At one point I felt it made sense to come to Portel. It’s an isolated place, and I like to be at the deepest Alentejo. I’m from Odemira, and I used to come here with my father to hunt. It was hunting that led me to purchase the property in 1993, that was once my residence. After I moved to Herdade do Monte Santo, in Alqueva, I converted Herdade do Rio into a rural tourism accommodation.
The “Medronho” liqueur is traditional in this area (there was a distillery here in 1956 that produced 30,000 litres a year!), and I planted the bushes to add another attraction to Alqueva. Besides the distillery, we also opened the Museu do Medronho in 2014.
We want to show our guests a bit of the local economy, with visits to the museum and the distillery. You can see how the “medronho” is made, taste it, and taste the jams as well. Near the museum, there are almost 1,000 acres of land with different species of deer and birds, where you can hike or bird watch.
To those visiting the region of Portel and Alqueva, I invite you to come to Herdade do Rio Torto. It’s a place offering relaxation and, above all, preserved nature. You can stroll amongst the “medronho” bushes, observe the game animals, and feel what the outdoors are like in untouched cork tree fields and pastures.
Rio Torto is the name of the creek that flows at the bottom side of the property and that you can get to by following one of our trails.
Our story and mission
At one point in my life, I thought it made sense to move here because I felt this area had a lot more potential. That was in 1993 before they built the dam, but I believed there was potential to value and grow this area. When I moved to another property, a few kilometres from here, I converted what was once my first house. At the moment, we have five suites, each one decorated differently, and two apartments.
The 1,000-acre land where we have several wild animals is split into two areas: one is for hunting, and the other one is for tours and wild animals observation.
Museu do Medronho, which opened in 2014, is part of a project that was born in 2008, the distillery. All our guests have a visit to the museum included. “Medronho” was crucial in Portugal when the country wasn’t so opened to foreign alcoholic drinks. Around here, at the villages, everyone still distils their own liqueur for personal consumption. Our distillery follows more modern processes. Right now we produce “medronho” liqueurs, and other processed foods made with that fruit.
Stroll through the cork tree fields, swim in the pool, walk the trails that lead to the lake at the property, ride a donkey, or just relax with a ping-pong match at the end of the day. It’s true that time goes by slowly at Herdade do Rio Torto, but the days are far from being dull!
Different species of deer, several birds, and the occasional wild boar are some of the animals you can observe in one of our jeep tours around Alqueva. The tours depart from Museu do Medronho and mornings and evenings are the best times of day for successful sightings.
The many sides of a homestead
I know for a fact I couldn’t live elsewhere in Portugal. My roots are all here, in Alentejo. And Alentejo is unique: it’s a well-preserved place, where we can gaze at the horizon and feel we are alone in the world. I can’t stay away for the week anymore. I miss the quiet, waking up in the morning, opening the window and gaze at the horizon.
Local cuisine is another attraction in the region. In Portel, the land of soups, there’s an “açorda” (typical Alentejo soup) event every year in the Spring.
Everything changed in this region after 1993. There was a very narrow road to get here in 1993. When I began coming here in 1978, the road wasn’t even paved! I used to come here with my father who enjoyed hunting partridges and hares.
But even with all these changes, some things remain the same. People are very close here, they help each other out, and they have a different relationship with the countryside. And that’s what makes us love this place.
At the old county slaughterhouse in Portel, you’ll find A Bolota - Pavilhão Temático, a place where you can go on a trip back to local traditions, around acorn and the cork tree fields and pastures.