Alentejo and Slow Tourism : A Match made in Heaven
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Alentejo is my favourite region in Portugal. It possesses an untouched beauty I have yet to find in another part of the country. This (still mostly) undiscovered land is the ultimate place to experience slow tourism. The region’s unhurried pace encourages you to move slower and appreciate the simple things in life like warm sunshine on your skin, long lunches with friends, figs plucked straight from the tree and local wine poured by the jug. The people are the warmest I’ve met and I have never felt so welcome anywhere as I do in Alentejo.
Visit Alentejo and you’ll eat, breathe and live the good life.
Despite an overall feeling of ‘tranquilidade’ in the Alentejo there are also pockets of promising innovation and exciting energy; inspiring people and unique experiences that offer a glimpse into the spirit of the Portuguese. I continue to be enchanted by the bond shared between the people who live here and the land that supports them. Every time I visit I want to chat with everyone I meet in the hope that some of that connectedness rubs off on me.
Alentejo is a large region, 27,272 square kilometres to be precise. The region can be split into 3 main areas : alto, centro and baixo. As you drive from top to bottom you’ll notice the scenery continuously changes; another reason to explore the region deeply.
Baixo Alentejo : What to Expect
Baixo Alentejo is the lower part of the region and is bordered by Algarve to the south, Spain to the west and central Alentejo to the north . Here, colours are soft and hills are rolling. Captivating towns and villages give way to olive groves and vines. In summer sunflowers grow tall and the afternoon heat invites you to do nothing but rest until dinner with friends. It is impossible to describe the feeling that this region stirs up within, the only way to understand the magic of Baixo Alentejo is to visit yourself.
Burrico d’Orada is country lodging and an experience provider in Baixo Alentejo. The story behind this family-run business is one of love, respect and dedication. Rita grew up with a vision, a vision that included welcoming guests to her beloved grandparent’s home in the heart of Baixo Alentejo. In 2020 she managed to bring that childhood dream to life and in the process has created something truly special. There is only one person who can tell the story and that is Rita so hop over to Burrico d’Orada and read her words.
Where to Stay in Baixo Alentejo
Needless to say Burrico d’Orada would be my first choice when deciding where to stay. This country lodging is bang in the middle of Baixo Alentejo between Moura and Vidigueira (both worth of a visit) and is also just a short drive away from the new river beach – essential for cooling off in the summer. There are several lodging options at Burrico d’Orada which you can check out here.
I stayed in the gorgeous Casa das Oliveiras. This two bedroom , two bathroom country house is spacious and cool (even in the summer months). The house is decorated beautifully with furniture restored by Rita, paintings by Rita’s mother and cushions embroidered by Rita’s grandma. Every detail has been considered. The kitchen is fully equipped and the beds are comfy (and huge). My favourite spot is the small patio looking out over the garden – perfect for breakfast or a glass of vinho.
The breakfast it worth a special mention. Just look at that spread (swooooon). Rita freshly prepares the basket each morning and it is filled to the brim with local, organic goodies; all the produce is from Baixo Alentejo and many of the treats are from the Burrico d’Orada garden itself. These carefully considered details is one of the reasons I fell in love with this place.
Best Experiences in Baixo Alentejo
Something I am really keen to share is that Baixo Alentejo is not just about relaxing. It can be if you want it to be, it is very easy to sink into that dreamy holiday feeling here, but that isn’t *all* it’s about. If you’re anything like me there is only so much ‘chilling’ you can do before you get a bit bored. If this is the case you will be happy you chose Baixo Alentejo. There is enough to keep you entertained day in and out if that’s what your looking for. These experiences allow you to get up close and personal with the spirit and beauty of the Alentejo. Remember these experiences shouldn’t be rushed. Don’t try and do too much, take your time to dive deeply into everything Baixo Alentejo has to offer and you will be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime.
This huge dam is the largest in Europe and a must-visit if you are in the area. Baixo Alentejo is extremely dry, especially in summer so it is natural to crave to be close to the water. Alqueva is your saviour!
If you really want to make the most of the Alqueva dam then book yourself in for an activity on the water.
A unique way to experience this watery paradise is by SUP (stand-up paddle board). Book a tour with Alentejo Break and you will be able to enjoy a different perspective of the landscape. The dam is the perfect place to learn paddle boarding thanks to the calm water and if it’s your first experience you’ll be up, standing and paddling in no time. Alentejo Break also run night canoeing tours with a picnic under the stars!
If you’re looking for a less active but equally ‘up close and personal’ experience you can explore the dam with Alqueva Tours. Join a guided boat tour for a relaxed journey around the dam and discover all the nooks and crannies for yourself. Aquelva tours also run sunset cruises with region wine – yes please!
A Day in Moura
A trip to Baixo Alentejo wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Moura. Moura is an enchanting city to walk around and streets like this are easy to come by. Go, wander, get lost.
Local Wine and Regional Produce Tasting at Casa Cavalheiro
Baixo Alentejo has an embarrassing amount of DOP products to be proud of including wine, cheese, olive oil and black pork. If you are looking for some genuine products to take home then a stop off at the beautiful Casa Cavalheiro is a must. The shop has a 100 year history and is owned by Gina and Manuel Luis who are quite possibly the friendliest people you will ever meet. Casa Cavalheiro produce their own cured meats and the whole process is done within the shop. They also offer wine and petisco tasting.
There is no denying it, summer afternoons in Baixo Alentejo can be stifling. When it get’s to that point in the day there is only one thing for it – ice cream! I had had the most delicious ‘Dom Rodrigo’ ice cream at Caprixus (who creates all-natural ice cream) which definitely made the crazy heat more enjoyable.
If you are looking for an authentic feed (and local wine menu) while in Moura I can recommend O Vermelhudo. Rita from Burrico d’Orada knows all the best places for a true lunch or dinner experience in the city so be sure to ask for more recommendations.
aaaand relax! Massage!
Late afternoon massage in a warm breeze under an olive tree? Yes please! If you really want to get into the spirit of chilling then definitely indulge in a massage with VIP Relax.
Eat, Drink and Enjoy the Moment : Savour the flavours with Alentejana cuisine
Alentejo is home to some of the Portugal’s best cuisine. One of my favourite ways to experience a region is through food and local restaurants. If you seek out the most authentic restaurants you will not only be able to taste mouthwatering dishes you’ll also get to experience a little piece of the Alentejana lifestyle. The atmosphere in these types of restaurants is one that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
So what is there to say about the cuisine in Alentejo? Let’s start with this. Alentejo is a ‘meaty’ place. I eat a pescatarian diet most of the time and for me at least, Alentejana food is very heavy. However even I was able to appreciate the perfectly cooked, ridiculously tasty, porco preto (black pork) in this local restaurant in Pias. Another must-try dish is migas. I don’t know how to describe this other than it’s a stodgy, bready heaven; the sort of thing I crave during a hangover. Not forgetting carne de porco à Alentejana (black pork with clams) which is another very tasty restaurant staple.
If you are not a big meat eater then there are lighter options in the form of beautiful fish dishes including gaspacho a Alentejana with carapauzinhos fritos (little, crispy, fried fish) – delicious on a hot summer day!
Fresh veggies and fruit can be found in abundance in local markets across Baixo Alentejo and buying your groceries here is another great way to experience local life.
Not forgetting the delicious Alentejana sheep’s cheese including Serpa’s DOP version. Head to Serpa market to stock up on the very best cheese and enjoy with a picnic somewhere in the Baixo Alentejo countryside.
Rita from Burrico d’Orada can point you in the direction of the very best restaurants for a local vibe and typical (and delicious) cuisine.
WINE EXPERIENCES BAIXO ALENTEJO
I obviously couldn’t write about the best experiences available in Baixo Alentejo without mentioning my newest passion- wine! If you are a wine aficionado then you already know about this incredible wine region. As someone who had little interest in wine until a few a years ago finding Alentejo was a welcome surprise. Portugal has a blanket of vineyards from north to south and unearthing as many as possible is my current goal. So you can imagine how happy I was (beaming) to be invited to join 5 wine experiences during my last trip to Baixo Alentejo. I’m working on a separate guide for wine experiences in Alentejo (stay tuned) but in the meantime here are 5 you need to include in your Baixo Alentejo itinerary right now.
5 WINE EXPERIENCES IN BAIXO ALENTEJO
HERDADE DO ROCIM – If there is one thing that runs through all that they do at Herdade do Rocim it is a respect for the terroir; the land. Minimal intervention is practiced in the wine making process and the vineyard has a certified organic production area . At Herdade do Rocim they use a mix of modern and traditional methods including Talha.
We had a fantastic tour and tasting led by Bruno. I came away with a new favourite bottle of wine and a love for the grape ale ‘Mimi’ (made in Talha) both of which are produced from the native grape variety antão vaz. Herdade do Rocim offers several options for tours, tastings and experiences and also has a wine bar and restaurant.
HERDADE GRANDE – An emblematic estate with a 100 year history. The family have been celebrating offerings from the land for four generations and work to preserve the iconic varieties from this region. Herdade Grande produce wines with character and elegance.
Herdade Grande offers several wine tasting options that take place in a beautiful room overlooking the vines. They also offer a sunset picnic (vegan version available) with regional produce and wine. In my eyes this would be the perfect Alentejo experience and I will definitely be booking into next time I am in the area.
QUINTA DO PARAL – With a focus on sustainability and craftsmanship Quinta do Paral produced distinguished and high quality wines.
We were lucky enough to try some very special wines here. Usually I don’t enjoy rosé wines, I find them too sweet. Quinta do Paral changed my mind on rosé and I think I’ll be enjoying a good few bottles from this vineyard over the summer.
QUINTA DO QUETZAL – Quinta do Quetzal produces wines exclusively with grapes from the area and protects ancient traditions in a modern wine cellar. You can choose from many tours, tastings and unique experiences at quinta do Quetzal but make sure you don’t miss out on dining in the restaurant.
The restaurant on the estate is one of my favourite wine/restaurants experiences I have been lucky enough to experience in Portugal to date. You would be hard pushed to find another restaurant in the area with views to match the excellent food and wine. The atmosphere is ‘just right’ , relaxed and inviting, light and airy. I would go back in a heartbeat.
ADEGA VIDIGUEIRA – A modern and prominent vineyard working with 300 partners. The Vidigueira Co-operative was created to protect the vineyards, wine and grape varieties such as the native antão vaz in the sub-region Vidigueira.
Rita from Burrico d’Orada can help book and organise all of these experiences and more. Do you have something particular in mind? Rita know’s Baixo Alentejo inside out and can help you create your dream trip.
So there you have it – Baixo Alentejo – a land to be discovered and savoured. If you are looking for a way to experience real Portugal then dive into slow tourism in Alentejo. Boas viagens!