Alentejo litoral is mostly visited for the coast and great for beach and sea lovers. Swim with dolphins, sail, golf, surf, or go diving are some of the great things to do here. The coastline gives much variety and is not yet spoiled by too much tourism. Starting from the mouth of the river Sado going south until Zambujeira do Mar you find sandy beaches that stretch on until Sines and in this part you can visit the natural reserve of the Lagoas de Santo André and Sancha. After Sines going down south, the beaches also show many lagoons with rock formations that give you the feeling of having your own private space. The south part also has a nature park: The South West Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. This is the finest preserved stretch of European coastline, covering over 100 km, from Porto Covo in the Alentejo, to Burgau in the Algarve. This park includes various unique species of animal and plant life, and is visited by many zoologists and botanists from all parts of the world.
If you want to take a rest from beaches and see the green of the interior countryside you can visit the hills of Serra de Grândola. The change of scenery will bring you to another world. If you are an enthusiastic walker, biker, like to ride horses or spot birds, you have many possibilities between Grândola, Santiago do Cacém and Lagoa de Santo André. There are different trails made by the Tourism board of Alentejo that can be followed without getting lost.
Places to see:
Tróia is a peninsula located in Grândola Municipality next to the Sado River estuary (waterway). Tourism is the peninsula’s main activity due to its long beaches facing the Atlantic. More reasons to visit Tróia are the important archaeological sites dating from the time when the peninsula was an island called Acalá, settled by the Romans and the Marina of Troia. At the Marina you can get on board of a boat and sail away while you watch the dolphins that provide an additional natural beauty to this area. In the summer you can even dive and swim with these amazing animals.Take a shortcut to come and take the ferry from Setúbal to arrive in style.
Sines is an industrial town dominated by its oil refinery with its towers and pipelines, and the largest -and first- port of Portugal. Needless to say the water here is fairly polluted and the air not a great deal better. Until the 1970’s Sines was just a small Alentejo fishing village and there are still traces of this heritage in what is a reasonably pleasant town centre. The location is nice too, sitting on a cliff overlooking a small sandy bay. Portugal’s legendary explorer, Vasco da Gama, was born in the castle here. The only trace of da Gama in Sines these days is a statue in front of the Parish church.
Every summer (July) the town of Sines hosts the FMM Sines – Festival Músicas do Mundo, a world music festival that brings thousands of enthusiasts and musicians from all continents.
Vila Nova de Milfontes is situated in the beautiful Costa Vincentina de Alentejano national park. This has ensured that any tourist infrastructure constructed is in protection with the surroundings and has prevented massive, package tourist developments. It maybe one of the loveliest towns along this stretch of the coast, with its whitewashed centre, sparkling beaches nearby and a laid-back population who couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Milfontes remains much more low key than most resort towns, except in August when it’s packed with (mostly Portuguese) surfers and sun-seekers (up to 50,000 people in town). This pleasant town situated at the mouth of the River Mira owes much of its recent development to the great increase in tourism in this region. There are several interesting buildings in the town’s historical centre, particularly the Fortress (built between 1599 and 1602 to defend the town against constant attacks by pirates), the Parish Church and the Lighthouse of Cabo Sardão, built at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Porto Côvo is close to and much like Vila Nova de Milfontes, a slow and easy going small town. If you want to get away and stay in a peaceful place, we recommend it except for high season in summer, when the Portuguese sun and surf lovers take over. A beautiful (but though) trail (Fishermen’s trail) brings is in between these 2 towns.
Alcácer do Sal is a historical town crowned by castles with medieval cobbled streets at the banks of the Sado River. A walk around Alcácer do Sal shows the most charming aspects of the city, with its alleys and stairways leading up to the castle. The towers remind us of times when, like other hilltop towns in Portugal, it played an important part in territorial battles.Take the opportunity to look in on some of the main points of interest such as the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo (Saint Mary of the Castle), the Chapel of Senhor dos Mártires (Lord of the Martyrs), the Church of Santo António (Saint Anthony), the Church of Santiago and the Municipal Museum of Archaeology.
Grândola is a typical small Alentejo town. The area is famous for the cork trees, rice fields and steady waterflow of rivers. Although hot and dusty in the summer months it captures the feeling of a place where people work hard but also take life at a laid-back pace, appreciating their surroundings and what life gives them. However, it is the revolution against the longstanding fascist dictatorship, which took place in 1974, that really put this sleepy town on the map. ‘Grândola, vila morena‘ is a folk ballad ostensibly about this town, penned by Zéca Afonso in the 60s as a tribute to the camaraderie and socialist conscience of the hard labouring people of Portugal. Banned under the Salazar regime, it was used as the definitive signal for action on the eve of the legendary 25th of April by the military captains who lead the coup d’état. Now it is a spine tingling commemorative tune whose role in bringing democracy to Portugal is known by all.
Odemira is located on top of a small hill, forming a kind of amphitheater with its bright white houses facing towards the river Mira. The river stretches over roughly 30 kilometers, a gives the most beautiful setting for sailing, rowing or canoeing. The region has taken great care to preserve its handicrafts and various craftsmen can be found here making baskets, furniture, pottery and hand-woven fabrics.
Zambujeira do Mar has wild beaches where rugged cliffs form the setting of this sleepy seaside village. The end of the main street stops at the cliff and from there paths lead to the attractive sands below. Zambujeira attracts a backpacker and surfers crowd, though in August the town is a party place and hosts the massive music fest, Festa do Sudoeste. The high-season crowds overtake Zambujeira’s out-of-season charms: fresh fish in family-run restaurants, blustering clifftop walks and a dramatic, empty coast.