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The Charm of the Alentejo: Curiosities and Places Not to Be Missed

Updated: 1 day ago

The Alentejo, one of Portugal's most authentic and unique regions, attracts visitors from all over the world with its unspoilt charm, stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage. From historic villages to vast golden plains, the Alentejo offers a truly unique experience for travellers. Don't miss these must-visit places that capture the essence of the Alentejo.

Cidade de Évora, no Alentejo

The Alentejo, a region of Portugal located south of Lisbon, is a tourist destination known above all for its wines, livestock and cork production. In various parts of the Alentejo you'll find charming little villages, historic towns and beautiful scenery full of tranquillity. But it's also a place with many curiosities!

With its 31,600 square kilometres, the Alentejo is Portugal's largest region, occupying 34.3% of the country's territory. The name Alentejo basically means ‘beyond the Tagus’, as the region is situated beyond the Tagus in relation to Lisbon. Although it is the largest region in the country, the Alentejo has around 700,000 inhabitants. This is because its territory is filled with small towns and villages, as well as rural properties. The largest city in Alentejo, Évora, has a population of 50,000 people. That's why the roads that cut through the Alentejo are quiet, the towns are peaceful and the horizons are beautiful and clear of pollution.

As we mentioned, this region is known for its cork production, but did you know that Portugal is the largest producer of cork in the world? Most of the cork oaks are in the Alentejo. Along the long local roads, it's common to see fields full of cork oaks as far as the eye can see, and tourists can take advantage of the trip to learn how the production process works and what cork is used for - far beyond cork stoppers for wine bottles, this raw material is even used as thermal insulation for houses and even for the rockets used by NASA!

The region has 140 kilometres of coastline and is home to some of Europe's best beaches. There are quieter and rougher beaches, with and without waves, with long stretches of sand or protected by cliffs, among others.

When it comes to historical monuments, you might think of medieval castles and incredible churches. The Alentejo has all this, but even more. You can find, for example, various Islamic legacies from the period of the Arab occupation of the Iberian Peninsula more than a thousand years ago. There are also megalithic monuments more than 5,000 years old! For all these reasons, this region has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city of Elvas and the historic centre of Évora are considered historical heritage sites, the production of clay figurines, commonly known as ‘Bonecos de Estremoz’, is an art that is more than three centuries old and is part of the cultural identity, while Cante Alentejano is a genre of traditional singing in two parts, performed by amateur choral groups in the south of Portugal and in migrant communities in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. Traditional artistic expressions and the art of rattling, an ancient tradition in the region, are classified as cultural heritage. To top it all off, a common practice in the Alentejo is falconry, which has also been classified by the Organisation.

Places to Visit in the Alentejo:

  1. Évora: This historic city is a jewel of the Alentejo, with its cobbled streets, charming squares and remarkable monuments, such as the Roman Temple of Évora and Évora Cathedral.

  2. Monsaraz: A medieval village preserved in time, Monsaraz offers breathtaking views of the River Guadiana and the surrounding Alentejo countryside, as well as a charming and peaceful atmosphere.

  3. Marvão: Situated on a hilltop, this fortified town offers stunning panoramic views and a unique medieval atmosphere with its ancient walls and narrow streets.

  4. Guadiana Valley Natural Park: A vast protected area, this natural park is a paradise for nature lovers, with hiking trails, winding rivers and a rich biodiversity.

  5. Vila Nova de Milfontes: Located on the Alentejo coast, this picturesque fishing village is known for its stunning beaches, dramatic cliffs and laid-back atmosphere.

  6. Castelo de Vide: With its narrow streets and white houses, this historic town is dominated by an old medieval castle and offers a charming and authentic atmosphere.

  7. Serra de São Mamede Natural Park: Situated on the border with Spain, this natural park is a hiker's paradise, with stunning landscapes, lush flora and a rich geological history.

  8. Monsaraz Castle: Rising majestically above the village of Monsaraz, this medieval castle offers stunning panoramic views and an opportunity to immerse yourself in the region's history.

  9. Estremoz: Known for its lush marble, this historic town is an Alentejo treasure with its imposing castle, lively squares and traditional market.

  10. Alqueva: Home to the largest artificial lake in Europe, Alqueva is a popular destination for outdoor activities such as boat trips, bird watching and relaxing by the water.

From wine to architecture, music to gastronomy, the Alentejo offers a truly enriching experience for travellers.

With its rich history, natural beauty and warm hospitality, this region captivates the hearts of those who have the privilege of exploring it. Whether discovering its historic cities or losing yourself in the serenity of its rural landscapes, the Alentejo is a destination that never ceases to surprise and delight.

Other Alentejo Curiosities:

  • Alentejo Wine: The Alentejo is a renowned wine region, famous for its high-quality wines. With vast vineyards stretching for kilometres, this region produces some of the best wines in Portugal.

  • Whitewashed architecture: A striking feature of the Alentejo is its whitewashed architecture, with its traditional houses standing out against the blue sky. This practice not only reflects the sunlight, but also keeps the houses cool during the hot summers.

  • Megaliths: The Alentejo is home to a rich collection of megalithic monuments, such as the Cromeleque dos Almendres and the Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, which date back thousands of years. These ancient structures bear witness to the region's mysterious past.

  • Cante Alentejano: Recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, Cante Alentejano is a traditional style of music from the Alentejo, characterised by unique vocal harmonies and emotive lyrics that celebrate life in the countryside.

  • Agricultural traditions: The Alentejo is a land of deep-rooted agricultural traditions, where ancient farming techniques are still practised today. The golden fields of wheat and sunflowers paint an idyllic picture of the rural landscape.

  • Historic towns: From the medieval city of Évora to the charming village of Monsaraz, the Alentejo is dotted with historic towns and villages that offer a journey back in time through their cobbled streets and ancient monuments.

  • Regional Gastronomy: Alentejo cuisine is a fusion of rustic flavours and fresh local ingredients. Dishes such as tomato soup, migas and Alentejo-style pork are true gastronomic delights that reflect the tradition and simplicity of regional cuisine.

  • Nature Reserves: The Alentejo is home to an impressive variety of nature reserves, such as the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Nature Park, which offer a unique opportunity to explore the diversity of local flora and fauna.

  • Traditional Handicrafts: The Alentejo region is known for its rich handicrafts, including hand-woven carpets, hand-painted ceramics and cork objects. These craft products are an important part of the region's cultural identity.

  • Alentejo hospitality: One of the most striking features of the Alentejo is the warm and genuine hospitality of its inhabitants. Visitors are welcomed with open arms and invited to share in daily life and local traditions.

Ready to visit the region? Visit our website and book a private tour with a local guide who will tell you all about the centre of the Alentejo.

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