Destination Spot Light... Portugal!

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

"Alentejo" the hidden gem of Portugal

 

Here at The Lifestyle Guide, we love discovering new destinations and seeking out those hidden gems that often offer a more unique and authentic experience when travelling. We reach out to our global network of travel experts and speak with specialists from those destinations to bring you first-hand experience and insights ensuring the Lifestyle Guide community are well informed and inspired when planning their next adventure. We remain ever optimistic that summer 2021 will be the perfect time to take that long-awaited getaway because we have earned a well deserved holiday after 2020 that's for sure!


This weeks edition takes us to Alentejo a true hidden gem in Portugal. We take a short journey with the wonderful Angelic, Co-Founder of Portugal based Destination Management Company "Blue Sky" which is a full-service inbound agency for Portugal mainland, Madeira and the Azores. So over to Angelic with the down-low on the amazing region of Alentejo.

 

Portugal has so much to offer and you feel that wherever you are, you are walking through history.


A few weeks ago, I went down to Alentejo for a few days to get away from everyday life, to explore and look at new potential new hospitality venues for when the world again opens up.


I have explored Alentejo many times before and yet every time I visit I'm blown away with the magic of the region. Alentejo is simply a region of unparalleled beauty and authenticity.

On the way down to the interior of Alentejo, I stopped for lunch at Comporta Café, a hidden pearl that reminds you more of being in the Caribbean than in Portugal, with the white sandy beach as far as your eye can see (actually its 70km of beach all the way down to Sines).


The fastest way to Comporta is to drive a short distance south from Lisbon towards Algarve, you turn off at Setubal approx. 40min from the airport. You take a "big car ferry" that runs every 15mins during the summer and every half an hour in the low season.


Comporta Café


Next stop, Troia which is a peninsula located next to the Sado River estuary. This area is made up of a small resort with a few notable hotels, Troia Design 5* and Aqua Luz 4*, both located in the little community overlooking the bay and mountains of Arrabida and Setubal. Troia also has a world-class golf course design by Sir Robert Trent Jones Senior (Troia golf is listed as one of the “Top 100 Golf Resorts in Continental Europe).


If you want to stay somewhere really unique you have two absolutely stunning properties in

Comporta;


Quinta da Comporta

AND

Sublime Comporta


Comporta is located 12km south from Troia and the area once belonged to the King of Portugal. Since the 1950s the area has been owned by the Espírito Santo family (Portugal’s equivalent of the Rockefellers), who in the 1990s, began inviting some of their celebrity and royal friends to the area, including Princess Caroline and Prince Albert of Monaco, Comporta has always had a bit of luxury feel, and has even been compared to a mini-version of the Hamptons.



Comporta has a wide selection of fun activities to try like; horse-riding, golf (Troia), taking surfing lessons, go biking or hiking along the coast, watch dolphins, and go fishing, kayaking or ballooning. Many of the beaches have natural lagoons, making its calm, shallow waters safe for young children.


But continuing the trip towards the interior of Alentejo after a delicious seafood lunch overlooking the Atlantic towards Estremoz, and about 1h30min drive east from Comporta.

The interior of Alentejo is much more than just the stunning beaches and coastline its beautiful rural interior of Portugal and is characterised the charms of this land of wheatfields, cork oak forests, wildflower meadows and tiny white-washed historic villages with very hot summers. This region covers over 30% of Portugal and is all the area between Lisbon and Algarve.


Our next stop will be Estremoz with the wonderful new vinery Howard’s Folly and the Boutique hotel Torre de Palma located not far from the Spanish border.


Torre de Palma


I stayed the night in Torre de Palma, an amazing small boutique hotel with the main building dating back to the 14th century, this white-washed house, with a central tower dating back to 1338 (the current king gave the property to his bastard son, the location was an important resting station for travellers between Madrid and Lisbon). The property overlooks its fields of vineyards and Lusitano horses. There are 18 attractively decorated rooms, housed in the former stables and worker’s cottages and a restaurant serving regional food with a twist, like my favourite beef tartar mixed with Alentejo Gin. There is a spa, both indoor and outdoor pool and you can taste wine, stamp wine in season and go horse riding as the property has their own horses.


The setting of the hotel is stunning, and you will never forget the sunset that is truly magical. Within a short walk from the hotel, you can find ruins of an old Roman villa that now is an important archaeological site and just half an hour by car you can visit the beautiful medieval village of Estremoz and the vinery Howard’s Folly, our next and last stop before heading back to Lisbon.


The winemaker at Howard’s Folly is David Baverstock (originally from Australia and also one of the most famous winemakers in Portugal with many wine awards) and the winery is a real state-of-the-art operation with the best food from their own restaurant that I have experienced in a very long time. Howard’s Folly Wines is an innovative partnership between David Baverstock and entrepreneur Howard Bilton, a businessman from Yorkshire now living in Hong Kong. They both came together a few years ago by their love of Portuguese wines, especially from the Alentejo region, that has a lot in common with Australian wines as the climate is similar hot temperatures during the day and cold at night.


Howard’s Folly is a winery and art centre that looks as modern and as sophisticated as any venue you would find in major cities around the world, you almost forget that you are not in a cosmopolitan place but far out in the slow pace of Alentejo when you visit the bar at Howard’s Folly.


Chef Bernardo is an impressive chef with a modern menu making the most of local Alentejo produce with a twist, the presentation is beautiful and the food is delicious.


Howard’s Follychas the “art” element of the venue with graffiti-styled murals painted across the walls in the vinery that softened the polished concrete floors and stainless-steel wine barrels.


The winery is a supporter of the Sovereign Art Foundation and that many of the labels on Howard’s Folly Wines are actually the artworks of prize winners from the year the wine was released. The Foundation uses art to raise funds to assist underprivileged children using art classes as therapy.


When the world opens up again you can also take groups to enjoy experiences such as blending workshops, wine tastings and winery tours and private functions in one of the art galleries on top of the winery and restaurant.


And that draws to a close our wonderful journey through Alentejo and I hope you will agree that this hidden gem is well worth the visit!

 

If you are looking for a superb resort in Portugal that's ideal for children & families I would suggest the Marinhal Rerosts in either Cascais or Sagres.


For children families that really want to have an amazing holiday, there is no place better than Martinhal Resort, you have one in Algarve in Sagres the most southern and westerly point of Portugal, a great place for surfing or dolphin watching or in Cascais, the Portuguese Riviera only 30min from Lisbon airport.



 

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