Extending across a third of Portuguese territory but home to only 5 percent of its population, the bucolic Alentejo region encompasses a vast landscape of olive and oak trees, grand agricultural estates and picturesque vineyards. Through the seasons, the open plains are painted in a palette of colours and the summer sun bakes the golden fields of wheat and sunflowers.
The main cities are located in the interior, including Évora, a World Heritage site famous for its Temple of Diana, and Portalegre, renowned for its intricate handmade tapestries. Historic Beja boasts a commanding position over the Alentejo plains and has a rich Roman and Moorish heritage. Unique attractions include majestic castles and elaborate religious architecture as well as the megalithic Almendres Cromlech and neolithic Gruta do Escoural.
Local gastronomy is simple and satisfying, based on the key ingredients of pork, bread and herbs. Cured presunto ham from black Iberian pigs are a local speciality and Portugal’s best olive oil is produced in this area, as well as a number of outstanding wines. The Alentejo’s cork oaks provide half of the world’s cork production.
Although predominantly arid, the region has numerous lakes, including Alqueva dam, the largest man-made reservoir in Western Europe. Don’t miss the wonderful Alentejo coast, which is dotted with surf beaches and secluded coves.
Click here for recommended hotels in the Alentejo.