Monday, 9 July 2012 12:56 PM
If your idea of the perfect walking break involves exploring beautiful scenery that is home to a vast array of wildlife, the Alentejo region of Portugal should be on your wish list. Here, you can follow scenic hikes and indulge in some bird watching.
In fact, it is the birdlife that primarily attracts nature lovers to this part of the country, as it is home to more than 120 species, which are resident all year round, as well as numerous migratory birds that stop off here on their annual journeys.
So, what can you expect when you visit Alentejo as part of a Portuguese walking break? Here are just a few of the reasons this region is so special and ideal for hikers.
Where is Alentejo?
Alentejo is in the central part of Portugal, sandwiched between the Lisboa district to the north and the Algarve to the south. This coastal region is home to all manner of fascinating natural landscapes, including the Sado Estuary, the Serra de Sao Mamede Nature Park and the South East Alentejo and Vincentine Coast National Park. For your trip, you'll be based in the south of the region near the beautiful Santa Clara Lake.
Bird watching in Alentejo
The primary focus of most of the walks on your trip will be to spot as many of the different varieties of birds that live in the region as possible. The best times to visit are in April and September, as this is when the greatest concentration of migratory birds will be passing through the area.
With well over 100 types of birds living in Alentejo year-round, you'll have plenty to spot, but this increases significantly with the arrival of the seasonal visitors. From birds of prey and waders to warblers and finches, there are all kinds of species found in the region, with the combination of lake, river estuary, coastline, field and forest habitats helping support this diversity.
To get you started, you'll be guided by a local bird watching expert on the first walk of your holiday, allowing you to get used to the types of creature to look out for. Among the species you can see are corn buntings, common waxbills and white storks that are renowned for building their nests on top of church towers.
Great bustards, nightingales, blue rock thrushes, cuckoos, linnets, rock buntings and peregrine falcons are just a few of the many birds you may spot during your time exploring Alentejo on foot.
One of the best things about choosing Alentejo as your base for a walking trip in Portugal is that you'll be able to experience a variety of landscapes during your stay. From discovering the open areas of the Alentejo plains to the lakes located in the region's valleys, all your hikes will be different.
For some of the most spectacular scenery, don't miss the walk from the high hills near Monchique down to the west coast. You'll start in a rural location and wander towards the sea, where you can see the most south-westerly of mainland Europe's cliffs. There are plenty of birds to spot en route, although the views of the waves rolling into the rocks should be stunning enough to keep you happy.
Near your accommodation, you'll have access to trails that lead you along the shores of Santa Clara Lake, through the surrounding cork forest and to small hamlets nestled in the area's valleys.