Where to go to avoid August insanity: Alentejo, Portugal

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Small but magical Portugal is a country that has finally started to get its share of well deserved attention from tourists over the past few years. Great food, wineries, spectacular beaches and breathtaking cities, it’s a charming country that has it all- and in August, Europeans and Portuguese locals alike flock to the sea and lakes for their summer holidays. Visiting Portugal during August means that you certainly won’t be alone, but a visit to the undiscovered gem of Alentejo is a great way to experience the best of what Portugal has to offer without the summer crowds.

Alentejo is the largest region of Portugal (the region itself makes up almost 30% of the country) but often overlooked as a tourist destination in favor of hotspots like the Alicante, cities like Lisbon and wine regions like the Douro valley. Alentejo is sparsely populated and public transport is virtually non-existent, so visitors with a rental car are rewarded with a region almost all for themselves.

To the east, Alentejo is a long, beautiful stretch of national park protected coastline. You won’t find hotels on the sea for this reason as the area is preserved by the government against construction to keep these wild beaches pristine. Praia do Malhao beach is a great example of what Alentejo offers- a long, beautiful and remote stretch of beach with nothing else surrounding it. The surrounding coast and national park (Parque Natural do Sudoeste) is also popular for walking and hiking. Vila Nova de Milfontes is another great stop, a Portuguese resort town where the Mira river flows in to the sea. Charming white houses with orange tile roofs, cobblestone streets, and a good selection of restaurants and bars (considering it’s remote location) makes this a great destination for the hot summer months by the sea with less crowds than you’ll find in the nearby Algarve.

Away from the coast, Alentejo becomes very different from what you might see in the rest of the country. This is Portugal’s heartland, much like a hotter and drier version of Provence in France or Tuscany in Italy. Full of winding roads through the green hills dotted with green vines and golden fields of farmland, you’ll find hardworking locals and restaurants serving hearty dishes to quiet farmers (locals from the region are known for being reserved but proud).

Alentejo is also home to a wealth of beautiful walled medieval villages, like Évora. This 14th century city is now a university town, but also Portugal’s best preserved walled city, with a beautiful cathedral and cloisters, old Roman ruins, and winding lanes full of charming restaurants.

Visitors to Portugal in August might find themselves feeling a little overwhelmed by crowds, but a visit to the enchanting region of Alentejo is the perfect way to escape the crowds and explore what makes this country so special.

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