Could not keep my mouth shut any longer.
I am headed to Portugal in a few days!
If you have been around here for a while, you might know I have a lifelong affair with this country. Something that keeps me coming back over and over as Portugal never ceases of amazing me. Whether it is for its Summer music festivals, wine and food scene, stunning beaches, gorgeous cities or its unpretentious take on life, truth is I cannot stay away from it for more than a few months in a row.
To say I am excited about the upcoming trip would be an understatement. It is not like I don’t enjoy far away or exotic destinations but seriously, there is nothing like this country out there.
And so this time things get even more interesting as I will be exploring a pretty unknown region, Alentejo!
Everybody might have heard about Portugal main jewels: Porto, Lisbon, and the Algarve. Even its two main archipelagos, Azores and Madeira, are somehow getting more and more tourists as the low-cost airlines like the infamous (and all-time favorite of yours truly) Ryanair are now making possible for thousands of tourists on a budget to explore its stunning natural beauty. But, let me ask you. What comes to your mind when I say Alentejo?
If you are clueless, keep reading. You will soon get why I am SO excited to travel there!
Alentejo, Portugal’s unknown region
Accounting for about a third of the country, Alentejo is located in South Central Portugal.
With an easy to remember name – in Portuguese Alentejo means ‘beyond’ (além) the Tagus river (Tejo) – its borders include the Portuguese regions of Beira Baixa in the North, Algarve in the South, and Ribatejo in the West. It also has borders with the Spanish regions of Andalucia and Extremadura in the East and finally with the Atlantic Ocean, responsible for a number of great seaside spots and beaches.
Being one of the largest areas in Portugal, Alentejo is also one of the less populated ones. Mainly reliant on agriculture, livestock and forestry, it won’t be much longer before tourists (especially foodies) start noticing all the goodness that comes from it. And therefore, making it a priority on their travel plans.
But how do I know this? What makes me say this area is really worth exploring if I am telling you I will be there in a few days? Because this one will be the
second* third time I visit Alentejo!
*When I was living and working in Lisbon, back in 2009, I spent a couple of days in the area too. But, as it happens, I can’t really remember that much from that trip except that we all had a blast.
My first visit to Alentejo
Does this video sound familiar?
In Autumn 2014, I traveled to Portugal along with other 4 travel and food bloggers to uncover the very best of Portuguese food after winning an Aptece contest.
The 2-week trip took us all on a whirlwind journey through Portugal. From North to South, West to East, I will only say it was simply one of the best experiences of my life. And culinary speaking, definitely one of the top five.
That was almost two years and a half ago. Around 17 articles (one per day, plus some others like the one that won me the seat on that trip) were made and this video was put together.
Boy was it fun!
Alentejo road trip map
What you can see above is the itinerary we will be covering. With Lisbon as a starting and ending point, our trip will mainly focus on Alentejo’s coast and will only leave the seaside to explore Evora, an unmissable city and the epicenter of this region.
Alentejo’s Itinerary for 1 week
A city I once called home and one of the cities I would move to in a heartbeat. Lisbon is not part of the Alentejo region but this is most likely the point where any Alentejo explorations would start along with Faro since both cities enjoy an airport.
I don’t think Lisbon needs any more praises than it actually gets everywhere, so I will just say hi from Ponto Final, a cozy restaurant on the other side of the river. A perfect spot to enjoy the sunset.
At some point, I even did a video for Iberia Airlines on Lisbon.
English subtitles are pretty accurate if you want to check it out!
As stated before, I spent one day in Évora back in 2014. Unfortunately, it was not enough but indeed I had an awesome experience at one of Portugal finest hotels: Convento do Espinheiro, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa.
Here’s a picture of its Cisterna Wine Bar, a 15th century gothic room and a must for wine lovers.
3. Comporta, Setubal
I promise you there is more than great wines in the Alentejo, but I cannot name Comporta without Herdade da Comporta winery coming to my mind. Again, two years ago I enjoyed a wine tasting session there. Let’s see what’s in store this time!
4. Cais Palafítico da Carrasqueira
Can this place be more Instagram-worthy?
I don’t think so. Crossing my fingers for a great sunset while we are there!
One of the places I have no clue about. Gotta love some surprises!
Yet another town I have never been to. Waves must be great for surfing though.
7. Porto Covo
The list of stunning places that are waiting for us is never ending!
8. Vilanova de Milfontes
Yet another one to explore!
9. Cabo Sardao
Honestly, I don’t recall the exact location of this one but it is indeed near this destination.
10. Porto das Barcas
11. Monte do Zambujeiro
This one is from our own @bwisback Instagram feed. G*d save Lisbon and Santa Justa’s lift!
Alentejo’s Fish Route
As you might have noticed already after going through all those stunning beachy pictures, this trip will be focusing on Alentejo’s coastal area. More specifically, on the so-called ‘Fish Route’ or ‘Rota do Peixe’.
So if you want to check out our finds as we uncover them, make sure to follow #rotadopeixe #aptece and #visitalentejo hashtags on the Social Media network of your choice. Mostly, we will be uploading pictures and stories on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And here of course!
As a starter, here are some of the restaurants and delicacies we will be tasting:
- Dogfish soup at Café Alentejo restaurant, in Évora
- Eel stew at A Escola restaurant, in Comporta
- Açorda de Marisco – seafood – at Cais da Estação restaurant, in Sines
- Grilled fish at Arte e Sal restaurant, in Sines
- Sweets at Pão, Café e Companhia, in Porto Covo
- Alentejo’s typical food at Tasca do Celso, in Vilanova de Milfontes
- Surprise dinner at Monte do Zambujeiro restaurant, in Vilanova de Milfontes
- And a Michelin star lunch by Chef Joaquim Koeper at Eleven restaurant, in Lisbon!
I don’t know you, but I am already salivating here.
Places where I will be staying in Alentejo and Lisbon
Ah hotels! Gotta love them after a long day traveling and exploring somewhere new.
I have a thing for hotels. Overall, for every other one with something that makes it shine on its own. Call them design hotels, boat hotels, boutique hotels, luxury hostels, or even glamping sites. I simply adore them.
So when the program of this Alentejo trip landed in my inbox, they were some of the first things I checked. And I was not disappointed.
- In Lisbon, I will be staying a couple of nights at Altis Avenida Hotel, a charming boutique hotel right in Restauradores square, in the city center.
- Vitoria Stone Hotel will be my base in this city. I can’t wait to check the views from its pool terrace.
- In Vila Nova de Santo André, I will go back to Vila Park Hotel, one I already enjoyed the first time I visited Alentejo. With a huge pool and a stunning nearby beach where fishermen gather at sunset, I am so looking forward to checking if its rooms are as comfy as last time – and its g&t’s as tasty as well!
- Finally, Monte do Zambujeiro will be home for a couple of nights in Vila Nova de Milfontes. So far it looks really cozy online, just wondering which one of the casas & suites I will be lucky to sleep in!
Some other highlights of my upcoming Alentejo adventures
- Witnessing the arriving of the fishing boats at Porto das Barcas in Vila Nova de Milfontes.
- Taking part in an Alentejo fish workshop at Porto das Barcas
- Visit the Sines Fish Auction Market.
- Checking Herdade do Cebolal, a winery in Vale das Éguas
- Walking 6km of Rota Vicentina, a hiking trail that goes along the whole country from North to South.
- Eating all the food.
Drinking all the wineTasting some great Alentejo wines.
- Getting some proper rest at all the aforementioned hotels.
- Snapping lots of cool pictures as I did in previous Portugal bounds.
- Having a caipirinha at my favorite’s viewpoint in Lisbon. Because traditions must be kept and I cannot leave the city without properly enjoying it as I used to when I was living there.
- Meeting as many locals as possible. Portuguese people are some of my favorite people in the world!
- Falling head over heels for Portugal once again!