I continue my way along the Alentejo coast, glad to have some time at my hands, for it is stunningly beautiful here. Wild and unspoiled –  I’m overwhelmed by the steep cliffs and the small gems of beaches nestled between them. I think every season must be great in these parts (even though the summer months are considerably more crowded as this is when the Portuguese venture out themselves… I can’t say I blame them, they know all the great places to go!), for in bad weather the violently crashing waves create a marvellous spectacle. This is the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, one of Portugal’s 13 official natural parks, located in the south-west of Portugal – stretching from Sines in the Alentejo all the way to Sagres, the southern-most point, in the Algarve. It’s paradise for (kite) surfers, perfect for mountain biking, but especially great for hikers. For example, there’s Rota Vicentina, which runs through the entire Costa Vicentina Park. This route features marked hiking trails (and bike trails as well these days) and consists of two parts. The Caminho Histórico (the Historical Way), is 230 km long and takes you through the interior of the region. The second part is the Trilho dos Pescadores (the Fisherman’s Trail). This hiking trail runs along the coastal path used by fishermen to get to their favourite fishing spot. The trail takes hikers through dunes covered with succulents and along sandy beaches and towering cliffs. It comprises a total of 4 sections, each of which is about a day’s walk.

I’m spending the night at Herdade do Touril, just outside Zambujeira do Mar, in the southwest of the Alentejo, on the Rota Vicentina. Such tranquility and space….lovely! This family-owned estate, dating from 1826, used to cover 1200 hectares and Luis Falcao is its fifth generation owner. Much of this once flourishing farm was lost over the years, especially during Salazar’s regime. However, at the end of his dictatorship, a large part of the estate was returned to the family, allowing them to start rebuilding it. Luis’ father had some grand ideas for the estate but, unfortunately, he passed away shortly after. Now it was up to Luis to realise his father’s dream. This was right about the time when ‘rural hotels’ became the trend and Luis decided to turn the estate, which was located in the middle of the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, into a small-scale accommodation. He did so in perfect harmony with the environment and cultural heritage, in the traditional white and blue, thus giving it true soul! There are only 19 rooms, divided over 5 houses that are scattered around the estate. It is the perfect starting point for discovering this magnificent part of the Alentejo.

I receive a very warm welcome – the Portuguese are so good at that! My room is in a house a bit further away, although the word ‘room’ doesn’t quite cover it: in addition to a nice bedroom and a smallish bathroom, it features a spacious living room with fireplace, a small kitchen, two terraces overlooking the meadow with the resident donkey and a view of the faraway sea. A lot of thought went into the layout of the various units and an extra bedroom can be added to the living room to accommodate for instance your children, other family members or friends. The estate also features larger houses for up to five people. When it’s warm outside, the lovely swimming pool with plenty of relaxed areas to settle down with a book is perfect, and the cosy outside bar is great for drinks or an evening meal. On colder days, the common living room with fire place and honesty bar, where you pour your own drink, is comfortable and cosy. And if you feel like it, you can tuck in for a meal…a daily changing menu offers typical local delicacies that enhance the Alentejo feeling!

Herdade do Touril is a wonderfully authentic place, where the employees are super friendly and welcoming, the rooms are comfortable and very decently priced. Above all, the surroundings are spectacular! The coast always has a magical pull and I feel that Costa Vicentina is one of the most beautiful, spectacular coastlines inEurope! Gorgeous and so worth discovering this hidden part of Portugal….only don’t spread the word too much :-)!!!

More about the Alentejo in my blog: Alentejo – Portugal’s diamond in the rough!

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