The Alentejo, where beats the secret heart of the country

For the Portuguese, the Alentejo is one of the most beautiful regions of their country. Although few live there. As for foreign tourists, not many of them know this rural and authentic region in the south of the country. Too bad, because it has so much to offer.

Latest edition : 25 August 2022

When evoking Portugal, one immediately thinks of Lisbon and Porto, the Douro Valley, the beaches of the Algarve. But the Alentejo? In the defense of travellers, it must be recognized that this region has to be earned: far from the main tourist routes there is little public transport and the car is essential to discover this region which represents 30% of the surface of Portugal but which accommodates only 5% of its population! English is not widely spoken everywhere. Choosing a dish from a menu can sometimes be a real headache and cause a little disappointment (the Google translator is not always efficient) when the "sardine pâté" is not a terrine but a vulgar little box of... paste... But this misadventure only happened to us once, afterwards I preferred to go directly to the kitchen to look into the cooking pot!

But with a bit of good will, we manage very well to make ourselves understood. Especially since, sometimes, it is possible to take a tour with an english speaking guide, or to meet a winegrower of French origin (which was perfect for us)! These are excellent opportunities to learn more about this region where life flows peacefully.

We rented a car at Lisbon airport to explore part of this region west of Lisbon and east of Spain.

After the effervescence of Lisbon, the calm surprises. The roads are almost deserted. They pass through a countryside with meadows covered with flowers (in spring) where herds graze, fields of cereals which give way to vast plantations of cork oak, olive groves, vineyards. Fertile soils and water supply through dams are conducive to agriculture.

In their nests on electric poles, the storks do not allow themselves to be disturbed by the few passing cars.

Under oak trees, the famous Iberian black pigs feed on acorns.

Old dolmens bear witness to a distant past.

Peaceful villages, fortified cities, historic towns classified as World Heritage by UNESCO invite you to visit.

Impressive gates mark the entrances to the large estates.

On the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, picturesque fishing villages, sandy beaches, sheltered coves, jagged cliffs offer magnificent landscapes. Without forgetting a tasty and gourmet cuisine!

Our journey leads us to discover Evora and its magnificent historic center.

Continuing the road towards the Spanish border, quite in the east of the country, we notice fortified sites which watched over this region of Portugal so coveted in the past by the Spanish invaders.

We stop at Elvas which is probably the most fortified city in Portugal with its impressive fort.

Then, we continue our way to visit Monsaraz, perched on a rocky outcrop above Lake Alqueva, one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe before pushing to the coast with its jagged cliffs (where storks nest!), deserted stretches of sand, fishing villages and small seaside resorts. It is good to stop there to taste fish and seafood with the excellent wines of the region.

The Alejento is a truly enchanting parenthesis for tourists looking for authentic sites, small towns where people know how to take the time to live.


Guide in Evora: Libâno Murteira Reis, tél. 00 351 917 236 025,



Monsaraz et lac : Monte da Estrela, luxury rooms and table d’hôtes in the heart of nature.

Evora : Hôtel-restaurant Evora Farm

Hotel Elvas : Santa Luzia Hotel 

Milfontes : chambres d’hôtes Monte do Zambujeiro


Eat and drink

Fita Preta Winery, visit, wine tastings

Pais das Uava à Vila de Frades (renowned for its vinification in amphorae).

Tasca do Celso à Vila Nova de Milfontes, excellent fish and meat restaurant.

Arte e Sal, restaurant specializing in fish and seafood in Porto Covo.