The Alentejo covers a huge area, around a third of the country, stretching south from the Rio Tejo to the northern mountain ranges of the Algarve – the name derives from the words além do Tejo, beyond the Tejo River. This is Portugal’s garden, the bulk of the region given over to huge cork plantations, wheat fields and vineyards – and though much of it is flat, the region repays exploration, offering unexpected surprises, from ancient dolmens and superbly sited castles to Roman ruins and sweeping Atlantic beaches. Much of the population make a living from the huge agricultural estates known as latifúndios, which are handed down from generation to generation – many have been in existence since Roman times. The vast farms are generally wildlife-friendly – the Alentejo is home to wild boar and hundreds of species of bird, from black stork to great bustard.

For most visitors, the region’s major draws are its towns, two of which have UNESCO World Heritage status: the spectacular fortified town of Elvas, and Évora, whose Roman temple, medieval walls and cathedral have put it firmly on the tourist circuit. Elsewhere in Alto Alentejo (Upper Alentejo), you’ll find the dazzling hilltop villages of Monsaraz and Marvão, and the marble towns of Estremoz and Vila Viçosa, where the local marble quarries have given an opulent look to many of the buildings.

South of Évora, in the plains of Baixo Alentejo (Lower Alentejo), the attractions lie further apart and can be difficult to see without a car. However, there are some good overnight targets, including the main town of Beja, as well as nearby MouraSerpa and Mértola, all enjoyable historic towns with a wealth of accommodation. The coast, too, is an unexpected joy. Only a few small resorts – prime among them Vila Nova de Milfontes – attract summer crowds, but the beaches are superb and you can reach them all by public transport.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Portugal features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

6 reasons why you should visit Portugal in 2018

6 reasons why you should visit Portugal in 2018

Portugal is less than three hours’ flight time from the UK, while flights from the US are generally available for under $500. Moreover, once you get there, it…

04 May 2018 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
Your Portugal itinerary: 4 road trip ideas to explore the country

Your Portugal itinerary: 4 road trip ideas to explore the country

Portugal is having a real purple patch right now. It’s one of the safest and least expensive countries in Europe with a balmy year-round sunny climate. Your d…

03 May 2018 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
An expert’s guide: the best places to stay in Porto

An expert’s guide: the best places to stay in Porto

Porto’s cityscape of narrow streets and stepped alleys spreads up the steep slopes of the Douro river to a centre full of broad squares, Neoclassical building…

02 May 2018 • Amanda Tomlin insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right