The ‘bread basket of Portugal’, the Alentejo is known for its farms and vineyards. It also has a gorgeous coastline, with some of Europe’s best (and least discovered) beaches. This paradise is one of the best value places to buy in Portugal, too. While house prices are booming in Lisbon and the Algarve, the Alentejo is 5.8% down on its peak levels. But don’t let that put you off – this is an up-and-coming location.
Living in the Alentejo
If you’re looking for a relaxed pace of life and plenty of sunshine, you’ll find it in the Alentejo. This peaceful farming region between the Algarve and the southern banks of the Tagus River has affordable property and an enviable lifestyle. White-washed fishing villages line the Atlantic coast, and quaint villages nestle amongst the vineyards, fields of wheat and cork groves. While life here is often traditional and slow-paced, you’ll find stylish restaurants and fashionable shops in the regional capital Évora.
Hot weather is standard in the Alentejo, which gets some of the hottest summer temperatures in Europe. Luckily there’s an incredible coastline with unspoiled beaches where you can cool off. Unlike the Algarve, most stay quiet even in the height of summer.
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Why you’ll love it
The relaxed beach-town vibe of Comporta makes it easy to draw comparisons with the good old days of Ibiza, Tarifa and St Tropez. Located at the bottom of the Tróia Peninsula, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Sado estuary on the other, it’s a land of rice paddies and endless golden beaches.
This area is naturally beautiful, with dolphins frolicking in the waters off the peninsula
The nightlife is extremely chilled out. You can sip a cocktail and listen to music while watching the sun set over the Atlantic, or tuck into freshly caught seafood in one of the many rustic restaurants. This area is naturally beautiful, with dolphins frolicking in the waters off the peninsula. Strict planning laws have kept the coastline pristine and resort free, so most of the properties for sale in Comporta are in the seven peaceful villages that stud this stretch of coast. If you move here, you’ll have some pretty fancy neighbours – it’s a favourite holiday spot of Nicolas Sarkozy, Madonna and Christian Laboutin.
Property prices: Modern apartments and villas are on the pricier end – you can expect to pay from €500,000 for a two-bedroom place – while renovation projects and land can be purchased for as little as €200,000 thousand.
Transport connections: Comporta doesn’t have a train station, but is well-connected by road with easy access to the main north-south road the A2. Lisbon is just 90 minutes’ drive away, and its airport is welcoming more and more budget airlines.
Why you’ll love it
Whitewashed cottages, cobblestone streets and shady squares – Porto Côvo is the quintessential Portuguese fishing village. During the summer the population swells as well-heeled Lisboetas come down for their holidays. If you’re buying in the Alentejo as an investment, the rental potential here is worth bearing in mind. There are lots of sandy beaches nearby. Praia dos Buizinhos and Praia do Banho are both small, cliff-sheltered coves. The largest beach is Praia Grande which has Blue Flag status. If you’re into hiking you’ll find plenty of walks, including the long distance Trilho dos Pescadores (Fishermen’s Trail) which goes all the way to the Algarve.
Property prices: There’s a mix between traditional fisherman’s cottages in the old town and larger villas on the outskirts. A one-bedroom flat will set you back €160,000 while a detached house will cost €250,000 minimum. Quintas – farmhouses with land – usually start at around €500,000.
Transport connections: Porto Côvo is a short drive from the N120 north/south road. Lisbon is 108 miles away, so just under two hours drive.
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Zambujeira do Mar
Why you’ll love it
A jumble of whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs characterise this peaceful fishing village. It’s perched on the clifftop with views down to a sandy beach and the wild waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The town’s main street stops at the cliff edge, where you can follow the path downwards. The beach has Blue Flag status, so has lifeguards during the summer, and is a popular stopping off point for surfers. During August there’s a music festival, the Festival Sudoeste, which brings revellers from across Portugal. Although the town is lively summer, during the off-season it has a sleepy and relaxing atmosphere. Empty beaches, cliff top walking trails and family-run restaurants serving freshly grilled fish can be enjoyed all year round.
Property prices: Most of the properties in Zambujeira do Mar are houses and villas, with a few located on golf resorts. You can expect to pay from €280,000 for a two bedroom place. If you’d rather build your own home in Portugal, plots of land cost from €80,000.
Transport connections: Like most towns along the Alentejo coast, Zambujeira do Mar doesn’t have a train station. It’s well connected by road and Lisbon is 132 miles away, or two and a half hours drive.
Vila Nova de Milfontes
Why you’ll love it
This charming resort town is one of the most popular places along this stretch of coast. It’s the perfect balance between the sleepy Alentejo life and lively Algarve atmosphere, although it’s still much quieter than towns on the south coast. During summer, it’s mostly Portuguese tourists who arrive to enjoy the family-friendly nightlife, wild beaches and small restaurants serving locally caught seafood. On cool days you can explore the cliff-top hiking trails or go cycling along the nearly deserted roads. Beach lovers will appreciate having four sandy ones to choose from, both on the Atlantic Ocean and the banks of the Mira River which empties out into the estuary.
Property prices: You’ll mostly find terraced fisherman’s cottages or semi-detached villas. Prices tend to sit around the €250,000–£300,000 mark although there are some bargains to be found.
Transport connections: Vila Nova de Milfontes is just off the N120 road, and is about 2 hours and 13 minutes drive from Lisbon (118 miles).
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Vila Nova de Santo André
Why you’ll love it
Built in the 1980’s, the small city of Vila Nova de Santo André might not be as quaint as other towns on the Alentejo coast but it more than makes up for it with it’s astounding natural scenery. It’s just ten miles north of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina (Natural Park of Southeast Alentejo and the Vincentino Coast), which has thick pine forests and unspoiled beaches.
To the north, you’ll find another protected area – the Reserva Natural das Lagoas de Santo André e da Sancha (Nature Reserve of the Santo André and Sancha Lakes). This particular reserve is home to the Santo André beach, a strip of sand with the placid lagoon on one side and the Atlantic on the other. Both parks are a paradise for walkers, with numerous rambling and hiking routes.
Property prices: Properties in Santo André include apartments in the town centre and large multi-bedroom villas in the countryside. Prices are fairly low – three bedroom homes start at €195,000 and you can snap up a 2-bedrrom apartment for as little as €79,000. A plot of land starts at around €50,000, and there are great bargains on commercial properties, such as B&B’s, too.
Transport connections: Santo André is 90 miles from Lisbon, around 1 hour and 34 minutes by car.
With property prices low in comparison to the rest of the country, buying in the Alentejo is an affordable way to buy into the Portuguese dream. And, with easy road connections to Lisbon and the Algarve, you get the best of both worlds – along with a peaceful life in the sun.