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The Alentejo, Portugal
The Alentejo is the beautiful region of Portugal that lies between the Algarve and central Lisbon region. This vast and sparsely populated area covers over 30% of Portugal and is characterised by its gentle rolling hills, historic fortified towns and intense summer heat.
The Alentejo is virtually undiscovered by foreign tourists but it is one of the most fascinating regions of Portugal. Intrepid visitors who take the time to explore the Alentejo will discover traditional cultures, a stunning coastline and an infectious slow pace of life. This guide will provide an introduction to the Alentejo.
Highlights of the Alentejo, Portugal
The historic university city of Evora that has altered little in over 500 years, charmed with national monuments inside the ancient Moorish city walls.
Vila Nova de Milfontes, where the Portuguese go on holiday, which is a charming resort town set along the dramatic Atlantic coastline.
Elvas the battle harden city that stood against constant Spanish invasion during the 16th century and is guarded by unique star shape walls.
The remote fortified town of Mertola that sits on the banks of the Guadiana River typifies the relaxed pace of life in the Alentejo.
Why Visit the Alentejo Region?
The Alentejo is one of the most varied regions of Portugal. On the western coastline it is possible to surf on near deserted beaches while to the east there are ancient fortified towns waiting to be explored. In-between there are empty roads, olive fields and sleepy villages – the Alentejo is the idyllic heartland of Portugal.
How to travel around the Alentejo?
To get the most out of the Alentejo region a rental car is required. There is generally good public transport between all of the major towns and Lisbon but there is limited bus services to the surrounding country side. If you wish to just explore the main towns of the region then a rental car is not required but if you want to get off the beaten track a rental is essential.
When to visit the Alentejo?
The Alentejo is the hottest and driest of all of the different regions of Portugal. Early spring is the best time to visit the region when the fields are green and flowers are in bloom. During the summer the Alentejo is baked by the intense sun and temperatures reach in excess of 40°C, which can be too much for most tourists. Winters are cooler but there is always the chance of rain.
Suggested Alentejo Tour Routes
Lisbon – Evora – Elvas
This is a short introduction to the Alentejo region and is suitable for visitors who are reliant on public transport. Typically, only three nights are needed for the Evora-Elvas section with two nights in Evora and one night in Elvas. Both Evora and Elvas are historic towns but their histories are very different, Evora is the laid back regional capital while Elvas is a highly fortified frontier town.
Porto Covo – Vila Nova - Zambujeira do Mar - Odeceixe
This tour visits some of the best natural scenery and coastlines of Portugal. The region is formed of massive cliffs, sandy beaches and raging seas that have been protected from the over development as with the Algarve. Each of the towns visited are small, relaxed and traditional while providing some of the Europe’s best undiscovered beaches. There is a bus which connects all of the towns but a rental car is need to reach the isolated or remote beaches. Sines to the north of the coast is historic but is best avoided as it is but is a major centre for industry with a massive oil refinery.
The people of the Alentejo region
The people of the Alentejo region are conservative, hardworking and very different from the more populous regions of Portugal. These cultural differences are reflected in the varied regional dishes, which tend to be heart and filling.