Alentejo is a world apart. It covers a third of Portugal’s landmass, but is home to just five percent of its population. Mention its name to most people and it will conjure up images of gently rolling countryside and panoramic horizons, but the border with Spain is characterized by distinctive granite hills and its long, mostly uninhabited coastline boasts some of the most stunning stretches of pristine beaches in Europe, complete with around 275 days of sunshine annually.
A visit here can seem like a trip back in time, to a landscape of medieval towns, tiny whitewashed houses and castle cities, fortified to protect against enemies who ceased to exist centuries ago.
Traditional culture and trades remain vibrant and central to life here, from cork production to weaving and pottery. This fertile region is also Portugal’s breadbasket, and as such, is home to many local delicacies that act as perfect expressions of Alentejo’s storied and diverse personality. Pork, game, and seafood are all plentiful – as is the local wine, which in recent years has developed quite the reputation internationally.
We’re delighted to have a home at the heart of this unique place, nestled in a vast expanse of undulating countryside, cork forests, olive groves, vineyards and little else.
We like to say that Portugal is European’s cycling’s best kept secret – and that’s not just hyperbole. We really mean it. After spending time here, with its warm people, in a beautiful landscape that’s equally blessed with an ancient culture and a rich culinary tradition, we’d struggle to think of anywhere we’d rather be. Not that we don’t love Italy and France, but riding in Portugal feels like you’ve been let into a secret club, discovering a hidden destination that’s kept hidden to all but a lucky few.
But even with a lengthy list of our favorite things, we’d be selling Alentejo short. Like so many of life’s best experiences, it’s the unquantifiable things that make it so special. More than the beauty or the history or the food, it’s the feeling of it all together when you’re immersed in it, or the sensation of freedom that comes from rolling four hours on empty country roads with nothing but the wind and the chatter of friends to distract you from your surroundings, that leaves the lasting marks and makes the most precious memories.