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A guide to Portugal’s Alentejo region, home of Europe’s finest beaches

Forget Ibiza. Forget the Riviera. In fact, forget the Med altogether. Portugal’s Alentejo region is lined with glorious beaches – but not many people seem to know about them

It’s 7pm on a balmy Saturday night in June, and I have just ordered my first Sagres beer in I Cervejaria, a restaurant in Zambujeira do Mar, one of the prettiest villages on Portugal’s south-west coast. The place is empty, but this doesn’t surprise me at all. I have spent two weeks in this area, driving along empty roads, playing with my son on empty beaches, and staying in B&Bs where we are the only guests.

No doubt the restaurant, run by two brothers for the past 28 years, is buzzing in July and August, when Portuguese holidaymakers descend on the Alentejo coast. But for the other 10 months of the year, the trickle of diners who come to feast on fantastically fresh seafood reflects the general pace of life in the Alentejo: sleepy, bordering on comatose.

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