Itīs in Alentejo, on the southwest of Portugal, where Odemira, the biggest county of the country, is located, crisscrossed by Mira's waters, one of the less polluted rivers of all European continent. "Alentejo in a single County" is an excellent manner to introduce it because in Odemira it is possible to find, simultaneously, everything which characterizes this peculiar region of Portugal: the valleys, the hills and mountain ranges, the river, the dam, the sea, the beaches.
This shows an immense diversity, which constitutes this privileged region's main attraction. The best preserved coastline in Europe, and the extended possibilities offered inland present sonie of the most interesting places to visit, but the best of Alentejo will always be its people.
Integrated on the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, protected natural area of Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast, the beaches of this county continue to be the most known and appreciated places to visit by holiday-makers.
From Malhao beach, further up north, to Zambujeira do Mar, along the coastline small creeks are slashed and protected by hillocks and slopes of intense colours. If some of them are frequently visited, especially the ones near Vila Nova de Milfontes or near Zambujeira -at least during July and August, and weekends -others, to which nature has made the access difficult, remain real paradises.
The beach of Almograve, ten kilometres south of Vila Nova de Milfontes, deserves special attention due to its evident generous natural landscape. Here the fauna and flora meet in perfect harmony, where fountains of drink- able water spring out spontaneously along the shoreline, near the coast there is still an obligatory stopover in Sardio Cape, promontory dominated by a beautiful Lighthouse, with a terrace from where it is possible to see an unforgettable ocean's view.
To visit, there are also the fishing harbours in Vila Nova de Milfontes, Lapa de Pombas, Entrada da Barca and Azenhas do Mar which confirm the main occupation, along time, of waterside people.
Along the coastline, the sun and the beaches are the perfect alibi for excellent pleasurable and relaxing moments. Visitors will find also plenty of outdoor cafes near the sea, bars and clubs, restaurants, with familiar or trendy atmospheres. The hottest months of the year bring to the small villages along the southwest coastline of Alentejo, unexpected crowds of people, which transform these places in busy holiday summer centres.
The varied and rich cuisine is the reflex of the county's diversity. From the sea and the land are removed the finest raw material for the cooking of simple and sophisticated dishes. In this region the fish is served fresh: sargus, sea bream, gilthead fish, rock-bass fish, achega from the dam, and much more.
The kidney beans with shellfish, the fish stew, fish soup, "migas", pig's trotters with coriander sauce, "acorda", meat stews with sausages and salami, conger's stew, monk- fish or seafood rice are some of the examples of this rich 'alentejana' gastronomy. Among the seafood "percebes" are the favourites. The wheat bread, cheeses and the typical alcoholic drink "aguardente de medronho" are indispensable supplements.
Odemira is famous for its beaches, although the interior of this county promises excellent surprises if one is willing to discover new places within this large region. Seeing the sights walking or riding a horse, by bicycle or in four-wheel drive vehicles are some of the options among many others.
To explore the mountain or valley's tracks, to visit the wind or water mills of the region, to observe the variety of existing bird's species, and even, for astronomy lovers', the observation of the sky, are some of the activities offered by this immense region.
To sail upwards the river Mira to Odemira or to practice water sports in Santa Clara Dam are excellent options to spend a pleasant day. In the region there are several enterprises offering adventure and entertaining programmes that may well suggest interesting sightseeing tours, alternative circuits, tracks and games.
The discovery of traces left by ancient human occupation in Odemira, especially a cemetery from the Iron Age in Galeado, or the handicrafts of the region may well constitute other options for the visitor. The Tourism Information bureau provides useful information about the best handicraft men of the region, who work with basket-making in raffia or cane, tinwork, tapestry, weaving, the manufacture of "campanica's guitars and, especially, pottery.
Summertime brings with it the traditional fairs, festivities, pilgrimages and festivals. In June there are the festivities devoted to the popular saints of the county; one of the obligatory festivities is the Festival dos Mastros of S. Teot6nio, with the pilgrimage to the local fountain where women carry on their heads or whips. the earthen pots. In July there is also in S. Teotonio.
FACECO, the Fair of economic and cultural activities of Odemira's county. August is the month of festivities, all over the county in small communities the religious and profane tradition is repeated each year. In Vila Nova de Milfontes a religious procession in river Mira in honour of "Nossa Senhora das Gracas" and in Almograve another festivity in honour of "Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes" are some of the important religious festivities.
The traditional "alentejano" chant and the unique sound of the "campanica's" guitars grant to these festivities the traditional atmosphere. In terms of accommodation the offer is also varied. The refined "Pousadas of Portugal" to the extended offer of campings, farmhouse tourism, rural tourism, tourism house, traditional accommodation and even a real castle, prove how this county is able to accommodate even the most demanding visitors.