Alentejo, Portugal: the new destination trend for 2024
While the allure of Porto and Lisbon is undeniable, Alentejo, Portugal's agrarian heart, offers a serene escape from city life. This less-traveled region, a mere few hours' drive from Lisbon, unfolds as a landscape of tranquil beauty. Picture rolling hills, cork forests, charming vineyards, and quaint villages, all leading to the untouched beaches of the coast.
Alentejo, a bastion of tradition and heritage, is renowned for its cork production, complemented by world-class wine and olive oil. The region's agricultural practices, combined with its warm Mediterranean climate, ensure a year-round supply of heritage pork and fresh vegetables. Moreover, the deeply ingrained hospitality culture in Alentejo makes it an ideal destination for relaxation. Visitors can enjoy local cuisine, serene poolside moments, and starlit nights in family-run accommodations.
Evora, the region's capital, offers a blend of historical charm and modern convenience. A walking tour through Evora, perhaps with a local guide, reveals marvels like the ancient Templo Romano Évora and the hauntingly beautiful Chapel of Bones. Additionally, the city's artisan shops offer an array of local crafts and gourmet delights.
Alentejo's Culinary Delights: A Taste of Tradition and Innovation
- Cavalariça Évora: Located in the historic Palácio de Cadaval, just a stone's throw from the iconic Templo Romano Évora, Cavalariça Évora is a culinary landmark. Known for its Alentejo specialties, the restaurant offers a modern twist on traditional dishes. Signature items include cured pork, sheep’s milk cheese, and a selection of locally-sourced wines.
- Elvas: A family-run tradition, this village is renowned for its authentic Alentejo cuisine. Highlights include porco preto (Iberian black pig), lamb stew, and a variety of fresh, locally-grown vegetable dishes.
Alentejo's lesser-known cities and villages, like Estromoz, are hidden treasures in themselves, boasting medieval castles, museums, and artisan shops. The region is not just about quiet towns; it's also a haven for nature lovers and adventurers. From horseback riding and 4x4 tours to hot air ballooning, Alentejo promises a blend of rural charm and adventure.
The Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail along the coast offers breathtaking vistas, perfect for those seeking scenic beauty and outdoor activities like surfing and dolphin-watching. Comporta, with its dune-backed beaches and low-key vibe, is a perfect example of Alentejo's unspoiled charm.
Culinary experiences in Alentejo are as rich as its landscapes. The region takes pride in its agricultural roots and culinary traditions, offering an array of local specialties. From the cozy Cavalariça Évora in the heart of Evora to the family-run Taberna do Adro in Elvas, each meal is a celebration of Alentejo's gastronomic heritage.
What to do?
Évora, often seen as a quick day trip from Lisbon, deserves more. I recommend spending two to three days to fully experience its charm and history. Here's a brief guide to make the most of your visit. Évora is walkable, but you might miss hidden gems without a local guide. Join a free morning tour with an expert like Elza for an insightful look into Évora's history and culture.
Chapel of Bones in São Francisco
This 15th-century church, part of the former Franciscan Monastery, is now famous for its eerie Chapel of Bones. The chapel has survived since the 1808 French invasion, intriguing visitors with its mysterious past.
Roman Temple of Évora
Dominating Conde Vila Flor square, this ancient temple symbolizes the Roman Empire's influence. It has served various roles throughout history, from a mosque to a market and even a slaughterhouse. Today, it stands as a testament to Évora's rich history.
A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the cathedral's spire is a city landmark. Don't miss the chance to walk on its roof for stunning views of Évora and the surrounding countryside.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
For a unique experience, take a hot air balloon ride with Balonissimo. An early morning flight offers breathtaking views of the sunrise over Évora and the Alentejo plains.
The magic of local wineries
No visit to Évora can be complete without wine tasting. While there are wine tastings available within the walls of the old town, it’s a wonderful experience to visit nearby wineries and see the process from field to bottle
A Town to Experience
Alentejo, with its mix of serene landscapes, rich heritage, and culinary delights, stands as an inviting alternative to Portugal's more frequented destinations. It's a region ripe for discovery, offering a peaceful, pastoral experience that remains one of Portugal's best-kept secrets.