What’s New In Alentejo, Portugal
To many Portuguese — the Alentejo is a country all its own.
The distinct dialect, unique countryside and flora, the local slower pace of life is far from the norm. Certainly, this has confounded many travel writers who seek common denominators as they try to boil the place down to its essence. If you want to see and breathe in a unique place, this is it. And, it has evolved in a way that getting about and exploring is much easier — but the essence is still the same. The rest of the Alentejo is spread out — and often towns are miles from each other, and the areas between are connected by cork forests, olive groves and patches of big round top pines. Find a cheap car hire in Portugal to help you get around.
The hills and plains of the Alentejo can appear purple at sunset, and the cork forests, fields of sunflowers and olives, are only occasionally punctuated by fortified hill towns. Moors, Romans, Carthaginians and other great civilizations have been drawn to its natural beauty. Évora, the center of the Alentejo could be called a living museum. But, despite its Roman temple, Gothic cathedral, and ancient ramparts, Évora is a thriving place for life, commerce, palatial hotels and a cuisine as rich as its past. One of Portugal’s hidden treasures, is a wild and historic region that combines grand Roman and Moorish ruins, with medieval towns, whitewashed villages and baroque cities (such as Évora and Portalegre) with some of the most evocative natural scenery in Europe. Alentejo Atlantic coastline combines rocky coves and cliffs with some of Europe’s most sandy and undeveloped beaches.
But the wonder of this region is a slow discovery. The pace of life is slower, the people are very welcoming and kind. And there are all kinds of surprises. For example, you could drive for 40 minutes in the Northeastern corner of the Alentejo and see nothing but cork forests and a clear blue sky. Then, the road leads to Portalegre, a bustling little city, full of life and movement.
Hotels Scheduled Openings for 2022
Hotel do Cante, Evora, now open
The Hotel O Cante is a love-letter to Alentejo culture. With contemporary decoration, with colors and textures there are traditional notes of local culture, country life, daily life, the household chores of its people, giving it authenticity and providing its guests with a unique and culturally enriching experience.
Vidigueira’s first luxury wine hotel opens in 2022
Set in a wine town, under the development of the Saraiva & Associados architecture firm and with a restaurant space in the hands of chef José Júlio Vintém. Dieter Morszeck will take his Vidigueira winery further and transport his guests on private planes to this wine-producing sub-region of Alentejo. A Boutique Wine Hotel comprising 23 rooms, the building, which is being built from existing ruins, two steps from the winery, will maintain the original features of Alentejo houses.
A luxury eco-hotel opens in 2022 in Santiago do Cacém
São Francisco da Serra is the location for the construction of a “unique structure” that combines sustainability with the comfort sought during vacations. The project is scheduled for April 2022. In São Francisco da Serra, town of Santiago do Cacém, a “unique structure” will be built: a hotel complex that combines luxury with sustainability.
Arraiolos Railway Station to be inn
The former Arraiolos Railway Station will be transformed into a small hotel, through private investment. The project consists of transforming the Old Train Station in Arraiolos into a 15-room Inn and Restaurant Unit, a project under the management of the group that owns the Convento do Espinheiro, in Évora.
Hilton Garden Inn Évora
Évora will have a new Hilton Garden Inn Évora, a project by the Mercan Group in partnership with the RA Group. The hotel will be located less than 10 minutes from the city’s historic centre, next to Rossio de São Brás. The planned investment is 21 million euros. The Hilton Garden Inn Évora will have an area of more than eight thousand square meters, with 130 rooms and an outdoor pool on the roof with bar and terrace for drinks and coffee. The hotel will also have a restaurant, gym and a meeting room.
Jardins de Grândola to open in 2022
“Jardins de Grândola” is the name of the new hotel by Qantara Capital to be built in 2022 in the town of Grândola and scheduled for completion by 2023. This new 4-star hotel will have 50 rooms and 100 beds. It is an urban rehabilitation project in the center of the village, just off the Jardim 1º de Maio park.
Planned for the near future: Costa Terra, Development in Torre (Comporta), in the Brejinho D’água area, conversion of the “Hotel de Lives” for 5 stars.
A Theme Park Dedicated to Gin: A Vila do Gin Opened in Santiago do Cacém
The concept of the theme park, which according to its designers is “unique in the world,” in the space where the Black Pig gin distillery is located, more precisely at Herdade do Sobral, in Vila Nova de Santo André.
The Festas do Povo of Campo Maior are Intangible Heritage of Humanity, UNESCO was announced in December 2021. These traditional festivities are known for featuring dozens of streets, especially located in the historic center, “Decorated” with thousands of paper flowers, all handmade by the locals.
In Campo Maior for months in advance the residents of each street shape the paper decorations, to transform their street in a field of flowers. The festivities in the Alentejo town only take place when the population votes to. In December 2018, the Festas do Povo of Campo Maior, near Portalegre, were included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The process related to the application for UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity began in 2015.
Talha Wine (Amphora Wine)
In Portugal’s Alentejo an ancient form of winemaking has survived and is flourishing, taking us back to the days of the ancients when wine was made in a clay amphora called Vinho da Talha. Many wineries preserve this primitive winemaking process today that was developed by the Greeks and the Romans more than 3,000 years ago. In Alentejo, these clay vessels are called “talha” — derived from the Latin word “Tinalia” or a large pot or vessel. In the past, talhas were used to store and ship liquids like wine and olive oil. Over the millennia, the art of makingwine in amphoras has been passed from generation to generation, with variations depending on local traditions.
This year, the nomination of Vinho da Talha for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO was presented.
The manufacture of cowbells, recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage, is a unique art that has existed in the Alentejo region for over two thousand years.
An important craft in the region’s identity, this art is still preserved in the municipalities of Estremoz, Reguengos de Monsaraz and Viana do Alentejo, and has been passed down from generation to generation. The main manufacturing center is in the civil parish of Alcáçovas, where the Museu do Chocalho (Cowbell Museum) can also be visited, a private collection of over 3,000 items gathered over 60 years.
Cante Alentejano is a genre of traditional, two-part singing performed by amateur choral groups in southern Portugal, characterized by distinctive melodies, lyrics and vocal styles, and performed without instrumentation. Groups consist of up to thirty singers divided into groups. The ponto, in the lower range, starts the singing, followed by the alto, in the higher range, which duplicates the melody a third or a tenth above, often adding ornaments. The entire choral group then takes over, singing the remaining stanzas in parallel thirds. The alto is the guiding voice heard above the group throughout the song. A vast repertoire of traditional poetry is set to existing or newly created melodies. Lyrics explore both traditional themes such as rural life, nature, love, motherhood and religion, and changes in the cultural and social context.
The craftsmanship of Estremoz Clay Figures involves a production process lasting several days: the elements of the figures are assembled before being fired in an electric oven and then painted by the artisan and covered with a colorless varnish. The clay figures are dressed in the regional attires of Alentejo or the clothing of religious Christian iconography, and follow specific themes. The production of clay figures in Estremoz dates back to the seventeenth century, and the very characteristic aesthetic features of the figures make them immediately identifiable. The craft is strongly attached to the Alentejo region, since the vast majority of the figures depict natural elements, local trades and events, popular traditions and devotions. The viability and recognition of the craft are ensured through non-formal education workshops and pedagogical initiatives by the artisans.
The ancient art of falconry is recognized on UNESCO’s register of Intangible Cultural Heritage. One of the world’s oldest relationships between man and bird, falconry is performed daily at the Royal Falconry at Salvaterra de Magos where the stunning 18th-century architecture is as dramatic as the interaction with the birds of prey. Some of the species of birds at the Royal Falconry have flown the skies above Tejo River since the Middle Ages and the spectacle is no less arresting than it was then. A visit to the Falconry will include a chance to watch demonstrations of falcons and you will see for yourself the remarkable bond between man and bird.
Lousal Mining Museum
Between 1934 and 1992, the power station was responsible for supplying energy to the Lousal mining industrial complex and its population. In 1996, as part of the Lousal Revitalization and Integrated Development Project (RELOUSAL), the Frédéric Velge Foundation established a protocol with the Portuguese Association of Industrial Archeology (APAI) for the creation of the Mining Museum, inaugurated on May 20th 2001 Since then, this infrastructure has started to play an exclusively museological role, within the framework of the mining industrial archeology. The museum houses an important collection of documents, objects and equipment which allow visitors to observe the daily life of the prosperous years of the mine.