On the vast golden plains of Alentejo, the peaceful landscape is but a curtain that opens on to an unimaginable heritage.
One is first taken by surprise by the remarkable traces of successive cultures: dolmens and cromlechs, Roman and Arab vestiges mingling with the most recent signs of Christianity, of which the numerous medieval castles that stand out in the vast plain are but one example.
To the northeast are the beautiful villages and towns which make up the so-called Rota dos Castelos (Castle Route): Nisa, Castelo de Vide, Marvão, Portalegre and Alter do Chão. Further south, the landscape becomes warmer and flatter; around Évora (one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal), are Monsaraz, Vila Viçosa, Estremoz, and Arraiolos (renowned for its hand made tapestries, based on traditional drawings from the 17th and 18th centuries). Driving on to the south, the vast plains become less inhabited and sunnier, the only shade being provided by olive trees and oak trees, and the only amenity being provided by refreshing dams. A trip to Alvito, Beja (where one can stay in historic pousadas), Serpa and Mértola will be worth your time. The coastline to the west offers the visitor magnificent Atlantic beaches.
Area around Lisbon
Palace-Convent, built in the 18th century, is the largest Portuguese religious monument. It consists of royal apartments, magnificent library, bell tower and basilica.
(Classified in the UNESCO World Heritage list) In the center stands the National Palace, with its beautiful painted rooms and huge pair of conical chimneys, the village’s ex-libris. Other palaces: Pena (royal palace, 19th century), Seteais (18th century and currently a luxurious hotel) and Monserrate, renowned for its gardens and water courses. The churches of São Martinho (Romanesque origin), Santa Maria (Romanesque-Gothic) and São Pedro de Penaferrim (15th-16th-centuries). Nearby are the church of Santo António do Penedo (16th-century) and Peninha Chapel (Baroque tile works). The Toy Museum, over 20 000 pieces from the 16th to the 20th-century and the Berardo Collection of Modern Art. In the suburbs: the Capuchos Convent (16th-century) and Cabo da Roca (the westernmost point in continental Europe).
Ponte de Sor- The city's name is derived from the first roman bridge, which was part of the 3rd military road connecting Lisbon to Merida. An area of upheaval in between borders during the reconquest, Ponte de Sor, which initially belonged to the Templars, was taken back by the Order of St. Benedict. Its first "Foral Charter" was bestowed upon it by the Diocese of Évora in 1161, and later ratified by D. Manuel. Once the roman bridge was gone, King João VI had the bridge that stands today built in 1822
Portalegre - A town located close to the border of Spain that has strong religious background and this is evident by the number of churches and monasteries dating from the 13th Century.
What to see: the Cathedral, St.Bernardo Convent, the church of St. Francisco Monastery (13th-18th cent.), and the Regional, Sacred Art, Municipal Library and Casa de José Régio Museums, the ruined castle which is is of medieval origin.
Alentejo / Blue Coast / Dolphin Coast
Santiago do Cacém - This is a village has a majestic castle of Arab origin, it was completely rebuilt by the Christians in the 12Ith century. Beside the castle is the São Pedro Chapel, which dates from the 7th century, while the main church dates from the 8th century. Near Santiago do Cacém one should visit the archeological site of Miróbriga, which was an important urban centre in Roman times. The site contains a hippodrome, houses decorated with mural paintings, an acropolis, a forum and a very rich bathing complex, which is one of the best preserved in the country.
Sines - is part of the St. Vincent and Southwest Alentejo Coast Natural Park, one of the best-preserved coast areas in Europe. There are some of the finest Portuguese beaches ("praias"), small bright sand sheets among huge rocks creating an ambience of intimacy and exclusiveness (we point out Praia Grande de Porto Covo, Praia da Ilha, Praia de Morgavel).
Lagoa de Santo André, Santiago do Cacém.
As the region with the highest thermal amplitude (going down to 5°C or up to 33°C), Alentejo is a scarcely populated region with quite open horizons, where the rhythm of life follows the idle sound of regional songs.
Cork trees, a typical Alentejo landscape.
Amongst the towers and walls of the medieval castle stand the Paços do Concelho and Hospital da Misericórdia. Worthwhile visiting: the Cathedral, São Bernardo Convent, the church of São Francisco Monastery (13th-18th centuries), and the Regional, Sacred Art, Municipal Library and Casa de José Régio Museums.
Santiago do Cacém
This is a village lying to the south of Setúbal. Its majestic castle of Arab origin was completely rebuilt by the Christians in the 12th-century. Beside the castle is the São Pedro Chapel, which dates from the 7th-century, while the main church dates from the 8th-century. Near Santiago do Cacém one should visit the archeological site of Miróbriga, which was an important urban center in Roman times. The site contains a hippodrome, houses decorated with mural paintings, an acropolis, a forum and a very rich bathing complex, which is one of the best preserved in the country.