It’s no secret I love Portugal. I’ve traveled all around the country from north to south and offshore to the Azores. And I love countless things about it. My latest favorite, after a recent weekend spent there, is the southwest coast of Alentejo and western Algarve, also known as Vicentine coast.
I spent a couple of days earlier this month exploring the offerings of Casas Brancas, an association that has grouped the best of accommodation, restaurants and outdoor activities in the region. I loved their focus on sustainable development, something that much of this overdeveloped world is aching for. Here, a few highlights from my brief but delightful stay in coastal Alentejo and Algarve.
The hour-long ride atop Quasimodo was a beautiful way to experience Ilha do Pessegueiro beach, along sand dunes and through patches of bush. Herdade do Pessegueiro offers such quick jaunts, as well as longer rides that last up to seven days.
We met Sofia who runs Burros & Artes, scenic nature walks and trekking with donkeys. I now really want to go back and do one of the longer hikes with donkeys, which range from two to seven days, along hills and valleys of western Algarve.
I spent a night at the adorable Monte da Xica, a rural inn with three colorful rooms and a small pool, located 3km inland from the coastal town of Zambujeira do Mar. I only wish I had more time to spend chatting with Francisca, the vivacious owner who runs the place with love and care.
I loved the dinner at Restaurante da Praia, as the last of the surfers were leaving Arrifana Beach for the day. We spent that warm October evening on the ocean-facing terrace sharing tales over tapas-style dishes. I loved the night cap: a shot of potent medronho, traditional fruit brandy from this region of Portugal, made with the so-called strawberry tree.
There was lots more I experienced in less than two full days, include a walk along the fishermen’s trail just outside Zambujeira do Mar, which is part of the soon-to-be-launched Rota Vicentina. This new network of routes in southwest Alentejo and western Algerve will be unveiled in early 2012. Stay tuned and, if in Portugal, don’t miss it!