The Alentejo is the largest department of Portugal
Discover the Alentejo
The Alentejo is the department “entre a serra e o mar”, meaning “between mountains and the see”.
The Alentejo is the largest department of Portugal, with the least amount of inhabitants. In this region you’ll find a mix of atmospheres from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The vastness and specifically the unspoiled nature makes this region the ultimate spot to fully come to rest.
The department is divided in two pieces: the alto (upper) and baixo (lower) region. In the alto part you primarily find the many white and historical towns: Evora, Serpa, Mertola and Beja. The baixo part is primarily know for its vast protected coastal area that is part of the “Parque Natural do sudoeste e Costa Vicentina”.
The, even in the high season, quiet and clean beaches offer many possibilities for walks, rest and exploring flora and fauna.
The Alentejo is an agricultural area, grown with cork oaks, olive trees, wheat fields, vineyards and cattle (cows, pigs, sheep and goats).
The highest point in the Alentejo is at 1025 meters at the top of the S. Mamede, close to Portalegre village. Being an agricultural area with hardly any industry, many handicraft professions still are to be found. Here still pottery is being made, people knot carpets, cork and wood is being shaped, baskets plaited, and leather and tin crafted.
Flora and Fauna
The Alentejo has beautiful flora and fauna. Many storks, traveling to Portugal from Africa in February, built their nests, raise their young and learn them to fly before traveling further in July. Many other special birds (of prey), butterflies, dragonflies, turtles, snakes and other animals are there to discover. You can find extraordinary plants; the ‘five wonders of Christ’, wild rosemary, lavender, fern, and primeval trees nowhere else to be found in Europe since ages. Because of the pleasant and mild climate, already in January the mimosa and almond trees start blooming and in may you can see the poppies and the succulent plants in the dunes.
Rivers and lakes
There’s lots of water around; over twenty lakes and big rivers. Still there are only few water tourists and hardly any yachts. You do find fishermen. The reservoir of Alqueva is an up and coming water sports area. This largest reservoir on the Iberian peninsula offers great opportunities for boating trips lasting a few days. The coast is elongated, protected and unspoiled. Cosy bays are around in abundance. Along the coast you can find rice fields, salt extraction and a large area where dolphins can be found.
In the Alentejo, as well as in the rest of Portugal, a lot of hunting takes place. The hunting season lasts from mid August until the end of February. The main animals hunted are wild boar, rabbits, partridges and other wild birds.
The Alentejo has no less than 8 high quality wine producing regions (DOC). These are Borba, Portalegre, Redondo, Reguengas, Evora, Vidigueira, Granja/Amamreleja and Moura. The wines from these regions are more than worth trying.
In the upper part of the Alentejo you’ll find beautiful white towns and villages. The best known is Evora, placed on the world heritage list by Unesco. The villages of Estremoz, Marvão, Castro Verde, Mertola and Serpa are worthy of your visit.
In the Alentejo traditional choral singing can be found. And a number of well-known music festivals are organized. In Sines there is a world music festival at the end of July and in Zambujeira do Mar a three-day rock festival at the beginning of august.
Regional gastronomy has a diversity of cheeses, hams, honey, olive oils, pine nuts, almonds and figs. The traditional kitchen consists of pig, sheep and lambs meat. At the coast delicious fish dishes are prepared. Renowned is stockfish, a traditional Portuguese meal. Lots of stews with bread are on the menu, and soup is an important part of the menu.