The Alentejo, Portugal
Golden plains that disappear out of sight combine with the sun and the heat to impose their own slow, steady rhythm. This is the Alentejo. Inland, the vast golden wheat fields undulate in the wind; along the coast, unspoilt beaches look rugged and unexplored. The open, ample landscape is peppered with cork-oaks or olive trees that have withstood the ravages of time. Occasionally sturdy fortress walls rise up from hills, as at Marvão or Monsaraz, or you’ll see just a simple dolmen reminding you of the magic of the place. Atop small hills stand white one-storey farmsteads, while the castles are reminders of the battles and conquests that once took place here. The patios and gardens bear witness to the influence of the Arabs, who helped to shape the people and the nature. In the Alentejo, the brute force of the land dictates the march of time. Perhaps this is why the region’s culture has its own particular character. All you need to do is visit Évora and discover its Roman roots and the delightful charm of its heritage to understand why the city has been classified as a world heritage site. When you see the temple of Diana and some of the city’s churches, you will regard your time as well spent. But do not travel northwards or southwards without exploring the region’s coastline. There the landscape consists of high sheer cliffs sheltering tiny beaches. And there are also the sweet smells of the countryside, the herbs and spices used to season fish and seafood dishes. Here the time passes slowly, because the Alentejo follows the rhythm of the land itself.
The sun is more golden in the Alentejo.
Fall for the charm of this light, and explore the nature in the region.
Travel through the Serras d’Ossa and Monfurado or explore the Serra de São Mamede Nature Park; discover a whole unique habitat in the Sado Estuary and feel the calm of the reservoir waters. Go and discover the coast, a continuous beach from Tróia to Sines, and then carry on into wilder scenery, with idyllic coves hidden between cliffs. Rediscover the past of the Alentejo, by following a route that includes the “towns” of São Cucufate and Pisões. Travel from the Neolithic Age to the Middle Ages round the archaeological circuit of Castro da Cola, and delve into the ruins of Miróbriga. Learn about the Alentejo identity, stitched into each thread of the Arraiolos rugs, instilled in the marble, in the thoroughbred Lusitanian horses and in the delicious Alentejo wine and bread. In Beja, discover the secrets of the plain, and in Monsaraz, climb up to the “eagle’s nest”.
By the Guadiana, let yourself be enchanted by stories of the frontier and the lands by the river, and in Campo Branco, learn about the culture of the open plains and their wealth of bird life. But if you are looking for excitement, you will not be disappointed: the Alentejo is also a favourite setting for extreme sports. You can tour the region on horseback or mountain bike, go canoeing on the rivers or go skydiving. Or else you can explore an African savannah on a safari in the heart of the Alentejo. Let yourself go in the Alentejo, and don’t forget the gastronomic delicacies. Discover the cheeses of Serpa, Évora and Nisa; follow an olive oil route around the olive presses and co-operatives, and collect the region’s herbs and aromas. And finally, for dessert, get a taste of heaven on earth by sampling the divine sweets from the kitchens of the convents.
The Alentejo climate resembles the southern Californian climate. Although it is not on the Mediterranean it has such a climate, mild winters and dry summers. Daytime temperatures rarely drop below 12 degrees C, but in summer it can be very hot, especially more inland. The coastal temperatures are more moderate and the water of the Atlantic always remains a little cold. The climate is one of the reasons of the increasing interest of people seeking to retire to the Alentejo. For the young families the climate is as much of importance as the space. Let’s face it: the Alentejo is a province with a future as rich as its past!