The Alqueva region is located less than 50 km from Évora. The construction of the Alqueva dam, at the beginning of this millennium, gave rise to the largest artificial lake in all of Western Europe, at about 250 km ², completely changing the landscape, ecosystem, and routines of those who lived here.
I have to confess that, even before the existence of the Great Lake of Alqueva, this was a region that most Portuguese people were already in love with this corner of Alentejo. But there is no denying that the emergence of Lake Alqueva has managed to significantly improve what was already good.
Adding to the tranquility of the immense Alentejo plains, brushstrokes here and there by small hills, the historic villages that make us travel back in time, the friendliness and authenticity of its people, and the excellent cuisine of the region, today we also have more than a dozen riverside villages, river beaches, and countless nautical activities to practice. And the landscapes are even more fantastic than before!
There is a lot to see and do around the Great Lake of Alqueva, being possible to spend a couple of weeks here without being bored in the least. Especially because Alentejo does not invite haste!
When Should You Be Visiting Alqueva?
The best time to visit Alqueva is when spring temperatures reach Alentejo, from March to May, and bring the flowers to bloom. The landscape gains an intense green tinted by wildflowers.
In autumn it is the ocher tones and pastels of dry leaves from September to October that also bring the harvest, another of the most interesting phases of the year to visit the Lago do Alqueva region.
Summer here is usually hot, very hot, but don’t visit. There are countless delicious river beaches to cool off and you can watch a sunset – from – sun that you will never forget in life. There is a night mime – if you have a typical dinner watered with nectar from the gods and fall asleep aiming at a starry sky that the city will never provide you with.
And in winter, you can have it all with the cozy hug and the soothing sound of crackling in a lit fireplace.
Where to stay in Alqueva – Accommodation suggestions in the Greater Lago do Alqueva region
In our opinion, Reguengos de Monsaraz is the best place to stay in Alqueva. In addition to having a very varied offer of accommodation and offering all kinds of services that the traveler needs, it has excellent access and is the most equidistant location in the main points of interest of the Greater Lake of Alqueva.
Reguengos de Monsaraz has several small villages around that can also be great to stay in, especially if you enjoy some tranquility, peace, and unmeasured sympathy of their people, in a place where nothing is left to chance. The quality/price ratio around this region is really good and as such we recommend it without hesitation.
Other good places to stay in the Alqueva region are the medieval village of Monsaraz, the Raian village of Mourão, the city of Moura, the village of Portel and the Marina da Amieira where it is possible to rent and sleep inside a boat.
Click on the links below to see the best accommodation options in the respective locations in the Greater Lago do Alqueva region:
The Best of Alqueva in an Itinerary of 3 days
It is important to note that the number of days we suggest for this Alqueva itinerary assumes that the trip is made by car and does not include travel days from the place of origin to the Greater Lago do Alqueva region. If you want to make this route using public transport you will need at least another couple of days.
We started our Alqueva itinerary with a visit to the largest ex – libris in the Greater Lago de Alqueva region: the charming and towering medieval village of Monsaraz, winner of the contest 7 Wonders of Portugal in the category “Main Villages”.
Book the morning ( or much of it ) to stroll through the cobbled streets of this wonderful village-walled museum. There are truly exciting corners to discover and lots of cafes with inviting terraces to enjoy without fangs. Wandering around Monsaraz is, in itself, a fantastic experience, but be sure to visit the Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria da Lagoa and its imposing castle that offers the visitor overwhelming views over the Alentejo plains and the lake of Alqueva.
Local Guide Advice: if you are in Monsaraz for lunch, take the opportunity to eat at Sabores de Monsaraz. The food is homemade and is among the best you will find in the Alqueva region. The menu has a huge choice, but our favorite dishes are Arroz de Pato, Borrego Assado and Migas Gata. For dessert, nothing beats the Sericaia.
Once Monsaraz is visited, continue your Alqueva itinerary with the visit to the millenary Cromeleque do Xarez , one of the most impressive examples of megalithism in Portuguese territory.
Estima – if this megalithic set, composed of more than 50 menhirs, was erected between 4,000 BC to 3,000 BC, just before the world-famous Stonehenge . And unlike its British counterpart, there are no crowds of visitors here, which allows you to enjoy this ancient monument with all the calm in the world.
Right next to the Xarez Cromelech you will find Orada Convent . We never caught it open, but we can assure you that its exterior justifies the small deviation.
From there to Monsaraz River Beach is literally a hopper and can still enjoy]. If it’s summer, this is the perfect spot of the day to take a dip in the refreshing waters of the Guadiana. If the weather is not strong, stay – for a pleasant walk by the river while watching the dozens of species of birds that made Lago do Alqueva your home.
It’s time to return to the Stone Age with a visit to Anta Grande do Olival da Pega and Menhir da Rocha dos Namorados
The latter is associated with a secular and curious pagan tradition consisting of the following: on Monday – fair after Easter, single girls will consult the menhir to find out if they are getting married soon. For this purpose they throw a stone at the top of the menhir. If she stays there, it is because they are getting married soon, if they fall to the ground they will have to wait another year. Whether the menhir gets it right or not, we don’t know that, but we can say that on top of it are dozens of small stones, so it is a ritual that is still very much alive.
Whether you have thrown a pebble or it is not time to continue your Alqueva script with a visit to São Pedro do Corval, the largest potter center in Portugal, which has more than 30 potteries.
In addition to being able to see live the clay to be molded by the experienced hands of potters, it is an excellent opportunity to buy formidable pieces of Alentejo handicrafts, perfect souvenirs to take with you on your way home.
The first day of this Alqueva Roadmap ends at Reguengos de Monsaraz . If you still have time, you can take the opportunity to visit one of the many excellent wine cellars in the region or to wander around its historic center, in which the slender Church of Santo António stands out.
Where to eat in Reguengos de Monsaraz – restaurant suggestion
If it is not lacking in Reguengos de Monsaraz, they are good restaurants with the best of Alentejo cuisine. For good regional food we recommend the Aloendro Restaurant, the “Taberna Al – Andaluz” Restaurant, O Pingo Restaurant and Monte D’Accorda ( the latter two being the most economical ).
If you are a vegan we also have good news: at Casa da Cumeada it is possible to dine even if you are not staying there and the food is always super fresh and prepared with all the affection by Teresa’s talented hands.
We start the second day of our Alqueva itinerary with a visit to the riverside village of Campinho . The main places of interest are the Mother Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and its fantastic picnic area that is right on the banks of the Great Lake of Alqueva. There is an anchorage, from where you can take excellent dives, and a series of small trails that allow pleasant walks through nature, perfect for the whole family.
From Campinho, we advance to Marina da Amieira, the main anchorage of Alqueva, where it is possible to make unforgettable boat trips through Alqueva or even rent a Barco Casa without having to have a Sailor’s License. Right next to it is the colossal Amieira River Beach , which was inaugurated in 2019, and is currently the largest river beach in Alqueva and in all of Alentejo.
If you want to extend your stay in Alqueva for another day, here is an excellent opportunity to live the experience of sleeping one night on a boat. Get to Marina da Amieira and book a boat.
In addition to sailing through Alqueva, you can also take advantage of part of the extra day to travel the pedestrian trail “PR 1 PRL – Amieira and Alqueva with the Lake at Your Feet”, one of the best pedestrian routes in Alqueva.
Practical information on the Amieira and Alqueva Trail
- Distance: 17 km
- Circular: no ( it is convenient to have a taxi contact for the return )
- Technical Difficulty: Moderate
- Departure Place: Marina da Amieira
- Place of Arrival: São Lourenço Church in Aldeia do Alqueva
You can continue the second day of the Alqueva tour towards Moura, but not before stopping at Alqueva Dam , the “mother” of this immense lake, to enjoy the landscape.
The rusty letters, which are next to the car park, say “On a clear day you can see forever”. That the views go to infinity, we don’t cross, but there that they are fantastic, they are.
Already in Moura be sure to wander through the streets and flowery streets of its historic center and visit its castle. João Baptista, do Carmo and S. Francisco. If you see that you have time, also go to the Olive Oil Museum, where you can learn about olive oil production and visit one of the oldest mills in Alentejo.
End the second day of the Alqueva itinerary with a visit to the medieval village of Portel . In addition to the “mandatory” visit to its castle, one of the most beautiful and imposing in the Alqueva region, and a stroll through the narrow steep alleys, be sure to see the interior of your Mother Church and the Town Hall.
3rd and Last Day
Ready for the last day of the Alqueva tour? You can start the day with a visit to Herdade do Esporão , home to some of the best wines in Alentejo.
You can schedule a visit to the Wineries and Cellars and try wine tasting while tasting Alentejo regional products, or simply enjoy your vineyards and the iconic Torre do Esporão.
After the Herdade is visited, it is time to cross the new bridge over Guadiana and head to the new Aldeia da Luz .
As you may know, the original Aldeia da Luz was submerged by the waters of the Guadiana River when the Alqueva dam was built. At the time there were two options: either relocate its inhabitants to neighboring villages or build a new village while essentially maintaining the characteristics of the old village.
The inhabitants opted for the second hypothesis and thus the most recent riverside village in Portugal was born. And in order for its origins to never be forgotten, the Museum of Light was created, with collections of Ethnography and Archeology, which we recommend visiting. Right next door you can also see the rebuilt sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Luz.
Once Aldeia da Luz is visited, we continued the Alqueva itinerary with a short trip to the beautiful village of Morão. The biggest star of the village is its towering castle with imposing walls where you can stroll at will and which will toast you with superb views over the Great Lake of Alqueva. In addition to the castle, it is also worth visiting the Mother Church of Nossa Senhora das Candeias and the pleasant garden of Praça da República.
And the icing on the cake for a visit to Mourão is to watch the sunset – from – sol from its fantastic river beach. It is for us the most beautiful evening in Lago do Alqueva.
And as you should be hungry by now, follow our suggestion and go to dinner at Adega Velha restaurant, one of the most emblematic restaurants in the Alqueva region. In addition to the super nutty decoration, delicious regional food and homemade wine, you can still be lucky to watch an Alentejo Sing, improvised without ceremony by the Adega’s habitués customers.
Our Local Guide Tip: take advantage of that you are in Mourão and stop by Spain to fill your vehicle. There are only 15 kilometers that separate the center of Mourão from the fuel pump at the entrance to Villanueva del Fresno and the savings will compensate for the diversion.
Well, we reserve a little surprise for the end. I probably didn’t know, but the Alqueva region is one of the best in the world for star watching, having even been the first site in the world to be certified by the Starlight Foundation as a “Starlight Tourism Destination”.
Therefore, if the atmospheric conditions are of features, head to the Dark Sky Alqueva, in the village of Cumeada, and spend a different evening watching the moon, planets, and constellations of stars.
Only have 2 days? Take the following route
If you only have 2 days to visit Alqueva, you will naturally have to give up visiting some of the points of interest that we described above. And in order to maximize the time available for visits, the ideal is to sleep in different locations, making a circular circuit around the Great Lake of Alqueva.
Of course, you can always choose to condense the 3 day tour into 2 but you will spend too much time on the road and too little time in the places of interest. Check the suggestions and description for each location in the 3 day route guide.
Monsaraz – Cromeleque do Xarez – Praia Fluvial de Monsaraz – Mourão – Aldeia da Luz – Moura
Alqueva Dam – Portel – Amieira Marina – Herdade do Esporão – Reguengos de Monsaraz – Ridge ( Dark Sky Star Observation )