Alentejo: Portugal’s cork country

The Alentejo is a mystical place of gliding plains, sudden mountains, and the largest cork forests in the world. With open horizons, the rhythm of life follows the rhythm of regional songs. More than half of the world’s total cork supply is produced on this very land.

To many of those who have not visited the region, this land may seem like another world, yet it’s just an hour’s drive from Lisbon. Famed for its villages along the Castle Route, the northeastern part of Cork Country features ancient fortresses such as Nisa, Castelo de Vide, Marvão, Portalegre and Alter do Chão.

Portuguese cork has been used all over the world for thousands of years and has brought some of the greatest wines to people around the globe. The most widespread use of cork is as a wine closure. The practice began in the 17th Century when Dom Perignon chose the bark of the cork oak as the perfect sealant for his Champagne and quickly it became popular with the spread of mass-produced glass bottles.

While is Cork Country, make sure to visit Vila Viçosa. The Vila was built around the palace of the House of Bragança, the last Portuguese dynasty. Other places of interest include: Castle, Santo Agostinho Church (13th-18th centuries), Chagas de Cristo Convent, Nossa Senhora da Esperança Monastery and Castelo Novo (Renaissance).  Moving South, one might choose to also visit Monsaraz. This is an inviting and beautiful medieval village, with castle walls and fortifications to challenge all enemies. Sites include the Santa Catarina Chapel, Paços do Concelho, Paços de Audiência and Porta da Vila.

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