ALENTEJO

Experience


Lands of the Alqueva

The Alentejo has a clear vocation for Activity Tourism and for Nature Tourism. The beauty of the landscape invites excursions on foot, on mountain bikes and on horseback, and the country lanes known as estradas municipais, despite the absence of cycle lanes, are excellent for cycling-tourism.

On the rivers, the reservoirs and the coast, many water-based activities are possible. The beaches are of the highest quality. And the sky, with this fantastic climate, is ideal for parachuting, paragliding, ballooning and microlight flights.

It was in the Alentejo, a region of scarce water supplies, that the great Alqueva Dam, built across the River Guadiana between Moura and Portel, created the largest artificial lake in Europe. The immense expanse of water has an area of 250 km2, extends for more than 80 kms up the course of the former river and, with its thousand inlets, has a perimeter of 1,160 kms. Downstream from the massive wall was built the Açude (weir) de Pedrógão, partly integrated into the complex, clearly visible from the road that links Pedrógão (Vidigueira) to Moura. 

The new beauty that came into being with this lake is surprising and it has many aspects that make it a special case compared to the many reservoirs that can be found in other parts of the world: the typically Alentejan landscape that surrounds it, made up of thousands of olive trees, cork oaks and holm oaks; and, because we are in a frontier zone, the notable heritage of fortified towns and villages which have defended it throughout the centuries.

For those travelling independently, whether by cycle or by car, we strongly suggest you travel round the whole of the lake. The opportunities for finding accommodation are many and the roads offer panoramic views. Of all the places this route will take you to, these are the ones you should feel obliged to visit for their interesting heritage: on the western bank, Juromenha, Alandroal, Terena, Monsaraz and Portel; and on the eastern, Mourão and Moura. The new Aldeia da Luz, which has taken the place of the former (the only village to be submerged by the waters of the Alqueva), has a symbolic value that is undeniable. Don’t miss the Museum, which is a precious repository of memories of the former village and of the River Guadiana.

What can you do in this area?
Beginning with those on the reservoir, there is a substantial range of activities offered by local enterprises: as well as sports fishing for various species, among which are the famous black bass, you can engage in canoeing or in trips in small motorboats, you can cruise for various days and, something unique in Portugal, you can rent houseboats for 2 to 12 people. Also available: sports-fishing trips, floating landing stages with motorboats, canoes and kayaks, sailing boats, motorboat excursions and windsurfers.

As far as flying activities are concerned, the emotion waits for you. By helicopter, light aircraft or balloon, all are unforgettable experiences.

In respect of earthbound experiences, those who enjoy organised excursions can make trips on foot, by bicycle, on horseback, by horse and carriage and by 4x4. Within the area that comes under the influence of Alqueva, independent travellers will find some signposted excursions (PRs). This is the case with three PRs in the council area of Alendroal: PR1, "Rota do Giro” (begins at the Igreja (church) de N.ª S.ª da Consolação, 4.5 kms, medium difficulty); and PR3, "Passeios pelo Campo” (begins next to the cemetery in Terena, 11 kms, medium difficulty). For more information, consult the website www.cm-alandroal.pt

There are many others at the project stage, particularly in the Reguengos de Monsaraz council area, where you can now do the Percurso do Telheiro, which begins at the beautiful fountain in the village. When you visit the Tourist Offices in the Alqueva region, ask for updated information.

Nature Park of Noudar
Noudar is one example of this conjunction of circumstances in relation to the great lake. You are obliged to take a detour to get to the edge of the reservoir, but it is worth it: for Noudar Castle, for the famous Barrancos ham and for the Nature Park. Built within the ambit of measures for planned compensation within the Programme for the Environmental Management of the Alqueva, the object of this complex is to promote the management of sustainable development in Nature in association with environmentally-friendly agriculture and tourism. (www.parquenoudar.com)

Because of the value of its natural heritage, especially the holm-oak montado (woodland and pasture) and the bird life (raptors and vultures), this zone has been included in the Natura 2000 Network.

You will gain a better understanding of the essence of the landscape through three excursions: the Trilho Geológico-Mineiro (geology-mining trail), the short walk O Monte (traditional farm complex) and the excursion A Estrada (the road).

You can do these independently, on foot or by bicycle, with guides or with digital guides.

Returning to Moura, don’t forget to pass by Amareleja, where the largest photovolcaic solar power-station in the world has been built.

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From Farm to Table
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Alentejo Museum Guide
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Time to be Happy
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