It is the largest artificial lake in Europe, an immensity of water surrounded by unbelievable natural landscapes created by a dam on the Guadiana River. Small islets dot the fields in shades of yellow and maroon, making us believe that after all heaven does exist.
A 250 km2 lake that covers five municipalities in Alentejo and some in Spain. Arriving at Alqueva by car can be a delight, but as we get closer to Moura, where we stayed, or Amareleja, the hottest place in Portugal, the heat tightens. The day we arrived, the car’s thermometer marked 47 degrees and we didn’t have air conditioning. And so, it began our adventure in Alentejo.
1. Rent a Houseboat
You can rent a houseboat and sleep on the calm waters of Alqueva. The sound and the lull of the lake will relax you and make you dream. A unique experience!
2. Sleep under Stars
This region was certified by UNESCO as a Starlight Destination for stargazing. A unique and unparalleled opportunity to view the night sky.
3. Go to Aldeia da Luz Village
The village was submerged by the waters of the dam and it had to be moved to higher ground, in there you can find the Museum of Luz.
4. Make a Trip to the Golden Island
Filipe Ferro, manager of Alqueva Cruises, drives the boat that takes us to Golden Island, the only natural beach with sand on Lake Alqueva. Along the way, he talks about the construction of the dam, says that “when it was built, the earth drank a lot of water, and only with time it stopped happening.” He also talks about the birds that fly over the islets and seem to pose with elegance for the tourists photographs.
He says he will only unlock the secret of the Golden Island when we get there. Arriving at the island, Filipe dips his hand in the water, then passes through sand, let it dry for seconds and the surprise is reflected in the faces of those who, like me, traveled for the first time to this island.
The hand was filled with golden particles as if it were gold. But the most unusual and wonderful experience is when you enter the water and everything seems to light up around your body, huge golden particles swirl in the water and land on us as if lighting us up. Everything looks golden as the strong sun that floods us.
5. Meet Monsaraz
The medieval village of Monsaraz is one of the oldest in Portugal. In 2017, it won in the “Monument Villages” category of the “7 Wonders of Portugal” contest. A place that seems to stop in time. From the castle, you can see a magnificent landscape. We are so up high that it feels like we’re touching the sky.
The atmosphere is so intense that if you listen carefully you can still hear the canter of the Knights Templars. On the walls of the houses, you can see black and white paintings and small shops decorated with old objects that take us back in time. If you want to have lunch here, go to “Taverna dos Templários”, you can overlook the magnificent landscape while eating.
6. River beach of Amieira
Located next to the village with the same name, in the municipality of Portel, is one of my favorite beaches given the magnificent landscape, the surroundings and the infrastructures created.
7. River beach of Mourão
It has 320 meters of sand extension and is located near a picnic area. From its wooden catwalk, we can see a wonderful sunset.
8. River beach of Monsaraz
Within the Alqueva reserve, it’s located in the Nautical Center of Monsaraz. All beaches offer the possibility to do water sports.
9. Eat well, go to Alentejo!
Alentejo is known for its bucolic landscapes, the friendliness of its people, but also for its fantastic cuisine. From “migas” to traditional soups and conventual desserts. We stayed in Moura and the restaurant Vermelhudo and Taberna do Liberato were recommended, but we found one by chance that I strongly recommend. It was almost 11 at night and I wanted a chocolate mousse so much. Do you know those desires that sometimes happen? It was one of those.
We passed by chance in front of “Retiro do Ernesto” and Mr. Rui greeted us with sympathy. Given the approach, I ask if they had a chocolate mousse (taking into account the hours, I had little faith in eating it). He answered me a few seconds later if it could be with strawberries and whipped cream. I opened my eyes wide and sat down immediately. Afterward, I was satiated and talking avidly with this wonderful couple. I decided to schedule dinner there the next day.
This recent restaurant was born from the love that Maria, Rui’s wife, has for cooking. They embarked on the adventure of creating a restaurant to which they gave the name of their cat: Ernesto. They are also amateur actors who are part of the Group Animation Theatre “Moura Encantada”.
The journey wasn’t easy considering a health problem that affected Maria after the opening of the restaurant. They closed for almost 3 months and after Maria’s recovery they reopened it, but the pandemic came and they had to close it again.
Now, they are finally opened and serving meals made with quality and love. If you want a restaurant that invests in culture and treats customers like family, choose this one.
10. Visit the largest Pottery Center in the country
In São Pedro do Corval visit the largest pottery center in the country. Here we visit a small shop called “Quintas”, where we found the owner painting by hand, we saw truly artistic pieces. If you come here, go to “Adega do Cachete”, which has “migas” of asparagus and an amazing orange salad.
Visit Alentejo, it is a unique destination!