Temperature & Rainfall

Things to do in the Alentejo

What to do in the Alentejo, & what not to

Things to do in the Alentejo…

A mild climate and excellent paths make Alentejo a walker’s treat. Most walking vacations involve the Rota Vicentina, a network of trails opened in 2013 reaching into the Algarve. It consists of the Historical Way, which crosses rivers, wildflower valleys, cork forests and sunny uplands, and the Fishermen’s Trail, which hugs the Atlantic for 120km, as well as several circular routes walkable in half a day. There are 450km of paths in total, divided into manageable sections of 15-25km and most walking vacations are self-guided, going point to point along the trails.
Chill out. It’s hard not to. Unlike urban Lisbon or the Algarve’s developed coast, Alentejo is all about wide-open spaces and dark skies, perfect for star gazing. The region has a strong sense of a preserved rural heritage and life goes at a sub-tortoise pace. The Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina has protected the coast from development while the sparsely populated mountains, valleys and forests are untroubled by time or tourists. If you can’t relax here, you can’t relax anywhere!
Simple, fresh, local food is always on the menu, and at very reasonable prices, so tuck in! Saucers of olives, cheese, tiny squid and black pork are offered in restaurants, and that’s before you’ve even ordered. Try the smooth local wines, too, or cool off with a crisp vinho verde, made in northern Portugal but quaffed here, too.

Things not to do in the Alentejo…

Leave your sense of adventure at home. Alentejo may be sleepy, but it’s chock-full of opportunities for outdoor adventure, with families well catered for. At the coast, try abseiling, zip-wiring or surfing. There are big breakers for true surf dudes, but plenty of beaches are ideal for children and beginners. Whack on a helmet and enjoy a cycling vacation here, too, with much of the Rota Vicentina great for bikes, except the sandy beach sections! You can also canoe on the pristine River Mira.
The region boasts abundant wildlife and wildflowers, so don’t forget your binoculars. The only shore-dwelling white storks in Europe nest on precarious rocky eyries along the coast, alongside hawks, swifts, crows and redstarts and during autumn, you can watch thousands of birds migrating out of Europe from the coastal plains. The clear rivers are home to otters while wild boar are a common site amongst the cork and pine forests.
Ignore the Algarve. Away from the high rises of Portimão and Albufeira, there’s a green and pleasant Algarve to explore and it’s right next door to Alentejo. If you’re planning on walking or cycling the Rota Vicentina you’ll likely start or finish in this region, discovering numerous white-walled villages like Odeceixe and wooded valleys on both sides of the border, ditching a few Algarve misconceptions along the way.



Tips on what to eat

Graham Hughes from our supplier Activities Abroad has this advice: “The food is awesome! During my visit, there was not a thing I did not love and the fresh fish, seafood, local cheeses and the region’s famous ham (produced from acorn fed black pigs) simply must be tasted during a visit to this region.”

When to visit

Graham Hughes, from our supplier Activities Abroad: “Compared to some other areas of Portugal and also neighbouring Spain, the Alentejo region is unspoilt and very well protected against mass tourism. This is where the native Portuguese population comes to relax, unwind and vacation themselves. Rain during the summer months is really rare, and there is still glorious sunshine in spring and autumn and a wonderfully warm climate. April is my favourite time of year.”

Walking in Alentejo tips

Ricardo Estevao, from our vacation supplier Aventuractiva: “Hiking boots are a must if taking the sandy trails along the coast, as well as a hat and sun protection. I would also suggest a 25-litre backpack to carry a picnic and plenty of water. The Fishermen’s Trail in Alentejo is the most spectacular area, ideal if you only have a few days. Walk along deserted beaches with stunning cliff areas and a great landscape variety. I love the stretch from Porto Côvo to Odeceixe village.”

Cycling tips

Catherine Mack, one of our travel writers, offers her Alentejo travel advice after a recent cycling trip there: “Everyone knows the Algarve, but if you love cycling, you really want to head to the Alentejo region. Here lies a cycling paradise of the Parque Natural Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. Think rolling hills, with beaches at the bottom. Tiny villages with chilled vinho verde. Seafood everywhere and not an English-a-la-Algarve breakfast in sight.”



At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Alentejo travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
“If you’re walking the Fishermen’s Trail, bring plenty of socks as the sand may well end up in your shoes, as it did ours! Be prepared for spells of walking/ploughing through tracts of soft sand which inevitably slows down the pace a bit.” – Rosemary Cunniffe

“Make sure you become acquainted with the marker system of the trails before you begin. The Rota Vicentina is very reliable and marked with great frequency compared to some of the other routes in Europe. The markers even go so far as to let you know when there may NOT be anything to follow for a while.” – Jeffrey Fish

“For those afraid of heights, parts of the Fisherman’s Trail will prove challenging. The fishermen who carved this original trail were, in a word, crazy! There are times the trail literally skirts a sheer vertical edge 130m above a pounding sea. It is very stable ground, but intimidating. Most of the time there is an alternate route you can find.” - Jeffrey Fish

“Be prepared for weather to be unpredictable in March. Bring a fairly heavy rain poncho and a warm hat that covers the ears - it can also get windy at the coast - or come in April when the sun is more common.” – Kathy House

“On an activity vacation, take a rucksack, water shoes and old T-shirts for daytime activities that can get wet and dirty.” – Julia Waddilove
Photo credits: [Temp Chart: François Philipp] [Tips on what to eat: Zaldy Camerino] [Walking in Alentejo:] [Tip1: Kyle Taylor] [Tip2: Hendrik Dacquin] [Helpdesk: Joao Bento]
Written by Joanna Simmons
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