Alentejo Portugal – why you shouldn’t skip it
One of the most surprising regions of Portugal is Alentejo. But what makes this area so special and why should you go to Alentejo?
Before my visit to Alentejo the only part of Portugal I saw was Porto. And that was a very long time ago. During my Porto trip it was all about – you might have guessed – port wine and where it came from. I learned the difference between ruby and tawny port and had a blast. I was blown away by the Portuguese food and drinks, but after that one trip I never went back.
So when I got the invitation to go to Alentejo I couldn’t wait to renew my acquintance with Portugal.
Alentejo is one of the least populated areas of Portugal. You will find it located just under Lisbon and above the Algarve. To get there you either fly to Lisbon or you fly to Farro. From Lisbon it’s a one hour drive to reach Évora, which was our first destination in Portugal.
To give you an idea; in the entire region you will find roughly 750.000 people. And then it’s good to know that the area is about the same size as the Netherlands. And here we have 17 million people in the same space! Now I know we have to many but the difference is huge. It must be so nice to have all that space! Just 29 people for every square kilometer.
But that still doesn’t tell you why you might want to go there.
To start, the region has a few gorgeous old towns. Évora is the capital of the region and it was also the starting point of your trip. I was travelling with Annemarie from My Happy Kitchen, Cathelijne from Reisdoc and Hanno of Grijs op reis. (grey travel) While Annemarie and I concentrated on the culinary pleasure of Évora, Cathelijne and Hanno jumped on bikes to explore the beautiful surroundings.
The first night we have dinner in restaurant Dom Joaquin. One of the local dishes of the region is ‘black pork’ so obviously that was my dinner of choice.
This particular black pig is specific for the region and lives in freedom for about 18-24 months. Their meals consists mostly of acorns which gives the meat a very distinct flavor. Comparable to the Iberico pigs. (but better as our guide would say)
My porc was served with “migas”, another traditional dish that is made with stale bread. The bread is baked with herbs and garlic. It most resembles a breadpudding with a crispy outside..
If you’re looking for a special place to stay then try the M’ar de Ar hotels. This beautiful 5-star hotel is located on the edge of the city. Sadly we only got to spend one single night there but it is definitely worth spending a few days and enjoying the spa and wellness. Plus it gives you more time to explore beautiful Évora as well.
PASTRIES AT PASTELARIA PÃO DE RALA
We received a tip to try the pastries at Pão de rala. After searching the town we managed to find this tiny bakery where we ordered coffee and two delicious pastries. It’s situated somewhat outside of the centre, but it’s not very hard to find (using Google maps) and definitely worth a visit. It’s also fun just sitting there and watching the locals come in, have a cup at the counter and go away again. It’s such a different coffee culture than we are used to. I love watching it. Also make sure to have some space in your belly as they have the best pastries here. Obviously we couldn’t try all pastelaria’s so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
CAPELA DOS OSSOS
While I would like to spend the day eating, my belly usually doesn’t agree. Thankfully there is plenty of other things to see and do in Évora and the good news is that most of the sights are within easy walking distance. If you plan accordingly it’s pretty easy to walk from sight to sight around the city centre.
One slightly macabre thing to see is the chapel of bones or ‘capela dos ossos’. A small chaple that is located next to the St. Francis church. The walls, ceilings and pillars in the chaple are covered with the bones and sculs of more than 5000 (!!) people. They have been dug up for this purpose by the Franciscan monks who placed them in certain patterns on the walls.
Above the chapel there is a museum which you can also visit and is included in the entrance fee to the chapel.
If you’re up for a bit of adventure go and visit Turaventur. They organise various activities such as a bike and hike tour, but also cooking courses, walks and they have a beautiful guesthouse Monte do Serrado de baixo where you can relax after you activities. We enjoyed a delicious lunch with – among other things – a fantastic little snack of tomato jam and cream cheese. I’ve made the recipe myself and will share it later!
Wine from Alentejo
Except known for it’s food, the Alentejo region is also known for it’s delicious wines. Since we had plenty of that during meals I can confirm that it is – indeed – very good wine! 🙂
From the guesthouse we drove to winehouse Cartuxa, where we got a tour of the winery and a wine tasting. The name Cartuxa comes from the nearby monks with the same name. The winery is a foundation and non profit organisation.
If you want to know more about the winery and what kind of delicious wines they have be sure to check out the website.
From the winery our next stop was Marvaõ but I will tell more about that in a later post.