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Things to Do in Alentejo

Portugal's largest region is also one of its most scenic. The Alentejo is a sprawling landscape with rolling hills, ancient cities, beautiful beaches, and flourishing vineyards. The ancient Portuguese capital of Evora is in the heart of the region and showcases its more than 2,000-year-old history with ancient ruins and fortresses.

The Basics
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Evora is not far from Portugal’s modern-day capital of Lisbon. Many Alentejo tours embark on a full-day excursion from Lisbon for olive oil and wine tastings as well as a visit to Evora, with its ancient Roman temple ruins and famous “Bone Chapel” in the Gothic cathedral. Take in the views of the rolling hillside stretching all the way to Spain and pass by many of the area’s old fortresses used to protect the region from Spanish invasions in the past.
 
Things to Know Before You Go
  • Alentejo is a must-visit for oenophiles and history buffs.
  • Drive along the Alentejo Wine Route to get a well-rounded understanding of the region’s wines.
  • Alentejo is also known for its cuisine, so be sure to stop at some local taverns for some good food.
  • Many of Evora’s attractions, such as the Capela dos Ossos, are free or cost a few euros to enter.
  • Wine tastings should be booked in advance if traveling without a guided tour.

How to Get There
Explore the Alentejo region on a day trip from Lisbon. Evora is an easy 90-minute ride from Lisbon along the A2 and A6 highways. There are also many regional buses leaving from Lisbon to many cities in Alentejo and vice versa.

When to Get There
The dry, hot, and sunny summer months in Alentejo are very popular for tourists who frequent the beaches and larger cities. The crisp and sunny winters, however, are less crowded.

The Beaches of Alentejo
Many people think of the Algarve region as Portugal’s beach area, but Alentejo also features some of the country’s best places to surf and soak up the sun. Villages, such as Zambujeira do Mar, Vila Nova de Milfontes, and the Setubal municipality and nearby estuary, feature beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and less crowded beaches than Algarve.
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Arrábida Natural Park (Parque Natural da Arrábida)
201 Tours and Activities

Golden beaches, steep cliff sides, tall pine trees, and hillsides of Mediterranean greenery characterize Arrabida National Park, a stretch of land along the Portuguese coast between the seaside towns of Setúmbal and Sesimbra. From the summit of Serra da Arrabida, the highest point of the park, to the beaches of Portinho da Arrábida, this area is full of natural beauty. Praia do Figueirinha and the Praia do Creiro are two notable beaches. Small coastal villages with centuries old monasteries and stone forts are present throughout.

Hiking trails are a great way to explore the park; many have sweeping views of the sea and are surrounded by the area’s indigenous plants and animals. The Rota Moinho (Windmills Track) has several traditional windmills to see en route. The town of Pamela is a great place to begin many of the available hikes. On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way to Lisbon.

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Sesimbra
75 Tours and Activities

Along the winding Portuguese coast lies Sesimbra, a small fishing village with a 17th-century fort overlooking the sea. Its 12th-century Moorish stone castle is perched up on jagged cliffs that drop down into calm Setúbal Bay. There is a small historic monastery within the castle walls, and the best mountain and sea views can be seen from a climb to the top.

Sesimbra is famous for its deep sea fishing and fresh seafood. There are several waterfront restaurants serving fresh fish, and fisherman will often auction off their catches from the harbor. The clear, protected waters of the bay create ideal swimming and scuba diving conditions. In addition to active water sports, there are excellent hiking trails, beaches, and natural parks in and just outside of town. With local beaches and an old town to stroll through, it’s easy to enjoy a quieter pace.

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Bacalhôa Wines of Portugal (Bacalhôa Vinhos de Portugal)
24 Tours and Activities

One of the largest wine-producers in Portugal, Bacalhôa Wines is set in a 15th-century castle previously owned by the Portuguese Royal Family. Bacalhôa has a long tradition of winemaking—a family-owned company founded in the 1920s, their wines are made from grapes from seven different wine-regions in Portugal.

Bacalhôa offers tours, tastings, a museum and gardens for visitors to explore. The surrounding grounds include carefully manicured hedges among flowing fountains and reflecting pools. The museum houses the family’s private art collection, which contains pieces from Africa, South America, and Asia as well as stunning examples of Portugal’s traditional azuleijo tiles. A highlight of a visit to the estate is the atmospheric storeroom – where antique wine casks lay in a dark room, adorned with ancient Portuguese tiles.

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Cabo Espichel
78 Tours and Activities

Known for its wild, untamed landscape, Cape Espichel is a southwestern headland in the Setúbal District. The cape meets the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean with dramatic, high-rising cliffs and a wind-blown, barren landscape. Atop the cliffs lies raw, isolated countryside, and many visitors describe the area as mysterious and spiritual.

Beyond the incredible scenery, the cape is home to ruins, fossils and other sights. At the water’s edge there’s a lighthouse, offering great views of the seascape. Also perched at the edge of a cliff is a small, simple white chapel, with the deep blue ocean as its backdrop. There’s also the Santuário de Nossa Senhora, a baroque-style church, built in 1707. The main structure has been well maintained, with original tiles and stonework, and the surrounding area has ruins to explore.

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Badoca Safari Park

While in southwest Portugal, travel to what feels like the heart of Africa by heading to Badoca Safari Park. Situated about an hour and a half south of Lisbon, the wildlife park features animals that are native to Africa and that live in surroundings similar to their natural habitat. To get the full experience, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the critter-filled landscape during a 45-minute safari ride. While on the excursion, you’ll spy wild animals such as giraffes, zebras, camels and more. Other park activities include the lemur experience, during which you can interact with the endangered animals; and a children’s petting zoo, complete with goats, donkeys, lambs, ponies and more. And if you’re keen for more adventure, even go — and get soaked — on the African rafting ride.

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