Not a tourist in sight: exploring Portugal’s Alentejo

Photographer Laurent Nilles makes the most of the chance to travel from Luxembourg to Portugal.

With most other countries on lockdown or inaccessible for us Luxembourgers, we decided to go to Portugal, on short notice. Over 12 days we travelled from Lisbon through the Alentejo to Porto, using a small rental car, which was the perfect choice.

After exploring Lisbon and Sintra, we headed off to explore the Alentejo region properly, where our first stop was Evora: home to an amazing cathedral.

After Evora, we headed to Estremoz where the castle was unfortunately closed due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, we enjoyed roaming the medieval cobbled streets, admiring the whitewashed facades of the old houses.

One of the highlights of this trip was a tour with Rota do Marmore Vila Vicosa, through the marble-processing factories and quarries of the Estremoz region. We spent a full afternoon visiting these vast industrial facilities; a stark contrast to the quaint village nearby.

Apart from its marble quarries, Vila Vicosa is also famous for its fantastic medieval palace, a former residence of the early Dukes of Bragança. The Duchy of Bragança, formed in 1442 by King Afonso V for his uncle, is one of the earliest recorded fiefdoms in all of Portugal.

And of course, there are plenty of other scenic small villages dotted sparsely around, some perched on mountaintops, others close to the Spanish border, such as Monsaraz or Marvao.

If you decide to go to the Alentejo, try to make some stops at the lesser-known villages as well; they often make for the best encounters and exploration.

If you go during summer, like us, be sure to pack a hat and plenty of water, as the heat can be quite extreme. And don’t forget to eat and drink locally – the people here are proud of their food and wine, and for a reason!

More information

For more information about the Alentejo region of Portugal, buy the Bradt Guide.

See more of Laurent’s fantastic images by following him on Instagram.