Portugal's best kept secret - fall in love with the Alentejo
Portugal is one of my favourite countries in Europe for many reasons: the friendly people, immense natural beauty, architecture, heritage and history. Breathtaking cliffs, endless beaches and ancient cities like Lisbon, which origins even outdate Rome! But have you ever heard of the Alentejo?
Only a 1 hours’ drive from Lisbon airport you will find yourself surrounded by nothing but nature in one of the largest regions of Portugal, covering almost 30% of the country. And because of its low population density, driving around here is a real pleasure. The roads are good and almost empty, and the countryside views amazing.
The Alentejo is without a doubt one of Portugal’s best kept secrets! Why? Because of its authentic character, beautiful rural areas filled with cork oaks and pine trees, vineyards and olive groves, endless nature views and deserted beaches. Next to that the excellent food, homemade wines, abundant architectural heritage, classy cities and quaint villages will ensure memorable experiences, especially for gastronomy lovers and peace seekers.
That's exactly what made it the perfect place for me as well, and my first ever visit to this region with the Alentejo Tourism Board and Check-In PR last month totally swept me of my feet. The 3 unique luxury farm- and wine boutique hotels we stayed in spoiled us to the max, about which you can read more in my previous blog.
And we did a road trip through the northern part of the region while sampling excellent restaurants, looking for dolphins, visiting Unesco cities and surprisingly peaceful, quaint and also hip villages as you can see here (click on the smaller pics to see the bigger version and description):
Let me show you all of my recommendations for this authentic region through many of my own pictures to convince you:
Your trip to the Alentejo is not complete without a visit to this Unesco town. Classified as a World Heritage Site this is a place of great cultural importance and architectural heritage and you will be amazed by the variety of architectural styles of different epochs of history here.
The quaint shops, restaurants and terraces make it ever charming and combined with a visit to the Roman Temple, the Cathedral, the Palace, and several other churches and cultural sights, you will need more than a day to explore this small city. If you don’t have enough time do make sure to visit the unique Chapel of Bones and wander around the back streets.
Chapel of Bones
This chapel is part of the larger Royal Church of St. Francis, dating back to the 16th century. Back then the Franciscan monks desperately needed land and decided to clear the 43 cemeteries by relocating the bones and creating this Chapel of it to conserve the souls of the dead, making a unique yet gloomy sight.
Lunch or dinner at Restaurante Café Alentejo
A meal at Restaurante Cafe Alentejo is also recommended if you want to sample the unique Portuguese cuisine and excellent wines in Evora.
Although I loved this Unesco site, the contrast of this city with hip laid back beach villages like Comporta and stunning quaint villages like Monsaraz make this region so diverse and certainly add to the charm.
One of the oldest Portuguese settlements of the southern Portugal, which always had an important place in the history of the region because of its hilltop position.
This walled medieval village with cobble stones streets and white washed cottages is as charming as they come. Surrounded by endless country side views and its own Castle Keep, dating back to 1263, attracting tourists to this unique site.
The views from the Castle Keep Fortress are amazing and make it a must visit of postcard perfection, especially if you want to experience traditional Portugal and true Alentejan history.
For a totally different vibe drive towards the west coast, only and hours’ drive under Lisbon you will find this laid back beach spot with hipster vibe of Ibiza and class of St. Tropez of old, combined in its own Portuguese way.
With rugged country side areas, rice fields, almost 65 kms of unspoiled coastline, a stilted gypsy port constructed totally out of wood, and a unique way of living combining peace and quiet with hotspots and classy restaurants, Comporta has already been discovered by many artists, various celebs, like Madonna and even royals.
From Comporta there is so much more beauty to explore, like a dolphin watching boat trip with Vertige Mazul, enjoying nature in the Natural Reserve Estuário do Sado or nearby Parque Natural da Arrábida, or you can drive south along the coast to Sines to discover more pristine beaches and have a delicious Portuguese seafood meal at Arte e Sal surrounded by sand dunes.
I hope my pictures were able to convince you of the charm and diversity of the Alentejo and show you why this is one of Portugal’s best kept secrets! But please don't tell every one as we need to preserve this gem, yet quite undiscovered, which only adds to the charm and makes me want to come back for more soon!
Did you know this region of Portugal already or would you like to discover the Alentejo as well? Let me know in the comments below or find me on social media via the icons at the bottom of this page.