Alto Alentejo
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ALTO ALENTEJO

The northern part of the Alentejo is where differing landscapes meet. Vestiges of people past dot the terrain with Megalithic monuments, Roman ruins, ancient bridges, medieval castles and timeless villages. In the east of the region, the land rises to high altitudes in the São Mamede Natural Park. This elevated land is steeped in cultural and historical heritage and is a haven for a diverse ecosystem – it is also an area of outstanding beauty. Nested upon the summits in the park are the beautiful Medieval towns of Castelo de Vide and Marvão. In the foothills is the capital of the Alto Alentejo, Portalegre. The city has a long history and became prosperous during the 17th and 18th centuries, due to the textile industry. Within the city, there is a rich tapestry of monuments, palaces, museums and a medieval castle.

Heading west away from Portalegre the topography levels out and the land becomes more arable, with olive groves, vineyards and fruit orchards. Towns like Nisa have been occupied since the iron age and have seen successive civilisations come and go. The meandering river Tejo (Tagus) forms a natural border between the Alto Alentejo and Médio Tejo and Lezíria do Tejo districts. During the age of Reconquista, the Tejo formed a natural defensive feature against the Moorish occupiers. Along both banks of the river are several castles, fortified towns and watchtowers in various states of preservation. WWW.MADABOUTPORTUGAL.COM is at hand as your essential guide to the best things to see, where to visit, where to rest your head and the best places to sample the local cuisine.

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Alto Alentejo Map

|  Alto Alentejo Map © Delahay&Co.

This area of Portugal has attracted settlers for millennia. Relics from the megalithic era are found scattered across the landscape. More than one hundred dolmens, antas and menhirs defy the ravages of time and remain standing. The Parque Megalítico dos Coureleiros (Coureleiros Megalithic Park), close to Castelo de Vide, is a large cluster of megalithic monuments, including the Menhir da Meada. Standing seven and a half metres (25 ft) it is the tallest in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Romans have left their mark here too. The remains of Roman colonisation are found in the roman town of Ammaia close to Marvão, the villa of Torre de Palma in Monforte and several bridges that still span the region's rivers. When the moors arrived and displaced the Visigoths and other german tribes they built upon what the Romans had established. Their defensive structures in Elvas and Marvão resisted Christian crusaders for some considerable time and still stand sentinel. Following the Christian takeover and the establishment of the new country of Portugal, military knights, such as the Templars, and the religious orders of Avis and Crato, were awarded land. They set about strengthening town walls and building castles in strategic places.

These consecutive civilisations have helped form Portuguese culture, language, customs, architectural styles and cuisine. Away from the trappings of modernity this rich culture survives in abundance and is celebrated by the locals. Many of the towns and monuments found in the Alto Alentejo have gained World Heritage status, to preserve this magical place for generations to come.

TOP ATTRACTIONS

Castelo de Vide

The picturesque spa town on the Serra de São Mameda mountain

Elvas

A stunning medieval frontier town with well preserved ramparts

Marvão

The impressively attractive medieval town high above the Alentejo plain

Portalegre

The capital and ancient centre of commerce in the Alto Alentejo

NISA

Porta de Montalvão, Nisa

|  Porta de Montalvão, Nisa


Chão da Velha - Casas de Campo

Chão da Velha - Casas de Campo

Enjoy the pleasures of the countryside close to Nisa is this attractive vila, with swimming pool and free WiFi. [ More About ► ]

The attractive town of Nisa lies west of Portalegre and predates the Roman period. It's widely believed the name of the town is derived from the name of a Greek woman. The town we see today dates from the early 13th century and has been in the firing line of various political struggles and invading armies over the centuries. The focus for visitors of Nisa is the ruins of the 13th-century castle and the city wall that still stand. Two main gates still survive, the Porta de Montalvão and the Porta da Villa. The town also has a communal water fountain, the Fonta de Pipa. It was constructed in 1706 by João Alvares and carved from granite.

Nisa lies in an agricultural area and there is some great local produce a visitor must try. There are two kinds of cheese the town is famous for; Queijo de Nisa and Queijo mestiço de Tolosa, both have protected status. Nisa is known for handicrafts, and the rich red soil of the area is responsible. for the distinctive pottery created here. Frioleira lacemaking is popular here and a local cultural symbol.


Castelo de Amieira do Tejo

On high ground close to the southern bank of the river Tejo, eighteen kilometres (11mi) northwest of Nisa is the remains of the castle at Amieira do Tejo. It was constructed in the 14th century by d. Álvaro Gonçalves Pereira and has been modeified many times since its conception. Its granite walls form the shape of a quadrangle with tall towers in each corner. Castelo de Amieira do Tejo was part of a line of defenses that lined the Tejo river. The castle, and the hamlet that grew around it, was an imprtant staging post for pilgrims who rested here under the protection of the resident Knights Hospitaller. A trip here is worth a small detour to enjoy the impressive views over the landscape below.
Tuesday – Saturday: 09h00 – 17h30, Sunday & Monday: CLOSED | €2,00

Contact Delails:
Praça Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira, 6050-136, Amieira do Tejo, Portugal.| 39° 30' 29.9" N | 07° 48' 58.8" W
+351 245 410 000 | turismo@cm-nisa.pt

GAVIÃO

Five kilometres (3mi) south of the river Tejo bordering the Beira Baixa region the area around Gavião feels less arid than further south and more agricultural. Archaeological discoveries affirm the presence of Roman occupation. For the most part, Gavião has dodged major historical calamities due to its remoteness. The town is famed for its gastronomy, particularly game, and local handicrafts, such as painted ceramics and ornate embroidery.

Castelo de Belver

The most visited attraction in the municipality of Gavião is the medieval castle of Belver. Due partially to the train station close by that connects to Lisbon on the picturesque Bairo Baixa line. It was built in 1212AD by the order of Dom Sancho and was the first castle constructed by the Hospitallers in Portugal. From its commanding position overlooking the north bank of the river Tejo when it was built, it lay on the forever moving boundary between Christian and Muslim-held territories. Belver Castle was later expanded by Dom João I (1357-1433) during a dispute with neighbouring Castile. The castle survived many skirmishes throughout history only to suffer greatly from the Lisbon Earthquake, in 1755, and the Benavente earthquake, in 1909. The castle was tastefully renovated in the 1940s. A rectangular keep still stands proudly behind sturdy walls and compares well to other great castles along the Tejo such as Almourol. Inside the castle walls, there's the tiny chapel of São Brás which was built in the 16th century. Inside there is a high-altar, with a number of statues and holy relics from Jerusalem, gifted by the Great Prior of Crato to Prince Luís, son of Dom Manuel I. To enjoy the amazing views from the castle you must first ascend a set of steep steps and pay a small entrance fee.
Wednesday – Sunday: 10h00 – 13h00/14h00 – 18h00, Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED | €2,00
Linha da Beira Baixa [ Timetable ► ]

Contact Delails:
Rua de São Pedro. 6040-024, Belver, Portugal. | 39° 29' 37.1" | N 07° 57' 38.2" W
+351 266 769 450 | info@cultura-alentejo.pt

Belver

In the village of Belver there are two curious museums, one is dedicated to soap (Museu do Sabão) and one to local tapestries (Museu das Mantas e Tapeçarias). In the village of Belver there are two curious museums, one is dedicated to soap (Museu do Sabão) and one to local tapestries (Museu das Mantas e Tapeçarias). On the opposite bank of the Tejo is the popular bathing area and river beach of Alamal. Canoes and boats can be rented and there's a café for your convenience.


Dolmen of Penedo Gordo (Anta do Penedo Gordo)

Four kilometres west of Belver (2.5mi) along a well signposted lies a relic from the megalithic. This stone structure was used for funerary purposes during the Chalcolithic period, in the third millennium BCE. For its age, the dolmen is in very good condition. It has an elongated, multi-sided chamber, with nine stone blocks and an access corridor close to three metres long. The capstone that once sat on top of the monument lies around the structure in pieces. | 39° 29' 31.1" | N 07° 57' 50.2" W

Gavião

|  Gavião


Gavião Nature Village

Gavião Nature Village

10 minutes walk from the beach Gavião Nature Village lets you become one with nature with boutique tents and bungalows.
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Belver Castle

|  Belver Castle

Parque Natural (Natural Park of) Serra de São Mamede

|  Parque Natural (Natural Park of) Serra de São Mamede



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PARQUE NATURAL SERRA DE SÃO MAMEDE

The 44km (27 miles) long range of hills known as the Serra de São Mamede became a national park in 1989 and covers 310 square kilometres. Its sole purpose is to preserve and maintain not only the rich abundance of wildlife and fauna, but also its impressive geology, historical monuments and local traditions. On the northern side chestnuts and Pyrenean oaks grow amongst the cork oaks and holm oaks, while in the vineyards, vines grow alongside olive groves that share the slopes of the foothills. Towards the south large traditional farming estates known as Montes help preserve the natural pastures and woodland. Small villages are dotted here and there with whitewashed houses surrounded by vegetable gardens and orchards.

Human occupation does not impede the local wildlife such as rare birds such as Bonelli's Eagle and the Griffin Vulture, Sparrowhawks, the Short-toed Eagle, the Black Kite, the Eagle Owl, the Tawny Owl and many others. Mammals also thrive here, such as Wild Boar, Red Deer, Badgers, Egyptian Mongooses, Wild Cats, Foxes and the Common Rabbit.

Thousands of years of human occupation however has left its mark in the guise of dolmens, menhirs, camps, Roman and 15th-century bridges, and also in the network of paved tracks and pathways, some of which form part of the walking excursions in the nature Park. Eight walking routes are signposted in the Park, details and maps can be found here. More About the Parque Natural (National Park of) Serra de São Mamede. [ More About ► ]

CASTELO DE VIDE

Castelo de Vide

|  Castelo de Vide


Twenty kilometres (12mi) north of Portalegre, the small town of Castelo de Vide is one of the gems of the Alto Alentejo. The town's castle sits majestically on the tallest peak for miles around and the picturesque white-washed town surrounds it. The streets are narrow and cobbled. There's a large Judiaria (Jewish quarter) here and the synagogue dates from the 13th century. Vibrant colours burst out of flower boxes and climbing vines. Small quaint squares and shaded gardens kept cool with age-old water fountains. Castelo de Vide has preserved its medieval layout and architecture and oozes old-timey charm. Spend a day aimlessly wandering the warren of streets or stay a couple of days to explore the surrounding area that's full of megalithic monuments, vestiges of Roman occupation and time-defiant castles. [ More About ► ]

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MARVÃO

A winding road takes you to the summit of the Serra de São Mamede where Marvão awaits to reward your efforts with amazing panoramas. The border town of Marvão feels remote and lost in a former epoch. Enclosed within the seventeenth-century walls are a hodge-podge of narrow cobbled roads that haven't changed for hundreds of years. The age-old buildings are whitewashed with granite window and door frames. The Castle in the village is built on top of a 13th-century original, which in places, was built into the living rock. There are a couple of museums to get a more in-depth insight into the town's history and a few craft shops to find a gift to take home. If you decide to stay more than a day you'll have Marvão more or less to yourself at night. Marvão does make a great base to spend a few days exploring the treasures found in the surrounding area.
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Pousada of Marvão - Hotel Santa Maria

Pousada of Marvão - Hotel Santa Maria

The Pousada has been converted from two medieval buildings, parts of which date back to the 13th century. [ More About ► ]

Marvão

|  Marvão

TOP TOURS

Sephardic Heritage: Castelo de Vide, Marvão, Portagem and Valência

Sephardic Heritage: Castelo de Vide, Marvão, Portagem and Valência

A ten-hour tour that will take you to the Essence of Jewish Sephardic culture! Visit the medieval Synagogues, the old Jewish quarters, discover the physical marks left in the architecture and the Sephardic legacy that remains today. Get to know the astonishing villages, where the true history of Portuguese and Spanish Jews lay. Holders of a unique culture, Portuguese and Spanish Jews formed one of the most important Communities in both countries. We will take you through villages of unique beauty.

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Private Full Day Tour - Marvão and Ammaia Roman Ruins from Lisbon

Private Full Day Tour - Marvão and Ammaia Roman Ruins from Lisbon

Portugal’s diverse culture has bred an array of historical towns that beg to be explored. This private eight-hour tour gives you the opportunity to escape Lisbon’s crowds and explore the historic towns of Marvão and the Roman ruins at Ammaia with a knowledgeable guide. Marvel at imposing fortresses and Roman ruins on this customisable tour, according to your interests. Round-trip transport from your Lisbon hotel is included.


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Historical Central Portugal - Four Day Private Tour

Historical Central Portugal - Four Day Private Tour

Historical Central Portugal - Four Day Private Tour Experience a private four-day roundtrip through the centre and interior of Portugal with your private official guide. Discover some of the most important landmarks of Portuguese history. Highlights and visits include Évora, Monsaraz, Estremoz, Elvas, Marvão, Castelo de Vide, Castle of the Knights Templar in Tomar. Also included is the Baroque library and the St. Michael chapel of Portugal's oldest university in Coimbra, Fátima, Batalha Monastery, Nazaré and Óbidos. Free hotel pickup and drop-off included. Informative, friendly and professional guide.

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PORTALEGRE

Portalegre

|  Portalegre

Portalegre is the capital and commercial hub of the Alto Alentejo region. The city sits at the foot of the Serra de São Mamede and retains an old quarter. Portalegre was a major centre for textile production and brought the city great wealth in the 17th century and precipitated the building of late Renaissance and Baroque mansions. Remnants of Portalegre’s industrial history are evident with Robinson’s cork factory, its twin chimneys still dominate the skyline on the outskirts of town. The town’s last tapestry factory was restored as the city council headquarters, but you can trace the history of local tapestry-making in the Museu da Tapeçaria Guy Fino. Little remains of the original 13th-century town walls but three sturdy towers still stand. The Cathedral was built in 1556 and was greatly remodelled between 1737 and 1798. Highlights for visitors are beautiful tile panels and paintings. The Municipal Museum has interesting exhibits outlining the history of the areas and a fine collection of archaeological finds. At the foot of the old town, all the roads congregate on the Rossio, a nineteenth-century square that connects with the new town. [ More About ► ]

CRATO

Crato gained importance in 1232 after Sancho II awarded to the Order of the Hospitallers large swathes of land in the Alto Alentejo and Crato became their headquarters. The town's fortunes were reversed in 1662 following an attack by the Spanish who set about razing the town to the ground. For tourists there's little to see in the town however there are places of interest nearby.


Flôr da Rosa

The Village of Flôr da Rosa lies two kilometres north of Crato lies the village of and is famed for its ceramics. The village mainly consists of traditional whitewashed Alentejan cottages. The building that stands out is the 14th-century Convento de Flôr da Rosa. It lay derelict for half a century before an extensive restoration project that lasted decades. The convent re-opened in 1995 as the town's pousada. The building is comprised of three distinct buildings: the Gothic-style church-fort, the Gothic castellated palace with alterations from the 1500s and the rest of the monastery grounds, in Moorish and Renaissance styles. Non-guests are allowed to enter the convent buildings and gardens. [ More About ► ]

Crato

|  Crato

ALTER DO CHÃO

Alter do Chão Castle

|  Alter do Chão Castle


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Set amongst a landscape of plains of olive and cork plantations thirteen kilometres south of Crato the attractive town of Alter do Chão has sat here since Roman times. Founded in 204 BCE under the name of Elteri (or Eltori). The emperor Hadrian destroyed the town after the occupants were accused of disloyalty. Alter do Chão arose from the ashes and was re-established in the 13th century. The walls of the town's castle are in a fine state of preservation and the climb to the top of the keep offers impressive views over the lands beyond. The fine villas of the town are due to the prosperous textile trade that reached its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries. The tourist office occupies the former Palácio do Álamo.


Coudelaria Alter-Real

A short drive out of town is the impressive former royal stud farm that was founded in 1748 by Dom João V of the House of Bragança. It remained the property of the royal family until 1910 when the War Office took it over. Alter-Real Lusitano horses are prized globally and are used by the Portuguese mounted police and the Lisbon Riding School at Queluz. One Alter-Real Lusitano horse has been immortalised in stone as the mount of the statue of Dom José in Lisbon’s Praça do Comércio. There are guided tours throughout each week that include equestrian and coach-riding displays in the Picadeiro (riding ring). There's also a museum with a collection of antique carriages and a falconry that offer falcon-flying demonstrations each morning. Riding classes are also available. Tickets are sold at the entrance to the Alter Stud Farm (Tapada do Arneiro).
Tuesday – Friday: 09h00 – 17h30, Saturday & Sunday: 10h30 – 17h00, Monday: CLOSED
Adult: €15.00, Child & Concessionary: €11.00

Contact Delails:
Tapada do Arneiro, 7440-152 Alter do Chão, Portugal. | 39° 13' 19.8" N | 07° 41' 10.3" W
+351 245 610 060 | geral@alterreal.pt | Website


Ponte de Vila Formosa

East of Alter do Chão on the road to the town of Ponte de Sor is a Roman bridge that has spanned the river Seda since the first century AD. The bridge is incredibly well preserved. It is over a hundred metres long and has six arches with portico-shaped eyeholes in between. It was part of the Roman road that once linked Lisbon with Mérida (once the capital of Lusitania). The bridge has undergone a successive series of renovations since the 1930s and was still used for commercial traffic until the recent construction of a new road bridge nearby. 39º 12' 58.3 N | 07º 47' 05.5" W

MONFORTE

The sleepy little town of Monforte lies amongst the Amendoeira, Sete and Vaimonte hills which has evidence of past human occupation since the Neolithic. The undulating landscape surrounding the town is dotted with prehistoric monuments. At the heart of Monforte is the Praça da República square, framed by orange trees and a fountain at its centre. Just off the square, the unassuming façade of the Igreja Matriz hides a macabre secret within. Inside the 18th-century church, there is the Capela dos Ossos chapel decorated with human skulls and skeletal remains.

Outside the town walls, is the Igreja de Santa María Magdalena church that dates from the 15th century and is nowadays the home to the Municipal Museum. Inside you'll find an interesting collection dedicated to the Roman presence in the municipality of Monforte, composed mainly of objects collected in the excavations carried out in the Roman villa of Torre de Palma. | 39° 03' 07.5" N | 07° 26' 21.4" W


Torre de Palma Lusitan-Roman Villa

This important archaeological site is located five kilometres northwest of Monforte on the main road to Vaiamonte. Excavations took place between 1947 and 1956 which unearthed preserved remains of a large residential complex complete with annexe buildings. There's a bath complex close by which probably belonged to the same estate. Remains of a Paleochristian basilica were discovered and are an example of early Christian worship. Across the site are examples of Roman mosaics that indicate the residents possessed considerable wealth. It was occupied from the 2nd until the 5th century AD and was located on the road that connected Lisbon (Olisipo) with Mérida (Augusta Emerita). | 39° 03' 45.2" N | 07° 29' 18.2" W

Praça da República – Monforte

|  Praça da República – Monforte


Torre de Palma Wine Hotel

Torre de Palma Wine Hotel

Torre de Palma Wine Hotel - Design Hotels offers indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a spa and wellness centre, and a restaurant and bar. [ More About ► ]

CAMPO MAIOR

Campo Maior - Festa das Flores

|  Festa das Flores – Campo Maior


Monte Alto Agroturismo

Monte Alto Agroturismo

Enjoy a touch of luxury staying in a rustic location on a traditional Alentejan farm.
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As with so many other Alentejo towns, Campo Maior has a sleepiness about it. The peaceful nature of Campo Maior wasn't always so, as the town's ramparts attest. Today the town lies close to the border with Spain. It changed hands on many occasions until 1297 with the signing of the Treaty of Alcanizes cemented territorial borders. The Romans established a settlement here and called it Campus Maior. The old medieval town still has its perimeter defensive walls and the entrance gates are well looked after. Overlooking the town are the remains of a castle that has suffered greatly the ravages of time. A walk here is a great way to get your bearings as it offers superb views overlooking Campo Maior. Squeezed in one of the narrow streets of the old town is the mighty Igreja Matriz church. The Capela dos Ossos next door is a chilling example of a chapel lined with skulls and bones. The chapel was built in 1766 and pays tribute to the victims of a gunpowder magazine explosion that killed half the town's population in 1732.

Probably the best time of the year to visit Campo Maior is the first week of September when the town holds the famous Festa das Flores (Flower Festival). Residents of the town decorate their neighbourhoods with thousands of paper flowers. The festivities draw visitors from all across Portugal.


Centro de Ciência do Café

Eight kilometres from Campo Maior there's a unique museum for the Iberian Peninsula. Centro de Ciência do Café is owned by Portugal's best known coffee brand – Delta. The museum highlights all aspects of coffee production from grwing the beans, roasting and thr history of Delta.
Monday – Friday: 10h00 – 17h00, Saturday & Sunday: CLOSED
Adult: €15.00, Child & Concessionary: €11.00

Contact Delails:
EN 371 - Herdade de Argamassas, 7370-171, Degolados, Portugal. | 39° 02' 37.3" N | 07° 05' 45.9" W
+351 268 688 308 | museudocafe@delta-cafes.pt | Website

ELVAS

The attractive frontier town of Elvas is only fifteen kilometres away from Badajoz in Spain. The perimeter walls of the town and outlying hill forts have a distinctive star shape and are some of the best-preserved military fortifications in Europe. Within the ramparts, the town contains old barracks and other military buildings. There are also plenty of old churches and monasteries. Retaining much of its original 10th-century Moorish character in the old town; narrow streets houses with elegant iron window grilles, fine archways and many picturesque squares. A market is held every other Monday behind the largest aqueduct on the Iberian Peninsula is a big attraction for visitors. The castle that sits on the highest elevation of town has foundations from the eighth century. The medieval cobbled streets and ancient churches are well preserved and along with other remnants of the past have earned Elvas UNESCO World Heritage status and make Elvas well worth exploring. [ More About ► ]

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Praça da República – Elvas

|  Praça da República – Elvas

TOP TOURS OF ELVAS

Elvas at Sunset Tour

Elvas at Sunset Tour

A unique way to explore the beautiful World Heritage town of Elvas and its stunning monuments. The tour starts in the late afternoon when the day becomes cooler in the Praça da República. Enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets in the Alentejo, on an exclusive private tour.

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Private Tour: Évora, Elvas and Badajoz (Spain) day trip from Lisbon

Private Tour: Évora, Elvas and Badajoz (Spain) day trip from Lisbon

Experience the top historical and cultural attractions of Elvas and Badajoz on this guided excursion from Lisbon. After a convenient hotel pickup, visit sites like the forts of Santa Luzia and Nossa Senhora da Graça. Enjoy a delicious complimentary lunch in the UNESCO-designated city of Elvas before heading to Badajoz and stopping by the Alcazaba and other important sites. Admire the picturesque architecture of Évora on the return drive to Lisbon.

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Walking Tour in the Historic Centre of Elvas

Walking Tour in the Historic Centre of Elvas

Starting at the iconic Praça da República take a guided walk through the history and heritage of the historic centre of Elvas, a world heritage town. Friendly, informative and unforgettable.

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TRAVELLING TO AND AROUND THE ALTO ALENTEJO

Lisbon Airport
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Linha do Minho
Rede Expressos

There are three realistic airport options when travelling to the Alentejo. Lisbon, with good public transport links, Faro in the Algarve and Badajoz in Spain, with connections with major Spanish airports. Sadly the airport in Beja has still yet to attract commercial airlines. There are three realistic airport options when travelling to the Alentejo. Lisbon, with good public transport links, Faro in the Algarve and Badajoz in Spain. Sadly the airport in Beja has still yet to attract commercial airlines.

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Since joining the EU Portugal has seen a vast improvement in its road network with the addition of a fine motorway network which speedily takes you from the major cities to the area you want to visit. In 2015, the country's road network was named as being the best in Europe and the second best in the world. For the more adventurous drivers, there is plenty of more rural windy yet very scenic roads available.

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Linha da Beira Baixa (comboios regionais): Regular trains to Belver, following the course of the river Tejo before turning north into the Baira Baixa. Train Timetable.

Linha do Leste (comboios regionais): Irregular trains to Badajoz into the Alto Alentejo with connecting services to Lisbon,The train stops at Ponte de Sôr, Crato, Portalegre and Elvas.
Train Timetable.

Linha do Alentejo (comboios regionais): Regular trains to from Lisbon into the heart of the Alentejo, stopping at Évora and Beja. Train Timetable.

Comboios de Portugal Website

• Rede Expressos run nationwide coach services within Portugal. Website

• Rodoviária do Alentejo run coach services all over the Alentejo and beyond, linking the region to major cities within Central and Southern Portugal, including coaches to Évora, Beja, Portalegre and Estremoz: Website