Alentejo travel guide

ALENTEJO TRAVEL GUIDE


2 MINUTE SUMMARY

Likened sometimes to Tuscany or Provence, Portugal’s Alentejo is actually a little more rustic and a lot less visited than France or Italy’s celebrated regions. Unspoiled by the development seen along the Algarve coast and deeply rural, life moves at a treacly pace here, but the scenery is ever changing. Beautiful, often deserted beaches give way to hills cloaked in cork and eucalyptus, river valleys where wild asparagus thrives, wheat fields and remote villages. Atlantic rollers draw surfers to the coast, while walking and cycling are low-impact ways to explore. Chance upon vignettes of rural life as you go – old ladies swapping gossip over milky coffee, a farmer dozing among his grazing goats – but beyond the locals, you’re more likely to bump into a wild boar than a tourist. Weird, really, since Alentejo also boasts a lovely climate and inexpensive local food – fresh olives and fish, smooth local wine and not a full English in sight.

Find out more in our Alentejo travel guide.
The Alentejo is...

a bit like stepping back in time. Life is sleepy bordering on comatose in this unpretentious, unspoiled part of Portugal.

The Alentejo isn’t...

on the tourist trail. The Portuguese flock to its coast in high summer, but the wider world has largely overlooked this region.

ALENTEJO MAP & HIGHLIGHTS


MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME

The warm and lovely Alentejo spreads from Lisbon to the Algarve, a little-changed landscape of fertile fields and shepherd’s trails, dotted with medieval villages. It’s a couple of hours’ drive from Faro or Lisbon – far enough to keep the stop-and-flop vacationmakers away – and once here, pick the beach for surfing and sunning, or choose a walking or cycling vacation. These typically focus on the Rota Vicentina trails, which stretch from Santiago do Cacém to Cabo De São Vicente in the Algarve. Trips tend to be self-guided, traveling point-to-point with luggage transferred, and provide a great overview of the region.
Fisherman's Trail The Historical Way Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Pego das Pias Villa Nova de Milfontes

Fishermen’s Trail

Sitting within the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, this route was shaped by the daily trek fishermen made between villages and remote fishing spots. Some sections cross sand dunes or skirt cliff edges, so are better suited to walkers than cyclists, but however you travel there are superb views over empty beaches and the chance to see unique wildlife, including nesting storks at Cabo Sardão.

Historical Way

The Historical Way is an old pilgrims’ trail that threads inland, dotted with churches, old country houses and time-warp villages where locals love to chat. Sections such as San Luis to Odemira reveal a different, very verdant side to this region, where the River Torgal’s banks are choked with wild asparagus and oregano and you can swim in the clear waters.

Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina

This is the largest protected coastal natural park in Europe, a rolling landscape of verdant hills, river valleys, dramatically eroded cliffs and virgin beaches. This is the haunt of rare fishing eagles, the world’s only shore-living white storks who build their nests on the craggy cliffs and sea otters, while unique indigenous plants offer botanical treasure.

Pego das Pias

This secluded lagoon on the River Torgal northeast of Odemira nestles in a steep-sided valley and is one of the area’s little-known treasures. Flanked by rocks and oak trees, its waters are still and inviting. Family adventure vacations tackle raft building here, and it’s lovely for an anytime-of-year swim – this section of the river never dries up – or a picnic on its grassy banks.

Vila Nova de Milfontes

This picturesque village makes a great base for a family activity vacation. It’s surrounded by beautiful, safe surfing beaches which are ideal for beginners, including Malhão, while the cleanest of all European rivers, the Mira, spills into the Atlantic here and can be explored by kayak. The Fishermen’s Trail passes through and eating’s a treat, too, with fresh, well-priced seafood in its many restaurants.

Photo credits: [Topbox: Alvesgaspar] [Map topbox: Rudy van Westrop] [Fisherman's Trail: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho] [Historical Way: Aleksandr Zykov] [Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina: Francisco Santos] [Pego das Pias: enioprado] [Vila Nova de Milfontes: Kyle Taylor] [Helpdesk: Joao Bento]

Written by Joanna Simmons
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