Guide To Alentejo – Forget Ibiza. Forget the Riviera. In fact, forget the Med altogether. Portugal’s Alentejo region is lined with glorious beaches – but not many people seem to know about them
WHERE TO STAY
100km of the Alentejo coast is natural park, so there are no hotels directly on the beach. The accommodation below is within easy reach of the coast by car (a car is essential in this region, which has virtually no public transport).
The stylish interior of Monte West Coast.
6km from Odeceixe beach
Newly opened this summer, Monte West Coast is a 50-hectare estate in a lush valley where an old watermill and outbuildings on the Seixe river have been converted into six stylish self-catering houses (sleeping between two and six; two have fridges but no kitchen). It has been renovated by Portuguese architect Pedro Oliveira, grandson of the film director Manoel de Oliveira, who is 105 years old and still making movies. The owner, half-Swedish, half-Portuguese Catarina Östholm Pinho, has transformed the traditional stone buildings with Alentejo tiles in the bathrooms and kitchens, and film posters on the 60cm-thick white walls. The hilltop pool offers gorgeous views of the valley, and a Moroccan-style tent provides an open riverside lounge area.
• +351 91 444 37 17, facebook.com/pages/Monte-West-Coast, from €50 a night for a one-room house sleeping two.
Pont’a Pé (+351 282 998 104, pontape.pt) restaurant next to the river in the historic part of Aljezur, serves some of the best traditional dishes, such as clams in white wine and coriander, grilled fresh fish and roast lamb. I always leave completely full. And if you want to stay longer, the owner’s brother owns the bar next door, overlooking the river.
Casa da Diná, Malavado
One of four bedrooms at Casa da Dina B&B.
8km from Zambujeira beach
Tucked away up a dirt track on the outskirts of tiny Malavado, Casa da Diná is a four-room B&B run by Dina and her husband Walter, a painter whose works decorate their tasteful home. Whitewashed rooms have simple wooden furniture, and the garden is lush with peach, lemon, apricot and fig trees, but the real highlight here is breakfast. Three “courses” might comprise, say, yoghurt with fruit, then smoked salmon and cream cheese or Mexican-style eggs, then homemade cake, all beautifully served on delicate white china with white linen napkins. On at least one night of your stay it’s worth booking one of Dina’s three-course dinners (€25 a head). There’s nothing in particular to make it child-friendly but small people are welcome, and Dina and Walter were endlessly patient with my four-year old, who loved hunting for lizards in their garden and feeding treats to their poor decrepit old dog.
• No phone, casadadina.com, doubles from €75 a night B&B (minimum two-night stay)
Dina’s tip: Café Central (+351 282 947 419) in the village of Brejão is my favourite restaurant in the area. The food is great, mainly grilled fish and seafood cooked to perfection, and the wine list is huge. From around €20-€25 per person.