Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alentejo, Portugal


Exec utive summary by darmansjah

BEST FOR CULTURE inside Evora’s 14th-century walls, narrow, winding lanes lead to a medieval cathedral and cloisters, the cinematic columns of the Roman Temple and a picturesque town square. Aside from tis historic and aesthetic virtues, Eovra is a liveliy university town with dozens of good retaurants.

BEST FOR VIEWS high above verdant countryside, Castelo de Vide is one of Portugal’s most attractive towns The castle of the same name contains a village and even its own church. Take in great views over the town’s red roofs from its ramparts (, 9.30am-12.30pm and

BEST FOR BEACHES  Vila Nova de Milfontes is located in the middle of the sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina national park. This low-key village has a whitewashed centre and astonishing beaches. Head out to unspoilt Praia do Malhao beach, backed by rocky dunes and fragrant scrub (


Vila Nova de Milfontes

BEST FOR GARDENS The Convent of Sao-Fransisco in Mertola, owned by Dutch artis Geraldine Zanikken, has an extraordinary garden and art gallery. The organic garden is full of herbs, rare plants and flowers, watered by a restored moorish irrigation system (00 351 286 612 119;; Mertola; by appointment; US$7).

BEST FOR MEGLITHS. Amid ancient olive and cork trees, west of Evora, stands the Cromeleque dos Almendres, the Iberian peninsula’s most important meglitic group. The site contains a huge oval of around 95 rounded granite meglitihs, some engraved.

megaliths at the 7,000 year old comeleque dos almendres site

WHY GO. The  Alentejo region, which covers a third of the country, is a captivating landscape characterised by dry, golden plains, rolling hillsides and a  rugged coastline. Its rich past offers Paleolithic carvings, Moorish villages and wealthy medieval towns, and the local population preserves its craft traditions to this day.

WHEN TO GO. In april and May, the countryside is awash with flowers and it’s baby stork time in the region’s many fortresses. Alentejo makes a great getaway in June and July, when Evor – one of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns – host its annual country fair, the Festas Populares.

HOW TO GO. Fly into major Europeans air hubs like London and Paris before connecting with TAP Portugal ( or easyjet to Lisbon airport. Alentejo’s main city Evora can be reach via a one and a half hour bus (US$16; or train (US$16; ride.

Dom Pedro V serves hearty helpings of regional specialities such as lamb stew, tomato and herb soup, grilled steak and seafood rice (00 351 245 901 236;; Praca D. Pedro V, Castelo de Vide; lunch and dinner; mains US$9-20).

Locals believe Botequim da Mouraria, in the old Moorish quarter, is Evora’s finest restaurant. Take one of its 12 stools, browse more than 150 local such as scrambled egg and aspargus, spicy chorizo and baked goat’s cheese (00 351 266 746 775; Rua da Mouraria 16A, Evora; lunch and dinner Mon-Fri, lunch Sat; mains US$15-US$18).

Dom Joaquim is an example of ine dining In a contemporary setting it’s smart and trendy,with modern art lining its walls. The menu comprises robust flavours such as partridge and dogfish (00 351 266 731 105; Rua dos Penedos 6; lunch and dinner; mains US$15-US$19).

Tasca do Celso is rustic, charming and upmarket. It serves lip-smacking pork ribs and an array of grilled fish. Finish with acom liquor and figs (00 351 283 996 753;; Rua dos Aviadores, Via Nova de Milifortes; lunch and dinner Tue-sun; mains US$18ouUS$28)

Restaurant a Choupana on the beach only serves grilled fish of the day. It’s expensive but top-notch. Eat on the terrace to see the grill master in action (00 351 283 996 643; Praia do Farol, Vila Nova de Milfortes; lunch and dinner; meals around US$34).

GETTING AROUND. Trains run between some of the region’s towns, but buses – Rede Expressos ( – are better for small towns and villages. To get to remote places, including the Alqueva Dam, hire a car (from US$39 per day;

Bottle of Alentejo red wine US$11; Mid range meal US$23-US$30/; Mid-range hotel US110-US$215; high-end hotel from US$215.

Casa da Elra is housed In a refurbished building above the Mira Estuary and offers a range of contemporary rooms and apartments. Each is decked out in a bright seaside colour scheme and fun décor. The barbecue in the garden adds to the atmosphere (00 351 283 990 010;; Rua Eira da Pedra, Vila Nova de Milfortes; from US$60).

Enjoy the tanquil gardens and Guadiana River at the Convent of Sao Fransisco, Converted from stables, the apartments have been decorated by owner-artist Geraldine Zanikken (00 351 286 612 119;; Mertola; apartment from US$90).

Home to a sculptor and an architect, Quinta do Barriero, just outside Marvao, is made up of ochre-coloured casinhas (small houses). The garden is full of the owner’s sculptures, there are great walks around the property and the studios have countrified charm (00 351 964 054 935; quintadobarriero. Om; Reveladas ca 10, Marvao; from US$115).

Elegant and upretentious, Albergaria do Calvario has a perfect ambience: lounges full of books, classical music in the background and a walled garden patio. Breakfast is a feast of local produce (00 351 266 745 930;; Travessa dos Lagares 3, Evora; from US$145).

In A former convent, opposite the Roman Temple in Evora, Pousada dos Lolos has extravagant interiors and a pretty cloister. The public rooms are grand and baroque (some have elaborate frescoes); the bedrooms are understand and modern (00 351 266 730 070;, Largo Conde Vila Flor, Evora; from US$370).

the pousada dos lolos hotel is situated in evora's historic centre

Above The Birds. The alentejo hill towns are beautiful places to experience. The medieval walled village of Marvao is perfect for dinner or an overnight stay at one of the restaurant and guesthouses foun on the walls high above the Portuguese-Spanish border. At the Pousada de Santa Maria, we highly recommend the lamb, but the deep-fried pig skin                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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