Alqueva region is a FORGOTTEN PEARL, or at least a little-remembered pearl! An artificial lake with 250 km2 created more than 20 years ago and one of the largest in the entire European continent. A change in landscape that created riverside villages, a huge biodiversity, fluvial beaches, and multiple nautical activities. A perfect option for a long weekend!
Table of Contents
The suggestions you will find in this article do not exhaust all that is interesting in Alqueva region. But because time is a limited and scarce asset, we have chosen the attractions that seem most interesting. A region to visit by car to be able to appreciate the beautiful landscapes that connect the towns that embrace the great lake of Alqueva and to be able to move easily and quickly between the different attractions of the area! A perfect tourist attraction for those who like to enjoy typical Alentejo landscapes with the magic lake as a backdrop. Visit the region with time and calm, or you wouldn’t be in Alentejo!
WHERE IS ALQUEVA?
Alqueva region is located in the interior of the high Alentejo, on the Guadiana river. If you leave from Lisbon you will need 2h06 to reach Alqueva (a distance of 189 kilometers). If you are leaving from Oporto get ready for a 4h36 trip and a distance of 423 kilometers. A small effort for a big reward!
WHEN TO VISIT ALQUEVA?
If you can, go in the spring! The temperatures invite you to take a walk, the fields are green, the flowers bloom, and everything becomes even more beautiful. Another option for your visit is the autumn season. A less lush and more melancholic landscape, but just as beautiful. Summer in the interior of the Alentejo is hot. Corrijo, the summer is very hot in the interior of the Alentejo and does not invite hiking (unless you do it very early or very late). On the other hand, the high temperatures invite a dip in the many river beaches in the region. An option to consider! Winter in Alentejo is hard. The days not so much. But as soon as the sun sets, the cold gets intensely cold. I speak from experience (I have a small house near Cercal do Alentejo). In our opinion, December, January and February are not the best months to visit Alqueva.
WHAT TO VISIT IN ALQUEVA?
Alqueva region is so rich in places of interest that we suggest 3 days to visit the best there is to see. The following map shows all the attractions of the region so you can get an overview of its location.
ROUTES TO VISIT THE DIFFERENT ATTRACTIONS OF ALQUEVA
As we have already mentioned, Alqueva is 250 square kilometers. It is a very large extension. It is important to organize the sequence of your walks so that you can optimize your time and the kilometers you will cover. Here are 3 itineraries for 3 different days. Our suggestions are related to the location of the different attractions. The map ABOVE shows ALL the (main) attractions in the region. The maps BELOW show the attractions by day of tour (which we call roadmaps). We hope that our tips can facilitate the planning of your visit to Alqueva!
ITINERARY 1 – FIRST DAY IN ALQUEVA
Here is the map for your first day on the tour.
A beautiful town in Alqueva region. Be sure to visit its castle (one of the most beautiful of the region), its main church (be sure to visit the inside of the church) and the Town Hall. Its historic center with its streets and alleys is also ideal for a nice walk after lunch.
Go to Moura and wander through its beautiful cobbled streets. For those who, like me, love to walk aimlessly, the streets of this small town will be a real pleasure. You can complete your visit to Moura by visiting the historical center, its three churches and the castle. If you have a particular interest in olive oil production, then go to the olive oil museum and learn all about this art.
Obviously you cannot miss the Alqueva dam. It is the “mother” of all the diversity and richness of the region and also for this reason it deserves your visit. Add to that the fact that the dam gives its visitors an absolutely magnificent view of the region.
SUNSET ON ALQUEVA
Go to a river beach in the region and watch the sunset! Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words…
Going to Alqueva region and not taking a boat trip on the big lagoon is like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope. At the marina in Amieira you can buy your boat trip and you can even rent a houseboat (you don’t have to have a sailor’s license). Sleeping one night on a boat is a different experience that you can have here.
After the sunset comes the night. And with it the stars. Alqueva region is a privileged place for stargazing. In fact, the region was distinguished by the “Starlight Foundation” as a place of excellence for observing the night sky. If the night is clear of clouds, go to Dark Sky Alqueva (village of Cumeada) and spend your evening observing (with the naked eye or a telescope) planets, shooting stars and constellations. Alqueva region is internationally known and recognized as a prime location for night sky. For this reason we highlight the events organized by the observatory Lago Alqueva. All lovers of the universe and its mysteries should know that this body provides (mainly during the summer season) a vast number of astronomical events. To access past and future events click HERE.
ITINERARY 2 – SECOND DAY IN ALQUEVA
Map number 2, second day at Alqueva!
SÃO PEDRO DO CORVAL
São Pedro do Corval is the largest pottery center in Portugal. Here you can see the clay being molded by the potters who work there and you can also buy some masterpieces of Portuguese handicraft. In case you are just looking for some souvenirs, you will also be in the right place to buy them.
VALENTINE’S ROCK MENIR
If you are thinking of getting married, then you must visit the menhir on Valentine’s Rock on the Monday after Easter to fulfill a curious pagan tradition. On that day, unmarried girls visit the menhir and throw a coin on top of it. If the coin falls, then it means that marriage is not coming soon. If the coin stays on top of the menhir the marriage is imminent. It is a ritual that is still very much alive among the people of the region. Whether the menhir actually has the gifts of a pythoness is something that we cannot guarantee.
Composed of 50 menhirs that date from 4000 to 3000 BC. It is a place of enormous historical interest and practically free of tourists, which will allow you a calm and tranquil visit.
Next to the Xarez Cromlech, you can see the Convent of the Prayer. From what we could ascertain, the monument is almost always closed. Still, the beauty of its exterior is well worth the visit.
Head to the fluvial beach of Monsaraz and, if the day is inviting, take a dip in the waters of the Guadiana. If the weather is not compatible with diving, then walk by the sea, relax and take the opportunity to observe the birds of the region.
ITINERARY 3 – THIRD DAY IN ALQUEVA
Third day at Alqueva – Route #3!
The medieval village of Monsaraz was the winner of the contest “the 7 wonders of Portugal”. It is a museum town that deserves a visit on foot through its historical center. Set aside half your morning or half your afternoon to walk calmly through the cobbled streets of this beautiful museum town.
MONSARAZ MAIN CHURCH
It dates from the 16th century and consists of three naves supported by four columns decorated with schist from the region. Inside we find a main altar with gilded woodcarving, eight side chapels and 17th and 18th century ornaments.
SANTO ANTÓNIO CHURCH (MONSARAZ)
Be sure to visit the beautiful church of Santo António. The church dates from the year 1887 and was built by the parish council in a place near the Paços do Concelho in order to attract more people to the church. It replaced the old ermida de Santo António. The inauguration of the monument took place on August 25, 1912. It has three naves, five altars and three chapels. From its exterior, the bell tower stands out.
Alqueva region is undoubtedly special! Mourão is one more village (among many others) that deserves a careful and slow visit. Its castle is its biggest attraction! From the top of its walls you will enjoy a magnificent view over the great lake. But its main church and the republic square garden are also worth a visit.
As you probably remember, the village of Luz was submerged in 2002 as a result of the closing of the dam gates. The population was relocated to the new Aldeia da Luz, which is today the youngest riverside village in Portugal. Here you will find the Luz museum that was built so that the memories of the old village of Luz will not be forgotten.
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR ALQUEVA DAM?
If you have decided to spend a longer vacation period in the Alqueva region, then you will have time to visit other towns and cities in the vicinity. We have chosen 4 places, those that seem to us the most interesting and at a short distance from Alqueva.
From Alqueva to Évora is 60 kilometers, a distance that can be covered in 47 minutes. Évora is probably the most interesting city in the Alentejo. An ancient place where traces of the passage of people are found a little everywhere. More than 2000 years of history under streets, avenues and houses. A passage that was marked by a huge number of things to see with attention and reflection. Among the city’s many attractions are the Roman temple, the cathedral, the chapel of the bones, the door of Aviz, the Roman baths, and much, much more. Take our suggestion and spend 2 or 3 days in Évora.
52 minutes and 59 kilometers separate the Alqueva from the village of Redondo, a hamlet on top of a hill at an altitude of 300 meters. A friendly and welcoming village, a white houses surrounding a medieval castle with more than 800 years. Life passes slowly in Redondo. There, everyone knows each other and everyone greets each other. If you accept our suggestion be sure to see the castle, the Porta da Ravessa (the same one that gives the name to the wine), the environmental park and the Freixo estate.
57 minutes and 62 kilometers separate Alqueva from Barrancos. A quiet Alentejo town very close to the border and the Guadiana river bank. A very simple and typically Alentejo houses. In Barrancos it is worth walking through its streets and visiting The castle of Noudar, the parish church (18th century), the ruins of the church of Nossa Senhora do Desterro and the archaeological and ethnographic museum. In Barrancos there is still space for nature. Be sure to visit the Noudar Nature Park, a place where you can observe and admire several species of plants and animals. Finally, the gastronomy, of course! In Barracos you can eat divinely.
42 minutes and 57 kilometers separate Alqueva from the city Beja. A city located in Baixo Alentejo and one of the largest districts of Portugal. Beja is a charming city with many stories to tell. Visigoths, Moors and Christians passed through Beja and left their mark here. If you visit Beja don’t forget to see the castle, the museums, the churches, the squares and to try its gastronomy (to taste and cry for more).
VIRTUAL TOUR TO ALQUEVA
HISTORY OF ALQUEVA REGION
Alqueva’s lake is the largest artificial lake in Europe and covers five municipalities in the Alentejo (Portel, Moura, Reguengos de Monsaraz, Mourão and Alandroal). The word “Alqueive” means “fallow land” and it is possible that it is the origin of the name of “our” Alqueva. It is in 1262 that the first written record of the word appears. This record leads us to think that the parish was already populated in the second half of the thirteenth century. The region of Alqueva is 50 kilometers from the city of Évora. 50 years! This was the period of time between the first study and the construction of the Alqueva dam! The goal was to give a “drink” to the agricultural lands of the Alentejo in order to stop the growing desertification of the region.
After several years of back and forth, the construction work began in 1998 and was completed in January 2002. On February 8 of the same year the floodgates were closed and the Alqueva reservoir began to fill. The dam is the largest water reserve in the country and has created a significant number of jobs in tourism. The construction of the dam has significantly changed the economic and social life of the region. Today, there are many nautical activities, riverside villages, and river beaches that the region offers to locals and visitors. If you are thinking of visiting the region, then you should know that there are so many tourist attractions in the area that two weeks would not be too long to calmly enjoy everything. The suggestions that you will find in our article do not represent the totality of the attractions of Alqueva.
GASTRONOMY IN ALQUEVA REGION
In Alentejo you can eat very well, and this region in particular is no exception. Here are some suggestions:
MIGAS COM ENTRECOSTO
RESTAURANTS IN ALQUEVA
RESTAURANTE O PINGO
Located in Reguengo de Monsaraz. It has more than 70 reviews and an overall rating of 4.5. The comments refer to a modest but cozy restaurant. Friendly staff and many compliments on the octopus à lagareiro and the migas with spare ribs. The comments also mention a good quality-price ratio.
HERDADE DO ESPORÃO
Do you like a good wine? If the answer is YES, then be sure to visit the HERDADE DO ESPORÃO, a place where you will find the best wines from Alentejo. Book your visit! Taste the Alentejo wines and also the Alentejo regional products. Besides this possibility, the vineyards and the Tower of Esporão are, by themselves, worth a visit.
ALQUEVA REGION HOTELS
MONTE DA BOA VISTA
4 star hotel. Over 125 reviews and an overall rating of 4.3. It is located near Portel which is about 15 minutes (by car) from Alqueva. If you have a car at your disposal the location of Monte da boa vista will not be a problem. In its vicinity you will find restaurants, entertainment and walking tours. Positive reviews highlight the friendliness of the staff and the magnificent view surrounding the hotel.
PASSAGEM DO SOL HOTEL
2 star hotel located in Moura about 15 minutes drive from Alqueva. Over 250 reviews and an overall rating of 4.2 stars (out of 5). Positive comments highlight the beauty of the building, the smell of the orange trees, the cleanliness and the quality of the breakfast. Assuming you have a car, the location is very central and close to tourist attractions, restaurants and the Alqueva.