If you are looking for an authentic Portuguese experience away from the hurly burly of ‘tourist destinations’, this enormous, sparsely populated region is the place for you. With mostly soft rolling hills in the interior and huge almost empty beaches on the coast, the Alentejo region is a rare European travel gem.
Although called ‘the Bread Basket of Portugal, the area is internationally recognized as the world’s most important area for cork, with almost all the cork being harvested by hand. While there are no Michelin star restaurants, a meal of local cheese and smoked ham accompanied by excellent local wine, in a local eatery or as an outdoor picnic overlooking the sea, is equally unforgettable.
Évora, a beautifully preserved medieval town within 14th century walls, features a Roman temple, Roman baths and a picturesque town square. Nearby are numerous magnificent megalithic monuments that predate Stonehenge. Of special significance is the Almendres Cromlech, consisting of over 90 granite standing stones, arranged in two ‘twin’ circles.
Estremoz, an authentic walled market town is deservedly famous for its quarries of very high-quality marble. Here, even the streets, lined with orange trees, are cobbled with marble.
In 2017, the town of Vila Viçoca was accepted on the UNESCO tentative list of culturally significant sites. Although it is in one of the most fertile areas of southern Portugal, over 90% of local jobs are held within the marble industry, an industry that has been severely hit by recent preferences for non-natural materials.
The historical well-preserved town of Elvas offers stunning views from every part of its star shaped city wall, complete with hidden passages.
The spectacular walled town of Marvão is considered by many to be the best medieval hilltop village in Europe. Located on a high granite escarpment, with incredible views, the stone paved town, filled with flower decked houses, is a photographer’s dream come true.