bones was especially humbling.
Eating and drinking well is revered here so I recommend the food and wine routes. There’s fresh fish and seafood by the coast, delicious lamb inland - and amazing bread everywhere! The emphasis is on homegrown and homecooked, whether simple fare or sophisticated dining. Even mopping up tasty breads in local olive oils with herbs and cheeses is a treat.
The region’s wines have also made a name for themselves. You’ll see why when you visit some of its nine wine regions… these are beautiful vineyards in spectacular locations run by passionate owners. My highlight has to be blending my own wine at João Portugal Ramos winery and meeting Mr Ramos and his gorgeous dog, the namesake behind his ‘Smart Dog’ Syrah wine label.
When it comes to accommodation, the choice is yours. Live it up in palaces and medieval castles, stay in former convents and converted farms, or book a luxury stay at one of Alentejo’s boutique vineyards. Depending on your route, preferences and budget, we can suggest some ideas.
Alentejo has so much to offer, whatever your interests or holiday style. Its beaches are perfect for families, and the activities are endless… horse-riding, cycling, surfing, walking, cookery lessons.... For an adrenaline fix, how about parachuting, orienteering or hang-gliding? And if you’re seeking relaxation or romance, think luxury spas, boat trips, vineyards and balloon rides.
Alentejo has so much variety. If you’re intrigued, I’m happy to tell you even more about it.