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Money saving and environmentally friendly ways to explore Portugal

Looking at car rental prices and not smiling? Worried about high fuel and toll costs? Well, you can stick to big cities, and explore on foot. But what if you want to see the heart of a country, the small towns and special places that seem only accessible by car? 

Portugal has a modern and efficient public transport network that offers access to the entire country. Trains, buses, and car service are easy, clean, fast, and user-oriented. And you can combine rail and bus to get where you want, saving a good deal on rentals, fuel, and tools. Plus, don’t forget hiking and biking.

Not far from Lisbon, public transport in the Alentejo is very affordable, and a great alternative. Here are some suggestions:

Take the train:

CP, Portugal’s national rail network is made up of mainlines and branch lines with a total length of 2,526 km of passenger service. Some 1,791.2 km, or 70.8% of the network, is electrified. There are 460 passenger train stations and stops along the network. And, new investments are growing the service and restoring train sets. Ticket prices are affordable, so book ahead and save online.

In the Alentejo, there is good rail service to all major cities, and it is well connected to bus service to smaller towns and cities. As an example, Évora’s train and bus stations are near each other, and the central Praça do Giraldo is just a walk away. In fact, most stations are in or near downtown.

Private tours:

Private car tours are easily arranged with a driver/guide in a comfortable private car, offering great access. The cost is often less than a week’s rental, and you can enjoy the landscape and discover the real Portugal with a local guide.

Take the bus:

Portugal has a host of private bus operators, mostly organized into regional companies, that offer a network of bus services that extend beyond the reaches of the trail system. Connections to the Alentejo by bus are easy from Faro, Lisbon and Porto on several carriers. Once in the Alentejo, getting around by bus is easy and affordable. Rede-Expressos has a fleet of high quality buses, with free WiFi and seats with electrical outlets for charging. Rodoviaria do Alentejo operates 23 passenger bus terminals with a fleet of 312 buses, crisscrossing the region every day. 

On foot:

From mountains and waterfalls, to cliffs by the ocean, to flatlands, there are endless miles of trails to hike in the Alentejo. In the Northern Alentejo, explore the greenery of the Sao Mamede Mountain on the Feel Nature route, that leads you to the Portas de Rodão natural Monument, where two giant hills soar over the landscape. Further South you can choose from 11 routes on the TransAlentejo trails that follow the Spanish-Portuguese border, or Raia. Vast views over the hills of the Guadiana River, walled villages, ancient Stonehenge like rock circles, centuries old forts, Roman and Moorish ruins, and the Alqueva Lake are some of the things to explore. For hikes overlooking the Atlantic and with a cool sea breeze, Rota Vicentina is a perfect option. With around 280 miles of trails along the Southwestern Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, this network was named Europe’s Leading Quality Trail. The Alentejo’s Atlantic coastline has miles of wild and often secluded beaches carved into the cliffs and covers more than 60 miles of protected land and beaches, stretching from São Torpes near Sines to Cape St. Vincent, Europe’s most south westerly point. This protected area has 35 certified habitats housing more than 100 rare species of plants, and the cliffs hide nests of white storks. Two trails follow the coast, with places to stay, dine, and re-equip — no car needed and the trails offer access to deserted beaches, fishing villages and natural landscapes to admire. 

On a bike:

Ride on a bike and explore the Alentejo’s plains and hills on two wheels, cutting through the cork forests and roads of Portugal’s most extensive cycling routes. Cycle along the coastline on the Eurovelo trail, also known as the Atlantic Coast Route. Cycling the Alentejo is an unforgettable way to explore. Cycling through rolling fields of wildflowers and olive trees, you'll discover walled villages, white-washed and trimmed in blue or yellow. Companies can follow and meet you on the route, and make the cycle trip easy and manageable.

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