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By Katie Bowman, journalist for The Times

Featured in the Times on 23 June 2023. Copy written by Katie Bowman, holiday prices by the Sunvil team.

Dreamy places to stay in the Alentejo From cutting-edge design hotels and breezy seaside pads to arty rural suites and palaces with pools
I didn’t even know I was going to the Alentejo the first time I visited; I simply wanted to sun myself in the famed beach enclave of Comporta, and only realised where I was when I arrived. That’s because the Alentejo’s greatest hits are so much more famous than the album: Evora, the regional capital, a Unesco site and “city-museum”; Monsaraz with its castles and lakes; Troia, the seaside weekend destination beloved of Lisboetas; historic Estremoz and its fabulous weekend market; and Comporta — that string of sandy, stylish beach towns whose seafood restaurants and kaftan shops were enough to pull me,500 miles southwards. We might have heard of the sights, but if asked to place Alentejo on a map, we’d maybe stumble.

Yet, the Alentejo is Portugal’s biggest region, stretching from the Algarve in the south to beyond Marvao in the north, with an epic Atlantic coastline to the west and Spain to the east — it’s vast. But with no airports or big cities, it’s better known for two things: farming and rural tourism. My hunch is you’re moreinterested in the latter, and in ticking off all the extraordinary destinations listed above. Which means you’ll fly into Lisbon or Faro and jump straight in the hire car (Comporta is 90 minutes from Lisbon; the Costa Vicentina, great for hiking, about 80 miles from Faro).

If you want to bask on the beaches of Comporta — as I did — the good news is they’re as effortlessly, un-obnoxiously cool as ever, nothing like the “Hamptons” nor the “Ibiza of Portugal” they’ve been dubbed. That’s because this 30-mile coastline in the north of the region is so fearsomely protected by the state, that you could have a mile of that sand to yourself in mid-August. Yes, there are pockets of development allowed (at Troia, Comporta, Carvalhal and Melides villages — all collectively known as “Comporta”, where the beach hotels and boutiques congregate) but absolutely nothing in between. These are the ingredients for the perfect beach-holiday recipe.

As for inland exploration, you’ll be equally well rewarded. As the days passed on my first seductive visit — more than a decade ago now — day trips got longer, our escapades further afield. We ventured to pretty towns such as riverside Alcacer do Sal and market-lined Grandola, which became staples on second and third visits to the Alentejo. The driving is dreamy: empty roads carving through cork and olive groves, where umbrella pine trees grow straight up from the sand dunes, then — as you approach Spain — it’s much more mountainous, and all of a sudden you’ll spot a whitewashed village such as Monsaraz, like a cherry on a craggy cake of rock.

And then there’s the wine! A reserva rosé from Herdade daComporta is better than any Provençal drop. And don’t forget the lakes: Alqueva, near the Spanish border, is so large it has sandy beaches, and country estates nearby welcome guests with local produce and four-poster beds. Meanwhile, the hiking and mountain bike trails of the southwest, which lead into the Algarve, have even been given preservation status: the Vicentine Coast Natural Park.

The region has a wonderful collection of villas and hotels, and many properties off er both options — make sure there’s a fridgein which to store all that chilled rosé.

1. Pousada Castelo, Alcacer do Sal

Like so many other pousadas (formerly state-governed historic hotels), this place is a destination in itself — in this case, a medieval hilltop castle. But rather than making you drive hours to reach a rural spot, Pousada Castelo is only an hour from Lisbon and under 30 minutes from the beaches of Comporta in the pretty riverside town of Alcacer do Sal. Expect flag stone corridors, arch-trimmed courtyards and even an underground archaeological crypt, as well as traditional but light rooms, some with original features.

Seven night holidays inclusive of return flights and car hire from £806 per person (based on 2 sharing).

Pousada do Castelo, Alcacer do Sal

2. Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, Albernoa

The Alentejo is known as Portugal’s breadbasket, and this 4.5 sqkm country estate is doing a big chunk of production, farming everything from black pork and pure-bred beef, to vineyard grapes. No surprise given the region’s size, there’s room enough on the property for five villas (plus a hotel and restaurant, where breakfast is served), which range from blue-washed traditional cottages to glass-and-concrete pavilions. No need to get in the car either; you can enjoy balloon rides, cookery lessons, wine tasting, or go canoeing on site.

Seven night holidays inclusive of return flights and car hire from £1,186 per person (based on 2 sharing)

Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, Albernoa

3. Herdade da Montalvo, Alcacer do Sal

Your sat-nav will show you’re only 15 minutes’ drive from the trendy beaches of Comporta and Carvalhal here, but the two spots are worlds apart. That’s because you’ve driven directly inland, through dense pine and cork groves, to a collection of villas hidden from the road. Lake Villa is a great three-bedroom home with a wood-burner and pool table for autumnal evenings, or barbecue and outdoor dining area if you’re fortunate enough to bag a week in summer. The terracotta-roofed home is painted in the classic white-and-yellow of the region, its L-shape wrapped around a large, private pool.

Seven night holidays inclusive of return flights and car hire from £640 per person (based on 2 sharing)

Herdade da Montalvo, Alcacer do Sal

4. Monte do Zambujeiro, Vila Nova de Milfontes

Location, location, location: that’s the super power of this herdade — or rural estate — that’s on the banks of the River Mira(the shared pool literally teeters over it) but also less than ten minutes’ drive from the beach. As with so many herdades in Portugal, there are individual hotel suites on off er at Monte do Zambujeiro, but also villas in the grounds, the most independent being Casa do Caseiro. It’s a lovely two-bedroom cottage, set away from the main building but with access to the spectacular saltwater pool, hammocks and main farm housebuilding for free homemade breakfasts.

Seven night holidays inclusive of return flights and car hire from £600 per person (based on 2 sharing).

Herdade do Zambujeiro, Vila Nova de Milfontes

5. M'Ar de Ar Aqueduto, Evora

Within the walls of the ancient city, just five minutes’ walk from Giraldo Square and its terrace cafés, this luxury pad sits in a Unesco World Heritage site. That’s because in a former life it was the Sepulveda Palace and what was once a regal courtyard now holds a gorgeous swimming pool and sunbeds enough for your ladies in waiting. The 16th-century chapel, vaulted ceilings and Manueline windows have all been preserved, so you can do a good chunk of your sightseeing before you’ve even left for lunch. Rooms are neutral in crowd-pleasing beige and grey,many with balconies and terraces.

Seven night holidays inclusive of return flights and car hire from £618 per person (based on 2 sharing).

M'Ar de Ar Aqueduto, Evora

6. Convento do Espinheiro, Evora

A short drive from Evora, this 15th-century convent with gilt interiors has been frequented by kings and queens — and there’s a free tour for guests each evening to take it all in. Don’t miss the pristine manicured gardens, sunlit pool, spa and a wine bar in the stone cellars (where the monks used to store rainwater) too. Rooms are suitably grand with carved mahogany headboards, velvet Chesterfield sofas and cut-glass chandeliers.

Seven night holidays inclusive of return flights and car hire from £880.00 per person (based on 2 sharing).

Convento do Espinheiro, Evora

The Sunvil Family

By The Sunvil Family

2nd August 2023



The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family

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