Lake Alqueva in Alentejo is the destination for this autumn
We zoom in on Europe's largest constructed lake: Lake Alqueva in Alentejo, Portugal. It covers an area of a whopping 250 km2 and was created in the Guadiana river, near the Spanish border. With temperatures that can still reach 25°C in autumn, it is the ideal autumn holiday destination. Whether you want to go out with the kids, with your partner or just by yourself, Lake Alqueva offers an extensive programme of the most fun activities. For energetic water rats, fanatical landlubbers, romantic stargazers or culture and history lovers. Do read on and be surprised by the diverse offer.
Sniffing up culture
That Lake Alqueva is big should be obvious by now, but it is so big, in fact, that an entire village was flooded and had to be relocated as a result. The 'new' village, Aldeia da Luz, is therefore well worth a visit. To commemorate the old village, a museum has been set up, focusing on its history and illustrated by objects from its inhabitants. If you want to wander around outdoors, Monsaraz is recommended. It is a medieval fortified town with a beautiful idyllic appearance. Do not forget to visit the Castelo de Monsaraz. Indeed, from here you have the best views over the lake. From Monsaraz, it is about 4 km to a prehistoric apparition. This is in fact where an Alentejan version of the Stonehenge, the Cromeleque do Xerês, stands. It too has been given a new site following the construction of the lake. The striking thing about this megalithic complex is the fact that it is not arranged in a circle, but in a square!
Imagine yourself in the infinite starry sky
Another fun fact about Lake Alqueva is that it was named the first 'Starlight Tourism Destination' by UNESCO and others in 2011. The area has therefore responded well to this by offering activities to drown in the beautiful starry sky that can be seen so well in few other places in Europe. For instance, the initiative has emerged from the municipalities around Lake Alqueva to minimise city lights at night.
You can visit the Observatório do Lago Alqueva in Monsaraz to see the constellations with the naked eye. There, you will also be guided with the mythology and history of the stars before looking into the universe with the telescopes to see some planets and several moons. Another special way of discovering the Alqueva area is with the Rota Dark Sky. This route is tailored to explore the area through various activities such as guided tours to explore nature, hikes, canoe trips, birdwatching, astrophotography workshops and wine tastings. These activities are then held both at night and during the day and the restaurants and hotels in the area are also prepared accordingly.
Now if you want to experience this starry night in a truly special way, there is the option of renting a houseboat from Nicols. Whether with the family, with friends or alone with your partner, this is a fantastic, and romantic, way to spend the night outdoors. A big advantage is that you do not need a boating licence. It also allows you to go ashore whenever you want, load up the bikes in advance and go sightseeing in the villages.
Let's get physical
For the sporty among us, there is also plenty to do on the mainland in the vicinity of Lake Alqueva. For instance, Transalentejo offers various hikes and mountain bike routes that are possible at every level. Around Lake Alqueva, they organise 11 different walks and also all kinds of activities in and around the water. Among others, you have the route leading from Amieira to Alqueva, with a medium difficulty level, but with beautiful paths along the water. To bring back the cultural aspect, there is also the route that takes you past the heritage and castle of Mourão, for example. Around the water, all kinds of water activities can also be booked, such as canoeing, windsurfing, kayaking, SUPing or sailing. Nothing is too crazy. Will we see you in Alentejo this autumn?
About the Alentejo
Wide vistas, green hills, vineyards and cork and olive trees as far as the eye can see. A 100-kilometre-long coastline and characteristic towns like Évora, Elvas and Monsaraz that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites for good reason: that is the Alentejo. The region covers a third of Portugal, has the same pleasant climate as the nearby Algarve and is the country's largest wine producer. The versatile and pure Alentejo is full of outdoor activities in unspoilt nature, its inhabitants are hospitable and its gastronomy traditional and refined at the same time. In short: the Alentejo surprises, surprises, moves and offers something for everyone. www.visitalentejo.pt.