Accessed via the super-speedy A6 motorway from Lisbon, Alentejo’s parched, Out of Africa-style landscape –dotted with mediaeval castles and forts built to repel any potential Spanish invasion – is one of the most tranquil spaces in western Europe. Pata Negra pigs graze lazily on acorns in the fields, building up their body weight for an inevitable appearance on one of the region’s gourmet, pork-focused menus, while, at night, shooting stars splash through the clear, unpolluted sky. There’s not a stressed-out urbanite in the world that wouldn’t love to be exiled to this part of Iberia.
When to go
You get really good weather from April to October – July and August are not crowded (because everyone has headed for the sea), but might be too hot for some people. Spring tends to be sunny and warm, and winters are generally mild.
PlanesThe nearest airports are at Lisbon – serviced by EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) – and across the Spanish border in Badajoz, which you can fly to direct from the UK with Iberia (www.iberia.com). From late May, BMI will operate a direct flight to and from London Heathrow and Beja, every Sunday morning (www.bmi.com).
TrainsTrains are few and far between in this part of the world – the rail service from Lisbon only goes as far as Evora.
AutomobilesIf you want to explore | a car is an advantage. Driving around is easy | and routes are relatively uncomplicated | but Portuguese motorways aren’t for the faint-hearted as the lanes are narrow.
TaxisYou’re far better off hiring your own car, but if you do want to indulge yourself on a wine tour or go out and have a drink with your evening meal, then either ask your hotel to book you a cab or try Rumara Taxis (+351 268 919482).