Get active on Portugal’s finest untouched coastline, the Costa Alentejana
From Tróia in the north down to Zambujeira do Mar in the south, with superb coastal paths, country trails, a shining surf and proud Atlantic cliffs backing unspoiled beaches, the Alentejo coast is up there with the best for outdoor activities, from hiking, surfing and biking, to kayaking, golf and yoga.
Sea and surf
Flanked by the peaceful Sado River Estuary – home to three pods of bottlenose dolphins – and the mountainous Arrábida National Park, the Tróia Peninsula, just a short ferry ride from Lisbon’s Setúbal, is a perfect place to start an activity-based holiday on the Costa Alentejana. Enjoy a dolphin-spotting boat trip in the estuary or explore the coastline with its stunning rock formations on a kayak tour. Stay at the deluxe and sustainable troiaresort, where accommodation includes the modern Aqualuz Tróia, with spacious family-friendly suites; the glossy and design-led Blue & Green Hotel, or the self-catering troiaresort Apartments with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Try windsurfing and bodyboarding slightly further down the coast in Comporta, a scenic beach with rolling sand dunes and pines trees. Venture approximately halfway down the coastline south of Lisbon to the Cape of Sines, where the strong swells and off-shore winds at São Torpes beach create quite the adventure playground for surfers. Beginners through to advanced surfers can pick up some wave-riding skills at the nearby Costazul Surf school.
Play, hike, ride
Golf enthusiasts still basking in the glory of the European team’s Ryder Cup victory, can recreate the magic at troiagolf championship course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Snr, and one of the top golf courses in Portugal, with long fairways sweeping between trees and unique bold bunkering. A number of tennis courts, two roof-top swimming pools at the Blue & Green Design Hotel and additional swimming pools at the Aqualuz Tróia provide further options for those who like to stay active on holiday.
There are few better ways to savour the scenery of an outstandingly beautiful region than by walking. Venture south of the Cape of Sines to Santiago de Cacem, a starting point for the recently-opened Rota Vicentina, the name for two newly way-marked walking paths. Walk sections of the 122km Fishermen’s Trail, which runs along the wild coastline and/or the 222km Historical Way, which veers slightly inland, passing through historical villages. The Rota Vicentina provides opportunities for walking and biking, at any level, for one day to multiple days. Accommodation, ranging from bed and breakfasts, contemporary properties and authentic country estates, can be booked via Casas Brancas, a not-for-profit organisation that has overseen the development of the Rota Vicentina over the past four years.
For horse lovers, a visit to the Herdade de Pessegueiro, near Porto Covo, with its stables housing 35 well-trained horses, is a must. Rides can be arranged from 1.5 hours to one week, with experienced guides, along untouched beaches and through striking countryside. Stay at the Três Marias – a stylish country house where the charismatic owner, Balthasar, lives with his collection of donkeys, sheep and his ostrich called Apreendida.
For something a little less arduous, take to the skies for a panoramic bird’s-eye view of the diverse landscape. The Alentejo offers a number of hot air balloon trips, with one launch site at Alvalade in the Setúbal district. Drift over cork forests, olive groves and vineyards, plus sleepy fishing villages, ancient farms and windmills.
Or how about starting each morning with a yoga class? Herdade da Matinha in the mountain valleys of Cercal do Alentejo, not far from the coastal town of Vila Nova de Milfontes, offers guests classes outdoors pre-breakfast, whilst Cerca do Sul, a pretty boutique bed and breakfast in Odemira in the south, offers weekly yoga classes (advanced booking required).
ENDS / 24 OCTOBER 2012
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