Monte Beato – A peaceful rest in deep Alentejo

Monte Beato – A peaceful rest in deep Alentejo

With summer insisting not to be over and a bank holiday on its way, my partner and I decided to take some time off and continue exploring Alentejo. The idea was to find a location where we could rest, eat well and have some peace and quiet while lounging by the pool. All on a budget. And that’s what we found in the town of Almodôvar in a little agro farm called Monte Beato.

Monte Beato Farm is actually a working farm, but they’ve opened it to the public and built two lovely typical farmhouses with cosy modern rooms, a fully equipped kitchen, for guests who want to do some cooking, a massive living room and an amazing pool.

We ended up never using the pool because it was windy and overcast but we did go for walks and even took the bikes, which you can get there for free, and went for a spin around the small lakes in the farm.

There’s a lot of farmland to explore and it was, even more, fun to do it with an Alentejo Mastim dog, the owner’s pet who insisted on following us on our tours.

We walked around the recently planted cork trees, they will take 10 years to mature, and we also saw the growing almond and pomegranate trees. The owner has planted all of this so he can start selling in the future. The whole farm is 100% run on clean energy. The solar panels provide all the energy for the houses on the farm and all the water comes from a well, which is purified, making everything clean and safe.

Almodôvar Highlights

If you want something more to do than just relax by the pool, the centre of Almodôvar is only 2 km away. Almodôvar is a relatively big town with a few restaurants and bakeries which you should definitely try. There are also beautiful churches to visit and a theatre that also works as a cinema.

The highlight for me though was something that is very beloved in Portugal, the roundabouts. We love our roundabouts and we don’t miss a chance to have something emblematic in the middle of them, may it be a fountain or a piece of art. And this one is certainly one you can’t miss. It’s a homage to all the shoemakers of the village. There was a point in time where there were more than 200 artisans working in the region. The design was made by the sculptor Aureliano Aguiar who made the statue with recovered pieces of metal.

Sapateiro de Almodôvar

Where to eat 

Breakfast

Folhadinhos-de-Maçã

Start with a visit to the village’s best bakery Pastelaria Sarita, try their delicious apple custard cake. You can thank me later.

Lunch and Dinner Almodôvar

Tasquinha O Medronho – €3.50 for a 1-liter jar of sangria, €6 for fried chicken, octopus salad, crispy cod with a marvellous onion sauce, black pork cheeks, grilled spicy quail, cuttlefish and many more petiscos (appetizers).

O Moinho – We went to this restaurant for dinner. The tuna steak with pepper sauce was marvellous but I would encourage you to try any other of their specialities. And don’t forget the dessert, this restaurant has served me the best Baba de Camelo of my life. This very typical Portuguese dessert, made of caramel cooked with cream was special. Why? They added cookies to the mix which made it divine.

What to do

Explore Beja, 50 minutes away. Next to Santarém, in the Ribatejo Region, this city had the biggest Jewish community in Portugal in times. There’s a lot of history to discover out there.

The medieval Beja castle

Spend a day in Mértola, strategically located on a hill over the Guadiana River. It’s only 40 minutes away from Almodôvar.

Have a beer in one of Mertola’s many cafes while enjoying time go time.

As you can see, there is so much you can pack into a single weekend. Take a mini break and discover the best of Alentejo. You can book a weekend in November for only €104 in Monte Beato with breakfast included.  Book your mini-break here or save the link, think about it and book it later!

 

 

 

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Staying In A Convent In The Middle Of Alentejo

Staying In A Convent In The Middle Of Alentejo

Described by The Guardian as the new Tuscany or, even better, the more affordable Tuscany, Alentejo is one of the destinations you can’t afford to miss ou when you visit Portugal. The wine is amazing, it’s where half of the Portuguese wine production is done. The food is very rich, sometimes rustic but always really tasty with black pork, sheep’s cheese, wild mushrooms as some of the typical dishes you should definitely try. Culturally there’s an abundance of history to discover while visiting roman ruins, castles, museums, wineries or churches from many centuries ago.Alter do Chão Castle – Built In The 13th Century

Since returning to Portugal, Alentejo has become one of the regions I’ve visited the most whenever I have the chance. It’s relatively close to Lisbon and it’s usually warmer and drier plus hotels tend to be cheaper there. This Easter I had some holidays to take so with temperatures around 26° c, that’s 79 F,  I decided to go to Alter do Chão. The idea was to find a nice hotel with a swimming pool inside a small village so I wouldn’t have to go far looking for restaurants. After doing some research, I discovered the Hotel Convento d’Alter, a XVII Franciscan convent that was converted into a beautiful hotel. I’ve added some pictures of the swimming pool although it looks even better once you’re there, sitting on a lounge chair with this incredible view around you. It helped that we were one of the only guests staying at the hotel so the whole space was basically only for my partner and me.

Swimming Pool At The Convent

Quick Access To The Swimming Pool

Canopy beds in some rooms
Now as for the service, irreprehensible, they were really nice to us, very helpful giving suggestions on what to do and see and they even gave us an upgrade giving us a bedroom on the bottom floor, next to the swimming (if you decide to visit, tell them you’d prefer to stay on the ground floor). It was great to just go in for a nap or to get some drinks and be by the pool so instantly. All this for just 117 euros, quite a great price for two nights.

Find out more here.

What to do in Alter do Chão

castelo alter

1. Visit A Medieval Castle – Apart from lounging by the pool, we went around the village and climbed the many stairs of the medieval castle that is right in the centre of the city. It costs 2 euros to go in. There’s an elevator for those with low mobility but if you can, use the stairs, its not only a great workout but you get to feel what it must have been like to live in those days, moving in big armours around the small passways and narrow stairs. Parts of the castle were built during the Muslim occupation but the castle as it is today was rebuilt in 1359.

Coudelaria de Alter do Chão
2. Ride a horse in the Coudelaria de Alter do Chão – Founded in 1748, the goal was to “breed horses for the royal horsemanship“. This stud farm is where Alter Real studs are bred and there’s even an annual auction where breeders or farmers can buy these or other Portuguese horses. There are tours taking place every day in Coudelaria, you can visit the stables and the museum, you can book horse-riding lessons or even practice falconry with experts. Tours take place twice a day, at 11 am and 3 pm but I would advise you to call and confirm the dates they’re open to the public.

Booking Telephone: 961733371 / 245610064 | Email: cri@alterreal.pt.

3. Walk in a Roman Bridge – Although not in Alter do Chão, you can’t miss out this piece of history. This roman bridge in Vila Formosa was built in the 1st or 2nd century and it was part of the roman empire road system that connected Lisbon to Mérida in Spain, at the time the capital of Lusitania. It was so well built, that nowadays, 21 centuries after, cars can still circulate on it.

food_alter

4. Enjoy the Alentejo Cuisine at the Restaurante Páteo Real – Try some of the marvelous Alentejo cuisine in this restaurant right next to the Convento D’Alter Hotel. A roasted leg of lamb or a lamb stew, grilled black pork, together with some good Alentejo wine and bread to dip into the sauce. Unpretentious and delicious.

If you’re planning to take some days off, just to catch up on some reading and sleeping like I did, or if you want to visit high Alentejo, its vineyards and its rich history, Alter do Chão is a great option.

 

Top 5 Best Glamping Experiences In Portugal

Top 5 Best Glamping Experiences In Portugal

After trying glamping for the first time I became an enthusiast for these types of holidays. Always checking into hotels, after a while, can become a bit “same old, same old”. Staying somewhere surround by nature can be so much more adventurous and fun. Glamping will, for sure, lead to interesting and exciting holidays. So here are the places I suggest you try quickly before they get discovered and spoilt.

  1. Natura Glamping
Natura Camping – Glamping

I would suggest this park for those who are planning to do a road trip in Portugal and want to explore beyond the main touristic areas. This park is located in Alcongosta, in the central region of Portugal, in the heart of the Gardunha mountain. Guests can stay in a tent in the shape of a pod, which has all the amenities of a hotel room, including a private bathroom (complete with organic toiletries), a tv, a fridge, a kettle and wi-fi. And then, there’s the view, from your bed you can see the sky, the mountains and the valley. It’s all very peaceful. Rooms have a terrace and there’s even an outdoor jacuzzi. There’s also a shared lounge with a games room and a tour desk.

Hiking, bike riding, segway rental are some of the adventures you can partake in this area. I would suggest you book them in advance.

Distance from Lisbon: 2h17m

Location: Alcongosta, Fundão

Prices for upcoming dates: $114 | £91 | €105

Book it here.

2. Casa Tuia 

Located in the Algarve, more precisely in Carvoeiro, and only 20 minutes from the beach, you will find this amazing wooden tents. They’re called the Safari tents and they can host up to 5 people in each. All units come with an equipped kitchen, including a microwave and dishwasher! They all have a private bathroom, terrace and barbeque.

You can play tennis at the property, table tennis, darts, hiking, all for free, and there’s even an amazing swimming pool on site. There’s also windsurfing, diving, golf and horse riding activities around the area.

Distance from Lisbon: 2h35m

Distance from Faro Airport: 47min

Location: Carvoeiro, Algarve 

Prices per night for upcoming dates: $102 | £82 | €95

Book it here.

3. Nomad Planet 

This could be your view

Right in the northern region of Portugal, you will find Nomad Planet, a camp with only four yurts and a bungalow, all decorated with brightly coloured furniture, spacious beds and a view difficult to surpass.

From your yurt styled tent or bungalow, you will have a panoramic view of the Peneda-Gerês Park, Portugal’s only national park.  The bathroom facilities are shared and there’s a lounge with a kitchen and barbeque. Activities like canoeing, parasailing and cycling are also available for those who would like to add a bit more of adventure into their holidays.

Location: Fiães do Rio, Montalegre

Distance from Lisbon: 4h30m

Distance from Porto Airport: 1h53m

Prices per night for upcoming dates: $47  |£37 | €43

4. Quinta M

Part of the Splendia, a series of hand-picked luxury and boutique hotels, Quinta M has the most glamourous yurts I’ve seen so far. Each yurt has a private bathroom and all the amenities you would expect from a 5-star hotel room, plus a fantastic sky view at night.

All yurts face the beautiful swimming pool and there are plenty of activities in the campsite and around to keep you going. Horse riding classes, including dressage, pilates, a boot camp and even a personal trainer for those interested in working the mind and the body. This site is also very close to many iconic cities in the area like Óbidos, Nazaré and Tomar.

Pets are accepted for an extra €10.

Prices per night for upcoming dates: $157 | £125 | 145€

Distance from Lisbon: 1h41m

Location: Várzea de Baixo, Casével, Santarém

Book it here.

5. Aterra

It’s in Alentejo that you’re going to find this small, family-oriented, camp resort. You can stay in a tipi and enjoy the vegetarian cuisine, cooked onsite, the breakfasts made with local produce are served either in your room or the communal room. There’s a barbeque area and lots of animals for kids to play with.

There’s also a beautiful lake, where you can swim or take the canoes, which you can rent for free.

Prices per night for upcoming dates: $65 | £52 |€ 60

Location: São Teotónio, Costa Alentejana

Distance from Lisbon: 2h43m

Book it here.

A Weekend Away In Alentejo – Grândola

A Weekend Away In Alentejo – Grândola

I love to plan mini-breaks, it’s actually been proven how good they are for our general health. To be able to just drive somewhere with a few items of clothing in a bag and not many plans except lounging by the pool and venturing in small towns.

And that’s why I decided to take a warm September weekend to go to Alentejo and explore a little bit of this region, an undiscovered region for me and many other travellers. I chose Hotel Rural Santa Bárbara dos Mineiros in Lousal, a pyrite mining village part of the Grândola municipality. The reason? It was close to Lisbon yet felt isolated enough. Also, the price was great and the swimming pool seemed delicious.

Hotel Piscina

The hotel’s decoration was inspired by the mining and rural traditions of the area, at the reception you can even find a cows’s bell, sitting there, waiting for you to ring it and alert the receptionist of visitors. As for the location, it was exactly what I expected, remote yet easy to access, with a few cafes, a restaurant and beautiful gardens surrounding the area. The swimming pool looked as appealing as in the pictures and next to it an outdoor bar with foosball, table games and a paintball machine. By the pool there was also a gym with lots of aquatic accessories for children and adults. I really enjoyed a nap on the pool mattress, there were also badminton racquets and free bikes to explore the area (note: If you decide to take the bikes, be wary of the many dogs wandering outside the hotel, they were all nice to us but they did bark and follow us around). For those who want to stay in, the living room at the hotel has a DVD room and even more table games. As for the rooms, they were decorated with a simplicity that really reminded me of an old Alentejo house.

What to do?

  • Friday evening
The parade in the medieval fair

There are parties all year round in the little villages surrounding Lousal. You can ask at the front desk for information. In our case, since we went in September, we got to go to a very fun Medieval Fair, taking place in a village called Alvalade. The entrance cost was €3.50 and it was worth every single coin. There were actors re-enacting medieval times, walking around in horses, selling medieval food and drinks, traditional games, including shooting real arrows, and lots of handicraft articles on offer. We even joined in on a medieval banquet. Click here to see videos of previous years.

  • Satuday
Badoca Safari Park

We started the day with an amazing breakfast, fresh orange juice, toasts with jam, Alentejo hams and homemade cakes. Feeling full and happy, we headed to the Badoca Safari Park, an animal park merely 40 minutes away. There were barely any signs pointing to the park so it was a bit tricky to find it but with the help of the GPS and with a lot of asking around we got there. This is a great adventure if you have kids, but even if you don’t it was so much fun. Doing a safari with a guide, we got to travel around the park, stopping by the animals and learning fun facts about them. Being close to giraffes, buffalos, lions, flamingos, gorillas and baboons was wonderful. But the highlight of the day was the trip down the rapids. For €2,5 extra you can “descend the river” on an African raft. We did it twice and ended up soaking wet which was very refreshing after a hard day in the sun. I wouldn’t recommend it on the winter thought. Returning to the hotel we stopped for a quick bite in a bakery in Santo André and then back to the hotel for some swimming pool time and a Trivial Pursuit challenge. We ate at the hotel since we were tired and didn’t want to go too far. I would suggest this if you just want to enjoy a night in and don’t want to take the car.

  • Sunday

We decided to go and explore the Centro de Ciência Viva. For €4,50 we got to see minerals and learn more about rocks and the mines, in times the epicentre of the region. The tour was great but I would recommend more for children. There are lots of interactive areas with things to test and play with, exactly my type of museum. We ended up not visiting the actual mines.

Porco

We had lunch at Armazém Central, right by our hotel, the restaurant had excellent reviews on Tripadvisor and was highly recommended by some friends. The best part of the whole experience was hearing the Cante Alentejano group singing as we ate. The funny thing was, the singers were by our side, eating lunch with their wives and they would get up every now and again to sing. Beautiful idea.

Summing it up, the weekend felt like a week’s holiday. We went back in time right into medieval times, we ate really well, slept late, pedalled away, running from dogs, discovered the science of mines and even went on a Safari. All in 2 and half days.

 

Travel Time

From Lisbon to Lousal 1h26m

Cost

Tolls and Gas: 50

Hotel: €96 with breakfast included

Badoca Safari Park: €17,90 per person + 2,5€ rapid descent

Centro Ciência Viva – Science Centre: 4,50€ per person

Lunch: Armazém Central – 32€ with drinks and one dessert