The Alentejo region is all about 'cork, pork and walk', home as it is to beautiful cork oak forests and rural countryside that could tempt even the most committed urbanite to explore by foot and elegant wine estates. 'Pata negra', Portugal's answer to parma ham (and better, in our humble opinion), is also plentiful in the region thanks to the acorn-fed black pigs. With a beautiful beachfronted coastline and a crop of recent boutique spa hotel openings, we've declared this unexplored location as Portugal's next big thing for luxury holidayers.
The Alentejo has a wonderful climate, making it an ideal holiday destination to visit all year round. The summer months can be a little hot for some, but for those who can handle it and can find a spot by a swimming pool, it can be very manageable. In the spring the Alentejo blossoms and the weather is warm and thoroughly conducive to a short break away from still wintery Britain. This is also a great time to see the harvesting of local vineyards. The autumn and winter months are a little cooler but are great for wining and dining and curling up by an open fire.
But the region isn't all about undulating plains, gentle hills and forests; there's also a killer coastline of unspoilt beaches to explore while on holiday in the Alentejo. Among the miles of deserted beaches is the hip town of Comporta, Portugal's best kept secret and a haven for Lisbon's beautiful people. There are big plans for Comporta (including, rumour has it, an Aman) but the jury is out as to whether too much development might spoil an area that just now gets the balance between chic and under the radar just right.
It is worth taking a day or two to explore the Alentejo's UNESCO World Heritage town of Evora. It is architecturally rich, with Roman temples, cathedrals and churches. There are also several authentic cafes and restaurants to fuel a day of sightseeing.
With the Alentejo only being a short distance from Lisbon or the Algarve, a holiday here can be combined with another of our Portuguese favourites.