I recently had the opportunity to re-visit the Alentejo, a captivating region of Portugal often overlooked by visitors to the country. Although you will find many places of interest around this vast area of land, here are five of my favourite places to visit in the Alentejo:
On my last visit to the Alentejo I had previously bypassed Sines due to its industrial appearance as I approached by car. However on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised as I was taken past the industrial zone, deeper into Sines to discover that not only was this the birthplace of Vasco da Gama – his statue proudly stands looking out over the Atlantic -but also home to a castle and two churches, all of which are linked to the Navigator himself. Have a wander around the quiet old town of Sines, perhaps buy a souvenir – I am told that miniature boats are the handicraft speciality, or visit the Sines Arts Centre. Did you know that each July Sines hosts the World Music Festival, the most important in Portugal?
The sleepy village of Porto Covo is one of the prettiest in Portugal. Small in size, its main street scattered with restaurants, cafeterias and shops leads down to some of the most stunning beaches of the Alentejo. Clear waters, fine sand and a rocky coastline all combine to create many small sandy bays, choose to share or find one of your own – the choice is yours. For the keen walker, the Rota Vicentina, The Fisherman’s Way, stretches from Porto Covo to Cabo de Sao Vicente in the Algarve and takes you on a 110km trek along the Atlantic coastline.
Vila Nova de Milfontes
Situated on the River Mira and boasting a large estuary and coastal beaches nearby, the village which is quiet most of the year reaches its peak in August when many Portuguese tourists arrive in search of sun, sand and relaxation. Traditionally a small fishing village, a handful of historic monuments and buildings remain amid white washed houses. The old fort, Sao Clemente Castle, guards over the River Mira and although now privately owned since its abandonment, it is still possible to admire the castle from the grounds of the small square in which it stands.
Standing bold on top of a hill and overlooking the Guadiana River, across the border to Spain, is Monsaraz. A beautiful fortified medieval village worthy of a visit, wonder through cobbled traffic-free streets, admiring the white washed houses which date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Head to the main square and visit the parish church before continuing onto Monsaraz castle for a spectacular view across the plains – don’t forget your camera and capture a great memory from the window seat of the castle!
Sao Pedro do Corval
Be sure to stop at São Pedro do Corval, pottery heaven of the Alentejo and approximately 5km from Reguengos de Monsaraz. A tiny village adorned with many pottery workshops,watch in awe as lumps of clay are effortlessly transformed into cups, plates, oven dishes,candlesticks and so much more.
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