Southern Portugal‘s sunshine coast wouldn’t be an obvious choice for a farmhouse or farmstay holiday, being as it is, an immensely popular beach holiday area that attracts huge numbers of foreign, and local, visitors every year, but even so, you will still find that quite a few of Portugal’s best farmstays near the Algarve.
The beaches here are of course fantastic but have been very heavily developed in recent years especially from Albufeira east to the capital city of Faro. Farther to the east of Faro, towards the Spanish border, things are a little calmer and more favored by local tourists, and there are some nice natural areas, including agricultural areas and many villages only slightly touched by mass tourism.
Inland is less developed still and can make a nice excursion from the coast. Places like the picturesque spa town of Caldas de Monchique or the historical, Moorish town of Silves do attract some visitors but generally a slow drive around the interior is a welcome break from the immensely popular but sometimes claustrophobic coast.
Our Recommended Farmstays in the Algarve: Farmstays/Southern-Portugal
ALENTEJO & CENTRO:
Alentejo, Portugal’s largest region is its undoubted agricultural heart, with huge flat plains growing everything from wheat to wine, and some of the world’s largest cork production, on large estates known as latifundios.
Most of it isn’t on the tourist trail, especially the rural areas but it does have a few towns that attract attention; Evora, with its famous Roman ruins and the fortress town of Elvas are both UNESCO world heritage sites and some other smaller villages; Monsaraz or Mertola being two good examples.
Alentejo produces most of Portugal’s wine and has earned itself a good international reputation. And all around the region there are plenty of opportunities for vineyard tours and wine tasting, plus a few good vineyard B&Bs.
Alentejo is still a lot more famous for cork production than wine; as someone once said ‘Cork is to Alentejo what crude oil is to Saudi Arabia’, but this domination of the world’s cork markets mean that wines from as far away as France, Austria, Australia and South Africa are more often than not fitted with caps made from Alentejo’s finest.
Just to the north of Alentejo, Central Portugal, Centro to the Portuguese, runs roughly from Lisbon up to Porto and across to the border with Spain. This is an unassuming, quietly enjoyable region that contains one of Portugal’s most charming cities Coimbra, along with some of its most beautiful countryside.
The Serra de Estrela mountain range dominates the Centro. A rugged, relatively untouched wilderness that sees very few tourists but is an ideal place for hiking and mountain biking, or canoeing along the Mondego river that runs through the range.
Centro also has a strong agricultural tradition and it is also known for its rich food; Local specialities like leitão; a roast suckling pig dish, or Chanfana, a thick casserole of goat or lamb meat stewed in red wine are two good examples. And it is very much a wine growing region, still less famous than that of its southern neighbour, Alentejo, but slowly growing in respect.
Our Recommended Farmstays in Alentejo & Centro: Farmstays/Alentejo-Centro
The North of Portugal, dominated by the slightly industrial but pleasant city of Porto, is a lot less visited than Lisbon or The Algarve on the South Coast but those that come are rewarded by some really lovely countryside and small traditional villages with a relaxed pace of life.
It is wine country too; Port wine is among Portugal’s most famous exports and is mainly grown in the vineyards of the Douro Valley, many of which also double as vineyard/farmstays. North east of the valley lies the beautifully rugged Tras-os-Montes area, full of forests and lakes and a great area for hiking and wilderness walks.
Just to the north of Porto lies the coastal province of Minho. Much of this coastal area is becoming quite built up but you don’t have to go too far inland to find yourself lost in peaceful green countryside and some still very traditional little villages. And it is the location of Portugal’s only national park; The Peneda-Geres park.
Our Recommended Farmstays in Northern Portugal: Farmstays/Northern-Portugal