Eat, Sleep, Play: Alentejo, Portugal

With its sweeping landscapes, traditional cuisine, sprawling vineyards and multitude of activities that will make you want to retire early, add the central-interior region of Portugal, known as Alentejo (Al-Enn-Tay-Zhu), to your list of 2019 travel destinations.

Photo Credit: Ryan Dearth Photography


Perhaps the best part of Alentejo is the regional food and wine. With a history as the country’s “bread basket” under authoritarian dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, Alentejo was once one of the poorest regions in Portugal. That’s changed since the 1974 revolution and the region is now known for its grapes and olives. In one of the region’s larger cities, Évora, you’ll find delicious food and a number of great restaurants. For an excellent authentic meal in Évora, look no further than Café Alentejo. This gem of an eatery is serving up can’t-miss dishes, like black pork, dogfish soup (Sopa de cação) and regional desserts like Sericaia — an egg pudding cake that tastes better than it sounds. For a more contemporary take on the cuisine, try Restaurante Divinus, which is located inside of a pre-renaissance convent that has been retrofitted as a hotel and restaurant. Not only will you be immersed in the history of the area, but you’ll also be able to indulge in daily wine tastings and dishes like venison tartar, foie gras and guinea fowl with mushrooms. Closer to the Spanish border you’ll find one of the primo wineries — Herdade do Esporão — which offers up gorgeous views of the vineyards, a fantastic restaurant, wine tours and phenomenal wines.

Photo Credit: Ryan Dearth Photography


One of the many highlights of Alentejo is the number of unique boutique hotels in unexpected locations and buildings, and there are a number of standouts in the area. Convento Do Espinheiro is a fifteenth-century monastery that was frequented by Portuguese monarchs and sits in the countryside outside Évora. The hotel still has a working chapel, restaurant, and beautiful grounds. Don’t miss a guided tour of the property (offered daily) during which guests can learn more about the rich history of this beautiful resort. Further east, near the storybook castle town of Monsaraz, you’ll find a relaxing and quaint farmhouse-style hotel in Horta Da Moura. Spacious rooms with separate patios overlook the property’s olive groves and pool deck, and are just a minute’s walk from the hotel restaurant. For a large portion of the twentieth century, Portugal was ruled by authoritarian dictator Salazar. During this time, the government ran high-end hotels called pousadas, often in lavish and historic buildings. Many pousadas still exist today but have turned private since the revolution and offer visitors to the area another great lodging option. The UNESCO world heritage site and walled city of Elvas is home to the first pousada, now called the Santa Luzia Hotel, where traditional Portuguese rooms are filled with ornate designs and historic furniture from the 1940s. Stroll downstairs to find a beautiful pool deck and wonderful restaurant. The hotel is located on one of the oldest streets in the city and is a short drive from the Nossa Senhora da Graça Fort — a magnificent fort dating back to the eighteenth century that is a must-visit when in the area.

Photo Credit: Ryan Dearth Photography


It would be remiss not to continue to tout the excellence of the wine in the region, and with many wonderful winery tours, it drives most of the tourism in the area these days. But to add more adventure to your wine-themed travels, explore Alentejo’s wine country from the seat of a road bike. With hundreds of miles of bike-friendly roads, rolling hills and many small villages to explore, bike-touring has gained popularity in Alentejo over recent years. Visit to get the scoop on bike rentals in the area, and find self-guided cycling tours and bike-friendly businesses. To curb the sometimes 100-degree heat in the summertime, Azenhas da Seda hosts aqua-tourism adventures like canyoning and canoeing that will keep you cool and entertained. And of course, there are hundreds of great hiking and trekking trails throughout the region. But the one thing that is prominent at every turn is the distinct culture and history of the region. From Roman ruins to medieval castles; prehistoric man-made rock formations to beautiful mid twentieth-century architecture, there’s so much to see and explore. There’s even a chapel made almost entirely out of human bones. You can’t throw a stone without hitting something older than you are.

Photo Credit: Ryan Dearth Photography

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