From the traditional and characteristic Alentejo houses to the paradisiac and wild beaches, Alentejo is filled with unique details that make this region one of the most beautiful in the world. Landscape and culture vary from North to South, alongside the surprises that never end. Between nature and time, there's nothing but silence and calm that linger with every sunset. When it's time to celebrate, wine and food reign supreme at the table and the people, singing and toasting, is unique and the most hospitable.
The typical houses made of stone are cornerstones of the Alentejo's landscape and identity. Designed in simple, angular lines, the sombre façades and solid shapes of these buildings are the first elements that stand out. Usually built with one ground floor, few entrances but a door and a window. Outside, the whitewashed walls, the blue or ochre baseboards, and the people sitting by the door on hotter days stand out.
The wisdom of the people and the materials made available by the Earth are at the essence of these buildings. The use of clay that controls the temperature inside the house (warmer in the Winter and colder in the Summer) is one of the most used techniques. Lime and terracotta are the two most abundant house materials in Alentejo, to add texture, dimension, and evoke the land's distinctive colours and scents.
That architectural style that contemplates living space, climate, and its inhabitants, comes full circle with the endless plains that surround us, as we dive deeper into its tradition, History, and culture. To experience this is, also, to become part of it.
Fullness and endless diversity are the calling cards of Alentejo's landscapes. Our coastline, elected by the press as one of the best and most beautiful shores in Europe, stretches for 200 km from Costa Alentejana to Costa Vicentina.
From Tróia to Odeceixe you'll find untouched natural scenery, preserved by time. Our beaches, 29 of them awarded with the blue flag, are uniquely beautiful. Rocky, paradisiac, dreamy, and practically deserted. Known for their "good vibe", these beaches are a reference for water sports' lovers.
Down the coast, the golden sand and the blue ocean reflect the over 3000 hours of sunshine that bathes them all year. Although the best time of year to visit is between May and October, any time is an excellent time to visit.
Gastronomy is one of our most substantial pieces of heritage. Alentejo's cuisine, crucial in traditional Portuguese gastronomy, is born of nature, of local products, and of seasonality.
Bread and olive oil are always present on the table and every meal, sharing the spotlight with hot, hearty soups, cheeses, smoked and cured meats, garlic, and coriander. Traditional dishes like migas (a type of mash made with bread, garlic, pork, and local seasonings), açorda alentejana (a fragrant soup, poured boiling over a slice of bread), ensopado de Borrego (lamb stew), Carne de Porco à alentejana (pork stew with clams), seafood, grilled fish, toucinho do céu (traditional cake heavy on egg yolks, sugar, and almonds) and sericaia (flat sponge cake of unknown origins, with a substantial use of eggs and cinnamon) are part of the region's history and, many times, one of the first reasons to visit.
Tasting our food is to embark on a long and delicious journey through our senses, from the simplicity of each ingredient to the intensity of flavours.
The first cooperative winery in the region is 50 years old. Considering that Alentejo is the biggest wine producing region in Portugal, 50 years doesn´t seem like a long time. But, in fact, wine History in Alentejo goes all the way back to when the territory was part of the Ancient Roman empire. You can see traces of that era all over the region, from the Roman ruins in São Cucufate to the wineries in Vidigueira. Those are living pieces of heritage that mark the beginning of a long journey.
Alentejo is one-third of the national territory and benefits from being located in an area with the best conditions to produce wine. The climate and quality of the soil are some of the reasons why there's been so much investment and such great development of the wine industry here in recent years. There are 22,000 hectares of vineyards covering the eight sub-regions of Denominação de Origem Alentejana (one of the classifications of the wine region, similar to the "country wine" used in France) - Reguengos, Borba, Redondo, Vidigueira, Évora, Granja Amareleja, Portalegre, and Moura. And 11,763 hectares of that land are classified as DOC - Denominação de Origem Controlada (a classification meaning wines of controlled origin).
When it's time for tasting, our red wine is always everyone's favourite, although our whites are beginning to gain a reputation as smooth, slightly acid, and with the aroma of tropical fruits. Reviewed by Sarah Ahmed for the American publication Decanter Travel Guide, our wines are praised all over the world as "warm, generous, and easy-going like the locals" or "rural and rustic but with substance".
Our restaurants and typical taverns choose our regional wine as their house wine.
Our historical heritage is striking, from the immense plains where the shadows of cork and olive trees stand out to the medieval cities of Monsaraz, Évora, and Marvão, all three classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites - for their beauty, their landmarks, their traditions, and their people.
It´s revealed in landmarks like the Roman Temple to Diana (Templo Romano de Diana), in Évora, the megalithic menhirs in Almendres (Cromeleque dos Almendres) or the church of Our Lady of Aires (Santuário de Nossa Senhora D'Aires) in Viana do Alentejo, and it comes through in our unhurried, calm way of life, in our accent, and in our customs. Cante Alentejano (a traditional song genre, performed by men, traditionally depicting life and work in the countryside) and Chocalhos Alentejanos (cowbells made of iron and used as musical instruments) are two of the most recent examples of a heritage that we kept alive, and that gained worldwide recognition as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Throughout the History, Alentejo has been influenced by Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, and Christians. All these different people left their cultural mark that is still visible in our daily routines, our handicrafts, our architecture, cuisine, and moral beliefs.
The traditional festivities in the region, the markets, and the festivals are a way to honour all these influences all year long. Festa das Flores (a celebration where the town is decorated in paper flowers) in Campo Maior, Feira Nacional do Cavalo (an event dedicated to horses) in Golegã, and bullfights are some of the most significant yearly celebrations in Alentejo.
Our identity as a people is a combination of cultural traits that reflect all those layers of tradition: the obligatory afternoon naps in hot Summer days, the long early-evening conversations with the neighbours at our doorsteps, gathering for coffee after dinner, playing card games at the park, and living life slowly, unrushed.
People make the Alentejo a unique region.
From North to South there are many differences, but we are known as conservative, reserved, religious, loyal to our values, and warm and welcoming. There is no sense of humour like ours. It's as distinct as our idiom that changes across the region.
We are an elderly population, marked by History and time. The distance from the big cities hinders us from learning new languages, travelling, and getting to know the world. We live in small, family-like communities, so we enjoy being visited. We are proud of what we are and what we have, and eager to share it with visitors.
We are very transparent, sometimes passionate, other times stubborn. We don't mince words when we speak our minds. Life is taken slowly but intensely. Our history is written in our hands and our faces. We are a reflection of all this land has given us and what it still has to offer.
Alentejo's landscape follows the synched compass of every season. Spring brings a burst of colours in vineyards, in flowers, and in birds. Summer comes with bright blue skies in the daytime and starry nights, and unforgettable warm-coloured sunsets. Autumn is all about the smell of rain that fell on dry soil and terracotta tones. Winter carries a quasi-poetic mist. For all this, the region has inspired writer and artists. Alentejo's colours and memories have been the muse for some of their best work.
In Alentejo, the landscape is ever eventful. From the plains to the ocean, let yourself be surprised.
In Alentejo, we live life slowly, but we never miss a beat. Our great weather, the contrasting, wild scenery, and the ever-smiling people invite you to explore. There are many opportunities for outdoor activities everywhere.
There are options for all tastes and occasions, from the beach to the mountain, to lush-green plains. Amongst other things, in Alentejo you can snorkel, scuba dive, surf and windsurf, stand up paddle, ride in a hot air balloon, abseil, cycle, sail, bird watch, fish, go canoeing, hunt, go moto crossing, or karting. Thanks to great preservation efforts of our nature reserves, we have high-quality trails, hundreds of kilometres long, for trekking and hiking on the Rota Vicentina (Vicentina route).
Outdoor activities allow us to experience nature and the region fully. For those travelling for curiosity and adrenaline, Alentejo is a world waiting to be discovered.
We live at our own pace. Maybe because we are isolated from the big cities, we've created our own sense of time. We go slow but always on time. With the necessary intensity not to waste time. And it's not wasted because many times it stands still. Stopping to listen to Cante, to enjoy a glass of wine, to breathe in the fresh air of the countryside, and to simply be. Like Miguel Torga used to say, Alentejo is "(…) the mystery of a crowd where time goes by without ever arriving."