Things to do in Serra de Montejunto, Portugal

Things to do in Serra de Montejunto, Portugal

Emanuele Siracusa

Less than an hour’s drive from the charismatic Portuguese capital Lisbon lie the lush rolling hills and juniper valleys of the Montejunto Mountains. A nature lover’s paradise gently speckled with windmills and tiny, sleepy villages — most charming in their bucolic simplicity. This under-discovered land, to the west of central Portugal, is also home to the splendid Lisboa wine region (formally known as Estremadura). It is the largest producer of wine in the country featuring stunning vistas and award-winning regional varietals to rival the best on the continent.

Bedtime story

The rich history and natural beauty of the region extend to a collection of unique accommodations on offer; everything from ancient manor homes to quaint rural inn’s reward travellers with an extra dose of the alluring scenery. Located in Vila Nova, a quiet village at the foot of the Montejunto, ArtVilla is a tastefully minimalist B&B with rustic touches and some of the most enviable views of the local scenery. Wine lovers will delight in a relaxing stay at Quinta do Convento da Nossa Senhora da Visitação. A 16th-century former convent-turned-wine-estate located in the heart of the region. Fruity reds and zesty whites are harvested right at the property on 16 hectares of pristine vineyards and offered for tastings or to accompany meals. The magical Areias do Seixo in Santa Cruz is an eco-heaven of whimsical contempo décor surrounded by stunning coastal beauty.

Quinta de Convento | Photo: Emanuele Siracusa

Quinta de Convento | Photo: Emanuele Siracusa

Wine and dine

Although not the largest area geographically, the Lisboa wine region produces large quantities of distinct varietals and includes nine controlled denominations of origin (DOC), ranging from home-grown grapes including Fernao Pires, Arinto and Graciano to imported vines such as Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Spread out from mountain to the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, it is the vineyards to the east of the Montejunto Mountains that thrive, protected from strong winds and cooler temperatures. Alenquer, a hillside municipality of picture-perfect whitewashed shanties topped with rust-coloured crowns, is home to some of the best wine estates in the region.

The aforementioned Quinta do Convento is a prime example; the vast estate merits a visit for its historic architecture, quality wines and intoxicating, panoramic views. Other vineyards of note include the elegantly mod Quinta do Gradil, and the award-winning Quinta do Monte D’Oiro. Virtually all of the wineries in the vicinity offer tastings; indulgent affairs where visitors learn about the art of cultivating wine and the way it’s been harvested for centuries.

It should come of little surprise that the regional cuisine is just as rich with traditional dishes; often updated to suit more sophisticated palettes. Pateo Velho, a restaurant in neighbouring Atalaia, serves creative versions of standards such as Bacalhau (cod) with regional veggies, Pernil (pork leg) with ratatouille and Arroz de pato (duck rice) – a staple dish during the Portuguese holiday season. Casta 85 serves delectable high-quality cuisine in a charmed provincial setting while chilled white wine and the catch of the day are specialties at the cosy Taberna do Areal.

Quinta do Convento | Photo: Emanuele Siracusa

Quinta do Convento | Photo: Emanuele Siracusa

Trekking the sites fantastic

Serra de Montejunto is a wonderland of flora and fauna in all its glory; hidden coves and misty gullies compliment the protected landscape full of indigenous plant and animal life. The region’s close proximity to the sea created a spectacular microclimate ecosystem, perfect for hiking, biking, bird watching or lazy lingering outdoors.

Even if wine isn’t your cup of tea the splendour of nature and the magnificent ancient architecture ranging in style from blue-tiled villas to stately chapels and ornate fountains overlooking meticulously manicured lawns, will add a sense of adventure to your memorable respite in under-discovered lands.

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