Discover Portugal's Alentejo Region
Source: Travel Courier
One of Europe's under-the-radar gems
The region of Alentejo in Portugal proves there are still lesser-known gems in Europe that are in the early stages of recognition by travelers. Visitors to Portugal who decide to divert from better-known places like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve will find Alentejo to be welcoming, authentic, attractive, and surprisingly quiet in terms of tourists.
The gently rolling rural landscape of Alentejo in southern Portugal is punctuated by occasional hilltops, many crowned by villages, castles, and churches gathered in a defensive, walled posture. The city of Évora in Alentejo exemplifies this city planning model, over 2,000 years in the making. The remains of Roman occupation still stand in Evora, with some of the best Roman ruins in Europe. Tall stone pillars once supported the Templo Romano of Evora, and near this edifice are more recent examples of medieval architecture, including a well-preserved old town center (Praca de Giraldo) and the remains of medieval walls and an aqueduct.
Évora Diana's Temple
These were all factors in naming Évora as the European Capital of Culture in 2027, and are also why Évora was classified as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986. Much of this historical evidence has remained intact, with relatively less warfare in Portugal over the centuries, and Alentejo is a prime example of that. But compared to better-known destinations like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve, the number of tourists that visit Alentejo is low. Alentejo’s gently rolling geography is well suited to agriculture, and a desert-like climate – high heat in the day, chilly temperatures at night – makes Alentejo an ideal setting for vineyards and wineries. There are over 300 wineries in Alentejo, making it the biggest wine-producing region in Portugal. But if anything can dwarf the presence of vineyards in Alentejo, it is the numerous fields of olive tree groves.
The Alentejo region is the largest olive oil-producing region in Portugal and accounts for 70% of the national production. Many other homegrown products, like pork, cheese, and cod, dot the tables of dining rooms across the region. The price of restaurant meals and wine is generally lower than might be expected. Then there are the horses… the Portuguese Lusitano is a magnificent creature, nimble, athletic, and docile, and a favorite to compete in Olympian dressage. A large herd resides at the Coudelaria de Alter, which has a long history of horse breeding and training and operates on a sprawling property, including a small stadium.
Portuguese Puro Lusitano horses
Given all the agricultural activity in Alentejo, it should come as no surprise that a more relaxed way of life is practiced by residents. The province is recognized for that. This quality of life description even has a name in Portugal – vagal. It is the people of Alentejo that is the best thing about the region.
Évora is the fourth city in Portugal to be named a European Capital of Culture, after Lisbon in 1994, Porto in 2001, and Guimarães in 2012. This was followed by a choice of three fam trips themed Culture & Heritage, Active & Nature, and Gastronomy & Wine. These informative fams in Alentejo lasted for three days, during which agents soaked up an impressive amount of knowledge, as delivered by expert guides.
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