Alentejo is vast, as vast as it is rich and surprising every bit we discover. Being the largest Portuguese region in area, it is all but densely populated, and this for us is excellent and means that much of the trip is made in the company of the natural beauty of landscapes and animals.
However, and although this is one of the regions of the country in which is easier to contact with nature, it is the people who make it truly captivating. With that in mind, we wanted to explore a little of Alentejo (What was possible in 2 days and with 38ºC) following mainly its history and its traditions. As we mentioned in the previous post we were housed in Évora and the itinerary we showed you was actually distributed in the 2 days that we passed through Alentejo lands.
We passed through several cities, towns and villages, vineyards and vineyards, olive groves and pastures, but we tried to select the main points of the course, which we now share with you.
City of Reguengos de Monsaraz
After a 1h30min journey from Lisbon to the center of the Alentejo our first official stop was in Reguengos de Monsaraz. This city of 7000 inhabitants is often forgotten in favor of its parish of Monsaraz, which we will address later, but in reality it deserves a stop.
Our main highlight goes to the church, right in the center of the city and impresses with its imposing style and simultaneously different from everything that is customary, especially by the presence of blue in almost all its facade. The main bell tower is quite high and the side arches make this church a place worthy of a closer look.
The beauty of this city extends to the streets of its historical center, typically whitewashed and marked with a colored stripe and also to the building of the City Hall, a work that always reminds us of where we are. It is also in this area that are the main wineries of the Alentejo, so if you want to know more about this wine region or schedule a visit to one of the many wineries in the region, you can do so at the tourist office of the city.
We speak of one of the most emblematic places in Alentejo, the village of Monsaraz. From an early age this place was marked by history, having received its title letter in 1276 and remaining for many years as a key point in the frontier defense of the Portuguese Kingdom. Nowadays this is a place that you definitely can not miss in any route through the Alentejo.
When we pass the stonewall at first sight it is unique, or we were not in a place where all the streets are of stone and houses typically whitewashed, in a continuous sequence only interrupted by the churches of old aspect and the tower of the castle in the background. A few meters after entering the village we found a small grocery store that remained faithful to the past, keeping the traditional Portuguese products neat in the cabinets of varnished wood and the typical scale of dishes that we now rarely find.
The route through the village continues and after we have walked around the keep, where the Monsaraz tourist office is located and a very pleasant café, we arrive at one of the high points of this village, its main square, with the pillory in the center and the magnificent church next to it. It pays to enter the church which is very well preserved and appreciate a little of its wealth in sacred art.
The passage through Monsaraz is not complete without the lunch stop at the restaurant “Sabores de Monsaraz“, already several times referenced in the guide “Good Bed, Good Table” and also in the Michelin guide. It is impossible to remain indifferent to the sympathy of Mrs. Isabel and to the taste of the typical dishes that she makes and that leave us crying for more.
Town of Luz
As soon as we descend the mountain in which Monsaraz is, we enter the one that is now territory of the Alqueva. You will certainly be reminded of the ancient village of Luz that was “sacrificed” for that to be born there which is the largest artificial lake in Europe. We did not want to stop visiting the new village of Luz.
If we were given the possibility of building the city of Lisbon from scratch elsewhere, something that would be guaranteed is that It would be made in the image of its typical and brand architecture and that is exactly what happened to the village of Luz. In 2002 it was built in a typical Alentejo style and very harmonized and this is the reason why it should be visited because it is an organized image of the modern idea of Alentejo.
Pass by car, on foot, or by bicycle, but do not forget to navigate the wide streets of this village or rest a little in the main square.
With almost 100m of height and 500m of width, the Alqueva dam was responsible for the profound change that occurred in this Alentejo zone. In fact it allowed the development of several activities of leisure and tourism that now are dispersed by the arms of the bay and that seem to have no end.
We advise a stop next to the main gate where you can usually see a large artificial lake that stubbornly seems to coexist with the dry and populated banks of cork trees. It is also here that is the famous metallic panel of letters that invites more artistic photos. If you want to refresh yourself, you can find a good river beach less than 300 meters from this place or you can take a 1 hour cruise in Alqueva.
To the end we left the one that is the capital of Alentejo, a city with a lot of history and many stories, tales and legends and good food. Faced with a scorching heat we still did not want to stop exploring what this magnificent city has to offer us. The route then started with the ascent to the famous Giraldo square. Here, we are easily dazzled by this rossio surrounded by stone archways on all sides, with the well-tended fountain in the center and the Church of Santo Antão at its top, now renewed.
From here, we continue through the narrow streets, but always full of history, to the most famous traction of this city: The Temple of Diana. This monument, also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the first century a.C and is an open image to the Roman architecture of the then-called town of Ebora.
Soon afterwards it is impossible to escape from the Cathedral of Evora. This monument built in 1250 in the Gothic style still deserves an attentive visit. Its towers constitute the tallest building in the city, being visible to tens of kilometers away. We did not visit the interior of the Cathedral (Entrance is paid and has a cost of € 3), however, it is possible to climb to the middle terrace and enjoy a privileged view.
We also visited the chapel of the bones, being situated in the renovated church of San Francisco. Its message is clear and aims to reinforce the limited duration of life and the fragility of it. For the construction of this chapel were used bones from two existing cemeteries and that include the remains of adults and children.
By this time the heat was at its strongest, so we thought it would be good to end our journey through the city. (Aware that there would be a lot more to explore in this one and that It is an incredible city full of things to show and tell).
In our itinerary we also made brief passages through Mourão, Moura, Portel and Arraiolos, all of them places worthy of a longer visit, due to the historical and patrimonial richness they offer. We loved these 2 days in the Alentejo lands and we are sure that we will return to complete the itinerary and visit more areas of Alentejo, but in the near future, with less heat!