Head south to the Tuscany of Portugal

WHEN most British holidaymakers think of Portugal, they probably think of the Algarve. But there’s a lot more to this wonderful little country than the resorts on the south coast.

Alentejo is the next region north of the Algarve and covers most of the south of the country, sharing a border to the east with Spain.


With rolling Mediterranean countryside dotted with olive groves and cork trees, it’s not hard to see why travel guides have dubbed it “the new Tuscany”.

The beautiful landscape is immediately welcoming, and combined with a relaxed, small town atmosphere and great food, it makes for a very appealing destination.

From perfectly preserved medieval castles to art galleries and aquariums, there’s something for all ages in the heart of Portugal.

Of particular appeal for tourists looking for somewhere different to stay are the region’s many “pousadas” – luxury hotels built in historic buildings.

There are 44 across the country and each one is unique, offering a wide choice of accommodation that is far more interesting than the average run-of-the-mill holiday hotel.

Pousada Flor da Rosa in Crato is a perfect example, formerly a castle, a convent and a palace. Previously a monastery for the Knights of the Order of Malta, the building’s many historic features have been preserved.

But between the parapets and stone walls are all the indulgences you might expect from an excellent hotel, including a swimming pool.

There’s plenty to see in Alentejo’s 12,000-square miles, so hiring a car to take in as many sights as possible is probably the best way to go.

High on your list should be the horse stud farm of Alter Real in Alter do Chão.

Housing the Lusitano horse – a Portuguese breed – it is also a horse riding school dating back to the 18th century.

Visitors can expect to see dozens of these impressive animals up close during a tour of the site.

But Alter Real is not just about horses. It is also home to an impressive aviary for hunting birds.

From the smallest to the mighty golden eagle, you can see a wide range of birds in what is a growing part of the complex.

Food is a pure pleasure in this part of the world. From traditional smoked sausage and cheese to a hearty dogfish soup, there are plenty of regional specialities to keep you going.

Desserts have a definite Arabic flavour, with the ubiquitous honey and almonds revealing the region’s Moorish roots.

If you stop in the town of Portalegre, then the restaurant Tomba Lobos is definitely worth a visit for any self-respecting foodie.

The literal translation – “it overthrows wolves” – won’t help you much, but your taste buds will thank you for indulging them.

Chef José Júlio Vintém offers a modern take on Portuguese cuisine in a setting that is stylish but without pretension.

Like so many in the region, Portalegre itself is a pretty town, filled with narrow, winding streets.

It’s also home to the museum of Alentejo tapestry with examples of the traditional Arroiolos carpets. These are unique recreations of original paintings, in the form of tapestry. The amount of effort that goes into the pieces is extraordinary and a great tribute to Portuguese craftsmanship.

With it’s rustic charm and Latin character, Alentejo is a region that will exercise your camera finger and your shoe leather. And there’s no better sight-seeing destination than the fortified hilltop town of Marvão.

The castle there dates back to the 13th century and there are outstanding views that reach as far as Spain on the horizon.

The town below is pure picture postcard, awash with those familiar Mediterranean white walls and terracotta roofs, gorgeous flowers and charming locals.

People here clearly enjoy life and it’s not hard to see why – beautiful surroundings and sun-kissed skies are a winning combination.

Of course, one of the main reasons so many Brits head to southern Europe is the weather.

At home, the unexpected late-summer heat in September was certainly welcome, but is far from guaranteed.

Alentejo, meanwhile, like much of Portugal, is pretty much guaranteed good weather whenever you decide to pop over for a visit.

You can reach Alentejo in little more than an hour from the capital Lisbon, itself just a few hours from Bristol, with plenty of flights to choose from.

Even in October, temperatures push towards 30 degrees centigrade, so if you’re looking for some pre-winter sunshine, this is definitely an affordable choice.


Tavira Beaches

Tavira has some great beaches.  In the area of  Tavira are at least six main beaches, some on main coast, some on the Ria Formosa islands.

The Tavira coast is at the Eastern end of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, which is a series of barrier islands, some of which are inhabited. It is a beautiful area, with fantastic beaches which are flat and spread as far as the eye can see.

From West to East starting with:
Praia Barril – just on the edge of the village of Santa Luzia, near Pedras D’el Rei touristic complex.  It is situated on one of the Islands and can be acccessed by a small train or by walking the mile or so to the beach.  The beach facilities are located in a converted tuna fishing village.    It is quite picturesque beach with the unique addition of a ‘anchor graveyard’ a throwback from the golden and prosperous age of Tuna fishing.
Ilha Tavira – this is the main beach from Tavira town, huge numbers of people and campers visit this site daily from the town by boat.  There is a large, well-equipped campsite here just a couple of hundred metres from the beach and plenty of bars and restaurants.  The beach is large and stretches for miles, where you can walk from one beach to another along the expanse of the Island.
Ilha Cabanas – another island beach, accessible from Cabanas village by small boat.  This is another popular one but smaller than Ilha Tavira, they have a couple of restaurants and facilities on the beach with concessions.
Fabrica – this is a hidden treasure which I only found last year, quite by accident.  It is not one of the popular ones but is growing in popularity.  I think this was probably a ‘locals beach’ but now has been discovered. It is situated in a tiny ‘village’ off a country lane.  But this is a unique beach, it can be accessed by local boat but most people actually just wade across (at the right tide) to the beach.  There are no facilities but it is gorgeous, like something out of the caribbean.  There is a restaurant near the water, where they do great seafood, which again is not very advertised but very busy.
Manta Rota – my personal favourite and most frequented by us.  This is the first beach which can be accessed directly.  Situated in a small resort town with good facilities, it was given a facelift about 4 years ago and is very nice.
Last but not least
Praia Verde – this beach is situated at the bottom of a hill with good access.  Good beach for children with shallow waters and some facilities.  Lovely place to come for dinner as well!  Not overly crowded.
These are the main Tavira beaches, there are other small, local ones and of course, the ‘Ria beaches’, the beaches found on the banks of the interior of the ‘Ria Islands.’

L’And Vineyards Resort, Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal


Like wearing white after Labor Day or boat shoes with socks, spending the warm months indoors is its own kind of gauche. Thankfully, the 22-suite L’and Vineyards, nestled in the rolling hills of Portugal‘s Alentejo wine region, has opened just in time to help you avoid summer sacrilege.

A slick wood and slate palette and bold architecture make a modern play against the pastoral landscape, and the Sky suites raise the roof (literally): Above your king-size bed is a retractable ceiling that lets in fresh air and reveals the constellations above, adding thousands of stars to the resort’s already commendable five. Think of it as a boozy camping trip for people who don’t like camping.

Photo: Courtesy of L’and Vineyards

Portugal Promotional Tourism

Veja o novo filme de Portugal e descubra a beleza da simplicidade num país autêntico, surpreendente e sedutor, onde a vida é saboreada a cada momento.

É bom viver no Algarve!!!

É bom viver no Algarve!!!

Diga-nos o que é que gosta mais no Algarve.

Portugal Travel Information

Attractive sandy beaches, beautiful nature, and interesting culture connected with the friendly Mediterraneanclimate are the main reasons to visit Portugal. For a small country, Portugal offers diverse attractions from the sunny beaches to the lively cities, remote Atlantic islands, and forested mountain areas, which makes the country all the more interesting. Portugal is also a golfer’s paradise with a multitude of green fields available for the lovers of this outdoor sport.

Beach in portugal
Beach in portugal

Beaches, sea cliffs and outdoor sport facilities: Attractions of Portugal

The most popular travel destination in Portugal is its lively capital city, Lisbon. This large city is a mixture of fascinating cultural and architectural attractions with vivid nightlife. Built on seven hills located on the Atlantic coast, Lisbon is a scenic city offering not only memorable experiences, but also lots of beautiful landscapes to admire. The Portuguese capital is located close to some of the best golf courses of Portugal. The nearby Estoril and Cascais are popular beach resorts.

Lisbon in Portugal from above
Lisbon in Portugal from above

Golf and nature destinations. Algarve in the south of the country invites many with its sandy beaches and sunny climate, which are made even more interesting by the presence of many golf courses and beautiful landscapes with sea cliffs and green countryside. Another popular travel destination, Madeira is an Atlantic island with dramatic green landscapes suitable for long walks along the levadas of the mountainsides, as well as for golfing. Azores are a scenic group of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean offering the joys of hiking, whale watching, and sailing.

Architectural wonders in Mafra, Portugal
Architectural wonders in Mafra, Portugal

City destinations. Porto is a popular city in the North of the country with the best nightlife in Portugal, whileBraga on its behalf offers interesting historical sights including the popular baroque stairway, Bom Jesus de Monte. Coimbra is famous for its medieval architecture and for one of the oldest universities of Europe.

Practical information for your trip to Portugal

Located in Southern Europe by the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is easily reached by air from most corners of the world. The main airport of the country is located in Lisbon, which is located in the western part of the country. You can also travel to Portugal by train or bus from the neighboring Spain, or take a cruise there. Traveling around Portugal is easy thanks to efficient bus and train services and good roads of this South European country that hosts diverse landscapes from high mountains to coastal plains and river valleys.

The climate in Portugal is Mediterranean with mild winters and warm, sunny summers. Wintertime average high temperatures in the country are around 15°C, thanks to which Portugal is a year-round destination. However, if you are looking for a place in the sun, the best time to travel to Portugal is in the summertime, when average monthly high temperatures in Portugal easily reach 25-30°C.

Belem near Lisbon
Belem near Lisbon

Visitor services. Portugal is a quite popular tourism destination with some 13 million overseas visitors a year and modern tourist services available all around the country. The main touristic areas of Portugal offer all-year-round open hotels and plenty of inviting restaurants to serve hungry visitors. Nightlife in Portugal is lively, with diverse facilities from traditional fado performance to karaoke bars pleasing many tastes. The most popular shopping places of Portugal are found in the capital Lisbon, but also all other main tourist areas of Portugal host shops offering you commercial temptations. English is spoken mainly in touristic areas of Portugal. Portugal is a safe travel destination that is popular also among families traveling with children.

Evora- historical city in Portugal
Evora- historical city in Portugal

Short history of Portugal

Portugal’s history as an independent country goes back to early Middle Ages, when the country gained a status of a European maritime and colonial power, hosting several overseas colonies. During later years, Portugal lost much of this wealth and experienced battle losses and natural disasters, the latter of which destroyed also much of its capital city Lisbon in 1755. These difficulties made nearly two millions of Portuguese citizens leave the country in the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries for a better life in the new continent, namely in Brazil or in the United States. After the military dictatorship that ended in the 1970s, Portugal has gained back much of its wealth and became a founding member of the NATO and more recently a member of European Union.

Inland Portugal offers affordable homes in pretty countryside

Portugal might be famous for its beaches, golf courses and an over-abundance of sardines, but head inland and it’s altogether a different outlook.

Here, you’ll find open plains, wooded hills, vineyards and farms. This rural heart of the country, known as the Alentejo, was off the map for decades, thanks to its inaccessibility and lack of hotels and services.

Now, things are changing. The first flights from UK tour operator Sunvil to newly- opened Beja airport started on May 22.

Elegant: Giraldo's square in the historic city of Evora with its fountain and cafes
Elegant: Giraldo’s square in the historic city of Evora with its fountain and cafes

Over the past ten years, there has been a growth in holiday home rentals in the region and the first boutique hotels are opening.

‘It’s a wonderful place, with lovely people and beautiful natural surroundings,’ says Frank McClintock, who moved to the Alentejo from Dorset in 1987. ‘But it’s not always an easy place to live,’ he adds. ‘You have to be prepared to work at it and, though the weather is good most of the time, you can have unbearably hot summers and wet winters.’

McClintock, 52, spent several years renovating a ruined, lakeside farm into an attractive small hotel, Quinta do Barranco da Estrada, which he now runs with wife Daniela, 39. He’s seen an increase in tourists and homebuyers as access has improved and says property prices have also risen significantly.

‘For about £100,000, you can buy something small but nice or in need of some maintenance, with land and maybe a pool. But the deep countryside isn’t the best place for anyone looking to retire.

‘It’s laid back and peaceful, but too far from any facilities or services [for older people], so you’d be better off nearer a town,’ says McClintock.

One alternative is residential resorts, such as L’AND Vineyards, a new development near the historic city of Evora, an hour from Lisbon, and one of the few managed projects in this region. Properties are selling well to both second-home and investment buyers, as well as those planning for retirement.

‘The Alentejo is being called the new Tuscany,’ says Marlene Sanches Tavares, sales director for the resort. ‘As a wine and food- producing region it is now famous, but we’re also under an hour from the coast and the capital.’

It’s clear L’AND isn’t your typical Portuguese resort, there’s no golf course and homes are designed in a contemporary style.

Community spirit: The market located in Alentejo
Community spirit: The market located in Alentejo

‘The architecture will be different from traditional Portuguese homes, but it’s designed to follow the shape of the landscape and blend in,’ says Sanches Tavares.

Properties range from two-bedroom townhouses with access to a communal pool to six-bedroom villas with large private gardens and private pools.

They are priced from £160,000 to £700,000 and surround a large lake, overlooking the resort’s 14 hectares of vineyards.

Each home comes with its own vines. Owners can either make wine themselves or onsite oenologists will produce it for them. They’ll also have use of the facilities at the boutique hotel, restaurant and spa. If owners are looking for extra income, they can join a rental programme, with gross returns of about four per cent per annum.

For a bargain, you may have to look deeper into the countryside where, according to Ricardo Rodrigues, owner of local agency Pinhal Rural, it’s possible to buy property in need of modernisation for under £100,000.

‘You can find ruins from as little as £25,000,’ he says. ‘Or there are village houses from about £35,000 that need updating.’

For budgets in excess of £250,000 he claims you can ‘get something in good condition with better proximity to a main town, two to four bedrooms on a large plot with a pool’.

Mr Rodrigues adds that many locals are worrying that the property market will stall over the next few years if Portugal’s difficult financial circumstances aren’t solved.
‘But that tends to affect the areas locals want to live and work in, rather than holiday destinations,’ he says.

‘And there are still plenty of buyers looking for a home offering a relaxed lifestyle in a beautiful location.’