Twenty kilometres north of Portalegre, the small town of CASTELO DE VIDE throws up one of the nicest surprises in the Alto Alentejo. A castle rises up above a fairy-tale townscape of bright white houses, while steep cobbled streets and placid squares are lined with well-watered pots of geraniums, tumbling house plants and 2m-high sunflowers. Mineral springs pepper the local hills and the town is full of public fountains in shaded gardens and gleaming praças – at the top of town, Praça Alta provides sweeping views across the plain. It’s one of those places that begs an aimless, meandering stroll, and it’s very easy to find you’ve spent a couple of days here doing not very much at all quite happily.
With a car or a bike you can also spend an enjoyable day tracking down dolmens, menhirs and antas, which are the remains of an important megalithic culture that once flourished between the modern-day settlements of Castelo de Vide, the Barragem de Póvoa and the village of Póvoa e Meadas, 10km to the north. The turismo has useful leaflets and more information.