This week we explore two regions of Portugal. One, the Algarve, is popular for its cliffs, beaches, and sea caves. The other, Alentejo, is lesser-known but serves as the breadbasket of Portugal and is a popular wine region. Our guest, Rachel Laidler, Head of Portugal for EPIC Travel, is an expert in both.
About Rachel Laidler
Rachel Laidler is the Head of Portugal for EPIC Travel, a custom travel agency that designs bespoke itineraries in Portugal and Morocco. EPIC focuses on luxury adventure travel and maintains close relationships with suppliers to provide clients with unique cultural experiences. You can follow EPIC Travel on Instagram at @epicbemore.
Travel to Alentejo
- Alentejo is the largest region in Portugal, making up approximately one-third of the country. This is the region that is the “breadbasket” of Portugal. It is also a popular wine-making region.
- In Alentejo you can find some small fortified villages, vineyards, cork tree farms, and lots of open space.
- When visiting Alentejo, EPIC Travel can help match you with the best hotel or accommodations to suit your travel style. Depending on how much time you have, you can either stay in one location for 3-4 days or split your time between hotels with 2-3 days at each.
- Alentejo has some similarities with Tuscany in Italy, but it is more affordable and not a popular with tourists.
- The Alentejo is where to go to relax and enjoy nature and the products of the land. It is a good place to connect with local culture.
- Some of the popular towns to visit are: Evora, Monsaraz, and Estramoz
- A few of the activities you can enjoy in Alentejo are: cork trekking, star gazing, horseback riding, picnics, farm tours, wine tasting, hiking, and biking.
- Cork trekking is possible at Herdade da Maroteira
- A few hotels to consider include:
- Torre de Palma — this hotel is family owned and run, each room is unique, you can watch the sunset from the top of the tower. Nearby you can visit Roman Ruins. On property there is one restaurant, a pool, stables for horse riding and carriage rides, and a full winery. The resort offers wine tasting, tours, classes, and blending workshops.
- São Lourenço do Barrocal — this is a luxury hotel that has been in the same family for hundreds of years. While it is luxurious, it is not in your face or over the top. The people are very welcoming and friendly and the resort is laidback and comfortable, with understated style. The hotel has a farm and organic garden, as well as a winery. There are two restaurants, one is seasonal and outside under the trees. Activities include on-site pools, biking, hiking, horseback riding, star gazing, farm tours, family treasure hunts, an on-site spa, and other activities. There are cottages with two to three bedrooms that are ideal for families.
- Herdade da Malhadinha Nova — this is a very large wine estate with three different styles of accommodations. One is adults-only and more contemporary, one is in the original farm house with smaller, more traditional rooms. The last is also arranged like a house with common spaces and set around a pool, but the rooms are larger and more contemporary with a minimalist style. The estate is spread out and has beautiful rolling hills and vineyards. On site you can enjoy horseback riding, wine tasting, 4×4 tours, picnics, yoga, and other daily activities. They can also arrange hot air ballooning.
Travel to the Algarve
- The Algarve is the southern coast of the country and is famous for its cliffs, caves, and beaches. It is a very popular spot for British tourists, but there are plenty of spots to get away from the crowded tourist areas.
- EPIC recommends visiting the far east or far west sections of the Algarve, or visiting the surrounding mountains.
- Rachel recommends the towns of Lagos, Tavira, and Olhão.
- Some popular activities include active adventures in and out of the water like kayaking, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, biking, and hiking
- October is a great time to go to the Algarve because you still have the warmer weather but not the large crowds. Another great time to go in April (after Easter) through June.
- It is fun to cycle from one town the next and explore local towns along the way or do local activities
- Sagres is good for surfing
- Burgau is a colorful town with houses painted multi-colors.
- Morgado do Quintão is a great destination for families to stay away from the coast. There are villas on site with multiple bedrooms and private pools set on a vineyard.
- Casa Mãe in Lagos is another recommended spot in town and close to all the attractions but also offering a pool
- Casa Modesta is a family owned hotel that overlooks a natural park.
Full Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.190] – Kim Tate
Find out what there is to love in the Algarve and Alentagio regions of Portugal.
[00:00:16.530] – Announcer
Welcome to Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts. Hosts Kim from Stuffed Suitcase and Tamara from We3Travel.
[00:00:31.080] – Kim Tate
Tamara, I know for you and I, we went to Portugal, and it was not our first trip to the country, but it was definitely a first trip down south for us. And we got to experience the Alentejo region and then the Algarve region, which I’m sure some of our listeners have probably heard of. What did you think about those two areas of Portugal? I love them both.
[00:00:49.400] – Tamara Gruber
I was just thinking as you’re talking, I’m like, oh, AA. And the Azores, too.
[00:00:54.160] – Kim Tate
[00:00:55.410] – Tamara Gruber
Of Portugal. They were all so great. I tend to love things like that, but I love them. I think that we’ll talk about as we get into the podcast a little bit more about each of the regions. But I’ve wanted to go to the Algarve for a long time, like just the cliffs and the caves and the views from there have really enticed me, and so I’m really happy that I got to see a little bit of it. I would definitely love to go back and then Alentejo just kind of being a wine region, but also great for families in terms of just that want to relax and enjoy some downtime after maybe busy sightseeing in Lisbon and just enjoying those kind of cultural experiences in the outdoors. I think they were both so great and so different. And I’m excited to kind of have Rachel on to explain those differences to our listeners because I feel like one of them or both of them is going to grab you and really appeal to you. And so I’m kind of excited to share it. What about you?
[00:01:56.120] – Kim Tate
I think the same thing. I think that the nice thing about it is it’s going to give people a different feel for Portugal than what they picture I’m drawn to and love the tile and the architecture and the cities of Portugal. I mean, when you think of Lisbon and even Porto, they are just gorgeous. And I think so many people think about that stuff when they’re thinking of Portugal, but the country has so much to offer visitors. And I think these two regions really stand out as being something really unique and special. And if you do have more time and you are looking to get outside of just the basic cities and the UNESCO sites in Dura Valley or something, you want kind of something more and deeper into the country. I think definitely Alentejo, and then even Algarve are two areas that can really appeal to people who are looking for more off the beaten path, but also just really immersive experience for the country. Portugal? Yeah.
[00:02:48.460] – Tamara Gruber
And I think we’re still in this weird time frame of traveling, too. And sometimes we want to have some experiences that we’ve been missing out on, but also maybe not be around big crowds and things. I think this is a way for you to go and have that cultural experience where you’re still able to stay in a place that feels a little bit independent, a lot of villas or cottages as part of an estate and that type of thing, and just still be outside and enjoy nature and things. I think it’s probably especially great for this year or this year that we’re in.
[00:03:22.950] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I definitely agree. And I think we’ve already talked about how much Portugal kind of makes sense as a very budget friendly European vacation compared to other countries. And I don’t know how long that will last. So definitely it’s something I think keep in mind there and definitely worth splurging a little bit. It’s a country that you can splurge on. I mean, some of the places we stayed, some of those villas that had the more space and the more private personal kitchens and things like that what you would pay to stay in that kind of property in Italy or France, not even like you would laugh at it, but then to do it in Portugal, it’s very accessible. And I think that’s kind of a gem that Portugal has to offer.
[00:03:59.570] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I definitely agree. It’s like one of those if you’ve kind of dreamed about that type of estate or Villa type of luxury type of vacation, definitely look for it in Portugal versus Italy in Tuscany. I’ve definitely done some cross comparisons.
[00:04:15.210] – Kim Tate
[00:04:17.950] – Tamara Gruber
Some of these places are still very nice and it can still be a stretch. But you’re not stretching as far and you’re getting a lot for what you’re doing.
[00:04:26.610] – Kim Tate
Yeah, definitely. Well, let’s get into talking to Rachel from Epic, who we got to spend 17 amazing days or well, almost 17, probably about 13 or 14 with her traveling around Portugal. And she’s going to give us some real insider information to help us learn more about these regions.
[00:04:42.970] – Tamara Gruber
Sounds great. This week we’re here with Rachel Laidler from Epic Travel. She is the head of Portugal. And Kim and I had a chance to travel around with Rachel a couple of months ago. And Rachel, we’ve talked a lot about Epic Travel so far on the podcast, but I thought it’d be great for our listeners to hear from you and for you to explain really, who is Epic Travel? Why would someone want to work with you guys? And then we’re going to dive deep into a couple of your favorite regions in Portugal. But first, can you give us a little overview about Epic Travel?
[00:05:15.020] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. So Epic Travel, we’re a custom made travel agency. So basically, people get in contact with us and they sort of say what they want to do, and we match the destinations that we work into them. We say that we’re on the ground experts. We live and we work in the countries that we operate in, which is Morocco and Portugal. So we’re able to tap into that local knowledge that you might not necessarily find online or with self research. We can really kind of help give you that go local experience, which we think is really special when you’re traveling to a new destination.
[00:05:52.910] – Kim Tate
I think that sounds amazing. Of course, we loved traveling with you guys, but I’m pretty sure everyone can hear from your accent that you probably are not native to Portugal. So why don’t you share with everyone how did you end up working for Epic and what’s your story and background look like for that?
[00:06:08.490] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah, I know. I wish I was Portuguese. I will be soon. Very soon. I like to imagine that I am. Yeah. So I started working for Epic, actually, as an intern. So I was kind of just finishing up my Masters, and I decided to do the crazy thing of going to Marrakesh in the peak of summer for three months to work for them and kind of help them out with their marketing. And it went really well. And after sort of coming back and spending some time in the UK, I realized that I wanted to live abroad. And at the same time, Charlie, our founder, reached out to me and offered me the very terrible job of wanting to move back to Portugal to do market research to see if it’s the next destination for Ethic. So I had this terrible job of spending three or four months traveling around Portugal doing research kind of similar to what we did with you, but in a bit of a more of a nutshell and to see the destination and decide if it was a fit for us. And I think after all of that, we decided that it was.
[00:07:08.900] – Rachel Laidler
And here I am nearly four years later, and we’re operating as a travel agency there and doing sort of bespoke tours, leisure holidays, and even bespoke events and corporate events as well. So it’s all very exciting.
[00:07:22.130] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, it sounds horrible. Absolutely horrible. Kind of what people always say to us.
[00:07:26.560] – Tamara Gruber
It’s such a hard job, but I see how hard you work. It is a lot to have gained that level of knowledge. It is not a large country, but it feels large. So when you’re traveling around, there’s so much to learn, especially from someone that is not born there. And so I think the relationships that you’ve established and how you’ve been able to seek out some of these more unique things and unique properties really makes Epic special. And I know when I first started talking to both you and Charlie about visiting Portugal and what to do there and getting a little bit more off the beaten path, you were really excited about Alentejo. And it was a region that I just did not know that much about. And I think that it’s similar for our listeners. So many people will know about Lisbon and Porto and Douro and maybe the Algarve and definitely the Azores as well. But Alentejo is this kind of unheard of region, and there’s so much to do there. I definitely fell in love with it, too. So can you tell our listeners a little bit more? We know that there’s wine there, but what else is there?
[00:08:25.710] – Tamara Gruber
What makes it so special? Why do you love it? Why would people want to go there?
[00:08:28.920] – Rachel Laidler
Yes, that really is the beauty of Alentejo is that you kind of don’t really know what you’re going into. And I remember when I was doing my initial research, I’d, of course, never heard of it before. I mean, for the British kind of market, it’s Porto Lisbon and the Algarve that we kind of heavily traveled to. I don’t know how you guys heard of it at all before or was it kind of a very, completely new destination? Yeah, completely new.
[00:08:53.500] – Kim Tate
And we had been to Portugal, but I didn’t know anything about it. I mean, the whole center region of Portugal, I think, kind of gets overlooked.
[00:09:01.170] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. And it’s funny, right, because it actually covers one third of the country. It’s the place that people just don’t even know exists. And one way that we’d like to describe it and you guys may or may not disagree, perhaps after you’ve just been you can tell me is that we say that it’s kind of like the Alentejo of the Tuscany, of Portugal. So it’s kind of vast, empty, rolling Hills decorated with Cork trees, vineyards, fortified villages. The locals, they call it the breadbasket of Portugal, where tradition and culture is at the heart of its offering. It’s a very kind of slow living lifestyle there where you really kind of sit back and appreciate the little things, appreciate being around and amongst nature and at Epic, that’s kind of what we’re all about. It’s connecting and tapping into sort of the local way of doing things and living. And it’s what’s so special about our offerings. And I think Alentejo just sort of shows that off perfectly. It’s not in your face luxury. It’s the luxury of time standing still and really kind of appreciating what you have around you, which is this beautiful nature. It’s just gorgeous.
[00:10:13.400] – Tamara Gruber
Definitely reminded me a lot of Tuscany. And I kept thinking to myself like, wow, everyone is so enthralled with Tuscany, which for good reason, but it’s also crowded. It’s so much more expensive. And then here you have Alentegio not too far away, offering so much more like even a better price point, too.
[00:10:33.010] – Rachel Laidler
[00:10:34.670] – Kim Tate
Yeah. I was going to say I definitely think that what you said about the laidback feeling is something that stood out to me a lot. And I think that for people who are maybe have a little more time and they like the city touring and they’re going to be walking all those crazy Hills and Porto or whatever. I think going to the Alentejo, the thing that stood out to me is just kind of the resort lifestyle without it being a weird feeling, cheesy resort lifestyle. I don’t know how to explain it, but just that those lazy breakfast by the pool. I mean, the fresh honey my mouth is watering right now. Fresh Orange juice.
[00:11:11.170] – Rachel Laidler
[00:11:11.480] – Kim Tate
No, I mean, even Torre de Palma and then Herade da Maldinha Nova. Yes. There. So that’s one thing I can say about Alentejo. Yeah. It’s known for the wine, but definitely make sure you’re enjoying some breakfast if you like breakfast, because the honey and the Orange juice there is just amazing.
[00:11:29.330] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing is the produce and everything, it’s very pure and natural, and it really is kind of the best sort of quality. And I think it’s that taste or sample into what farm living would be like in Portugal all those years ago. So like you said, you stay in these sort of it’s a resort style stay, but a very cultural kind of one where you really are kind of living as the locals or a local family would do, because very typically a lot of families would have sort of a farmhouse estate in Alente that they would go to in summer to kind of relax. So it’s a great kind of example of being able to experience that.
[00:12:14.400] – Kim Tate
So let’s talk about the Alentejo and get kind of into the gritty of planning because, of course, we’ve talked about how you guys help make all this easy. And if people don’t have the time to plan a whole trip, definitely epic travel can help you guys with that. But just for starting out, how long do you think is a good amount of time for a family that wants to stay in Alentejo? And do you think they because you said it does cover one third of the country, that’s the largest region. Do you recommend that they kind of just have a Homebase and move around and maybe see a few things like some of the historic towns or any of that stuff? Or do you think it would be good to maybe go to a couple of places and move around and stay at a few different resorts or estates?
[00:12:54.690] – Rachel Laidler
I guess it depends on how they want to do it, of course, as well. We haven’t got on to it yet, but Alexeja is also on the coastline. So if they’re kind of wanting to spend some time on the coastline, we’d encourage that as well. But we normally give people sort of four nights to really stay in interior Alentosia and enjoy that. We would typically encourage someone to stay in one place, and after getting to know them, we can best match them to that destination if they want something really small scale and intimate. That sort of has a strong emphasis on being family run then I would say something like Torah DePalma, for example, is a great way to do that. But if they want something where they can be left at leisure and have a lot to do and a lot of space to explore, then a location like Style Rental Baraka, for example, would be much more appropriate. It has two restaurants on the estate versus the one that you just have in the Palmer. So we would stay around about that much time and then we kind of would give our clients maybe two days at leisure to just sort of enjoy the lazy life because I think sometimes it’s good to slow down and switch off and just sort of appreciate being amongst nature.
[00:14:10.440] – Rachel Laidler
And of course we can arrange sort of early morning or evening activities around that. And then we’d sort of encourage two days of exploring. So going to see the fortified villages and towns such as Evora, Estremoz, Monsaraz or doing something a little bit more active, like horse riding or going trekking in the Cork forests or a bit more cultural, like cooking with a local is one of our most popular activities there because the cuisine in Alentejo is one of the best as well. And that’s because the quality of the produce is so good. So, yeah, we’d say round about that much time and then we can kind of tailor design it around that for them.
[00:14:50.550] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. I really loved when we were in that area how many activities and things were offered on the property, but it also still felt very natural and cultural. You said it wasn’t like here’s our plan for the day and we’ve got the cruise director telling you all the activities to join.
[00:15:07.570] – Rachel Laidler
[00:15:08.380] – Tamara Gruber
But you mentioned a few of the things that people can do when we’re out there, but a couple of ones that really stood out for me that maybe you can talk about a little bit more was cork tracking, which we had a little taste of, which is something that until I talked to Epic Travel, had never heard of, never knew was possible to do. And I was really just fascinated with the whole process. So maybe you can explain a little bit about that. And then the other thing which was really just amazing out there was the Stargazing, because just no light pollution and there’s so many programs and things offered around it. So maybe we could touch on a couple of those activities.
[00:15:41.730] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. So the Cork tracking is really something quite unique. There’s only one farm in the whole of Portugal that does it. And I think I’ve tried researching Cork trekking outside of Portugal and I’ve not found it anywhere. It’s a very unique kind of sort of thing to do that’s on a really famous. It’s actually a really famous wine estate as well. In an aread area called Rodondo. And it’s the Herdade da Maroteira, which is owned by a British family called the Reynolds, who came in and kind of painted the growth of Cork and made it a commodity that could be sold. And they own kind of a vast majority of the Cork that is found in Allentasia, which is one of the biggest sources of the economy for the country. And they kind of wanted to make it fun. It’s this part of the Portuguese economy and history and culture that’s so important. So why can’t people sort of discover and learn about it? Not to mention, I don’t know if you guys would agree, but I think Cork trees are beautiful as well. They are so stunning, especially the older that they get. So it’s kind of a way to hike amongst nature and really kind of get an idea for the land and the history whilst exploring.
[00:16:57.480] – Rachel Laidler
So you’re kind of learning whilst moving on the go. It’s very energetic, it’s very active, it’s very fun. If you do a whole day with them, they kind of take you to the local town Redondo and you have a traditional kind of taskyle meal, having some sort of porkoped or traditional dish like that, which is roasted pig, which is very good. And of course, they have this amazing 360 degree panoramic view which basically covers the whole of alente. And it really gives you this idea of sort of the rolling Hills and scope. We drove up there on the four X four, if you guys remember, and the view at the top was just amazing.
[00:17:38.930] – Kim Tate
Yeah, it is pretty cool and it’s neat to realize the amount of history there is in Cork for Portugal, and that Portugal makes 90% of the Cork of the world or something, but most of it ends up as champagne stopper, which is kind of interesting. I thought that was really cool.
[00:17:55.630] – Rachel Laidler
Even the way that they pull the Cork, I think it’s amazing that the way that they were able to tear up almost the whole strip of the tree, it’s a very intricate and specific way of working and it has to be learnt and it’s kind of to learn escape being passed down generations. And it’s kind of an honor to be able to be able to do that trade. It’s a really unique sort of thing.
[00:18:18.700] – Tamara Gruber
I think you could also see, like, the circle of life or the support of each other out there, because we learned, like, the Cork trees are really Oak trees and they’re dropping Acorns, those big Acorns that the black pigs love to eat. But you don’t really want to have too many of those Acorns sprout and become trees because it will get too crowded. You have to thin those out. And so after the Acorns come down, the farmers bring in the pigs to eat the Acorns and it’s great for the farmers because the pigs fatten up and that’s kind of what makes them more valuable in terms of the Iberian black pig. And so it’s just such a neat supporting ecosystem.
[00:18:59.270] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. And that’s just that sums up Alentejo perfectly, because it’s kind of this forgotten land where a small amount of the population is. Only 5% of the population of Portugal actually live in Alentejo, which is pretty astounding, considering it covers a third of the country. But they are kind of self reliant in their own little bubbles. It’s like they don’t know what exists outside of Alentejo. So for that reason, the kind of culture and tradition is really strongly maintained and it’s really special and it’s cherished and it’s something that the locals are very proud of as well.
[00:19:38.650] – Tamara Gruber
And what about the stargazing? It seemed like quite a few properties offer some type of program, although obviously all you need to do is really walk outside and take a look.
[00:19:47.040] – Rachel Laidler
So Alentejo, they’re kind of spread from Monsaraz to Evora. It’s a natural Starlight reserve. So that means there’s absolutely zero light pollution or any sort that will get in the way of seeing the stars. And it really is one of the most special things I think you can do whilst you stay there. We work with a local Observatory and we have a guy coming. You guys had Nuno, who really is quite the comedian, as you guys may or may not remember. And it’s a really special thing to do with families. I think it’s a unique way of learning about the land, and it’s obviously very educational, but really special and fun at the same time. So it’s something that we always encourage. Anyone who goes to Alentejo, we say that you must do this because it’s just one of the most special ways to kind of understand the sky.
[00:20:40.400] – Kim Tate
I absolutely agree. I was mesmerized every evening when we were in the Alentejo at the moon and the stars and even sunsets, like the time from sunset to bedtime, dark night. The skies are just amazing there. And it’s not something I think, that a lot of people get to experience. And the fact that it’s great if you do have, like you had arranged for us, Rachel, to have the kind of a lesson from an instructor through an Observatory. And they do have an Observatory that you can go to as well. But it’s also amazing just to be able to walk home or back to your room after dinner and look up and around and just see this amazing show that the universe is putting on. So it’s definitely something that stands for Valentine.
[00:21:24.410] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. You really feel like you’re alone in this empty space, which is kind of quite nice, I think, especially in a time where we sort of maybe felt a little bit trapped in these last two years when you’re kind of out amongst the stars, you’re really sort of out in the open space. And it’s very grounding, I think, to be able to get and humbling to be able to have that sort of experience.
[00:21:47.630] – Kim Tate
So we stayed at some amazing hotels. And I think that’s one of the things that Tamara kind of hinted that Epic does an amazing job is just finding these really unique, immersive hotel experiences. And I would say the Alentejo one definitely stood out to all of us. So why don’t you briefly tell us about a few of your favorite hotels for families in that region, and we’ll jump in and kind of chime in if it’s some of the ones that we stayed at, but just give our listeners an idea of what they can expect, because they’re pretty amazing.
[00:22:13.670] – Rachel Laidler
Well, I’ll start with one of your favorites, which was kind of your first introduction into Alentejo. It’s in the north of Alentejo, and that’s called Torre de Palma, so that’s a family owned hotel, and it’s an active wine estate, and it’s been sort of past town generations. And Louisa the general manager, she’s the daughter of the two owners. So it’s kind of really nice to see the strong family ties that run through the estate, and they’re very proud of their estate and their wines, which are some of the best in Alentejo. And one thing I love is that they really showcase that. So Louisa is always there. She’s there at sunset when they offer you a drink on the rooftop of the estate to talk about what she loved about today or to talk about the horses that they have. And it’s a really great place for families and for young couples as well. Kind of looking to have a bit of an introduction into the region. I don’t know. What else do you guys love about it? Of course, the horses at the picnic was something special.
[00:23:25.310] – Kim Tate
Yeah. For me, I think it’s just the fact that you get to stay in this amazing Castle and the sunset at the roof. But I think one thing that stands out from them also is that they have all those unique rooms. Like, no room is decorated the same, so you really can kind of get a feel for what room or style or layout you would prefer to be in. And I think that’s really great. And then just the architecture and even the pool space, it’s extremely appealing.
[00:23:52.820] – Tamara Gruber
I loved that. It did feel so friendly and welcoming from every aspect of it, from, I don’t know, just being able to sit outside of the room and have breakfast and having these different, unique spaces. But then also, as you’re walking, you guys were already at the picnic. I was walking towards the pool, and the young folk just ran across. It was like running around. It just has this casual, friendly, like, as if you’re staying on someone’s in someone’s home. But it’s a very elegant and beautiful home.
[00:24:26.380] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. And like you said, came with the room. So each one is designed by a Portuguese artist, so it’s all very different. So we have people that kind of have come twice because they want to stay in a different room the next time. And the experience is totally different as a result, which is always kind of quite a nice touch.
[00:24:49.190] – Tamara Gruber
So what are some of the other hotels that you would recommend?
[00:24:52.650] – Rachel Laidler
So my favorite hotel, which you guys will probably realize is Sao Lourenco do Barrocal, not an easy one to pronounce, that’s for sure. But they make up for it on their style, which is it is quite a luxury hotel, but it’s not that in your face sort of luxury. It’s very refined in a way that encourages you to sort of go back to the basics. They don’t have a heavy emphasis on the quality of their rooms is outstanding, but it’s all very much focused on looking outside and being outdoors and amongst nature and really sort of incorporating experiences where you get to understand and appreciate the land. So they’ve got the farm to table concept with the organic garden, which they use, and all their cuisine. The menu at their restaurants changes daily to reflect this. They really kind of try to encourage that slower way of living. And it has this view out on some monsters, which is one of the most beautiful fortified villages in Alentejo, I would say. And I think it’s just a strong emphasis on nature that it’s really inspiring without sort of being too in your face. And again, the staff, there are some of the friendliest and so very proud of the hotel, and I think you could sit down with any of them and they would be able to tell you the history or they’re really eager to tell you the history of the hotels, despite not necessarily being from the family, which is, I guess, where it’s a bit dissimilar to Torre de Palma.
[00:26:27.690] – Rachel Laidler
It’s family owned, but on a larger scale. And the whole team feel like a family, which is already sort of nice element. What did you guys love about it?
[00:26:35.870] – Tamara Gruber
I think you described it perfectly in terms of the understated luxury. I think what stood out for me a little bit with this one was that if you do want to be a little bit more active, this is probably a good place for it, because when we were there, we saw one of those back roads like bike tours, but they also just had bikes that you were able to borrow and rent. And so I feel like if you did want to do more hiking, like just some of those ancient Roman ruins and things like you could see there was hiking, there was biking just like a little bit more active while still being laid back. But I liked the kind of the casual elegance of it.
[00:27:15.680] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. I mean, they’ve got 400 hectacres of land that’s completely untouched, and they’ve explored every single element of it and sort of said, what do we leave untouched and what can we use to educate people that come to visit on the region? Because it’s a hotel that has a name that people know about it, and they will travel there to go and stay at the hotel without necessarily knowing that they’re traveling to Alentejo. But what I really like is when you stay there, in doing so, you really discover a lot about the destination in the region, which I think is really important because we should be educating more people on why Al and Tasia was so special. And that’s one thing that they do I think very well from an olive oil tasting where you go and discover the months and the trees and you go for a walk before you do that. So it’s kind of the subtle way of introducing education into the region, into these experiences that are really sort of second to none. And yes, it’s a very special place for me.
[00:28:20.260] – Kim Tate
I think I think the architecture also is just amazing there and it’s very natural and really takes you back to the history of it in a different way. That Torre De Palma did, it’s just a different feel and it’s quite amazing. And some of those, I guess villas that are multi room and everything seemed some of the patios and it’s just beautiful. It’s a beautiful space.
[00:28:44.210] – Kim Tate
So what’s another one that you’re wanting to mention that I know I’m thinking of which one you’ll name, but I know there’s two more outstanding that I’m thinking of.
[00:28:53.750] – Rachel Laidler
So another one that’s definitely deserving of a mention is Herdade Maladinova. Again, not an easy one to pronounce, but the best one is never are. And this one, I guess is definitely more of a again, it’s a family owned estate. It’s in the area of Beija, which is kind of a lot flatter as in regards to land and has a very strong emphasis on wine. And their wine is some of the best in the country. You can get it all over the US if you’d like to. You guys got to try it and I’m sure you loved it a lot.
[00:29:31.190] – Kim Tate
That was the one bottle I brought home, that dessert wine.
[00:29:35.060] – Rachel Laidler
I know. I wish I’d bought some because I can’t find it in this one because it’s always sold out whenever I asked them and they said that they’ll send me some, but it’s nicer to go and buy it in a shop sometimes. But yeah, it is very good and yeah. And that’s again, another estate where you really kind of are amongst the nature. They have three different styles of houses that you can stay in. One is sort of reserved for adults only and that’s more modern. And then the other two are kind of either a traditional sort of farmhouse day, which is the original family house, and then they have a very sort of new and modern place at the top of the Hill. And it’s a very large property, which I think to some might be overwhelming, but they’ve handled that quite well. With this sort of four by four service. So you really feel like you’re out in the farm when you’re sort of traveling around the estate. And it’s again a place you can just wander for miles endlessly and really enjoy it. And you guys did the horse riding experience to see the estate, didn’t you?
[00:30:35.320] – Kim Tate
Yeah, we did, definitely. And we had on that same day, I think we did the horse riding and then also came back and had a picnic there as well. And I have some beautiful photos from there because it is the rolling Hills and really spread out. Gorgeous state house on crest of a Hill with vineyards all around. And it was amazing. Definitely amazing. They have an apiary there. So that was the other place where I was saying the honey was amazing.
[00:31:01.610] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. And that picnic, I feel like you can’t go to Alantego and not enjoy one of their picnics. Such a classic thing to do. And they do it in such a beautiful way. But that one was, I think, the top because they really get you out in the vineyard and they have such a set up. It’s like Instagramable. It’s just so pretty. But it’s just so nice to just be able to relax the way they set a beautiful table, but then also have the picnic blankets and some music. And they had a book that you could read. It was really nice. So it’s one of those places definitely to take your time and relax and just kind of enjoy that environment.
[00:31:45.550] – Kim Tate
And I know they do hot air ballooning from there as well. So that’s another activity when we’re talking about things to do that’s something else they can help you arrange, which I’m sure would be amazing.
[00:31:55.080] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. Hot air ballooning in Alentejo. It’s the best place to do it in Portugal, for sure. And it’s something that we always recommend to people. Perhaps if they don’t want to do the stargazing, then we would suggest that they do that instead. And it’s really popular to sort of do in the summertime, although you do have to get up quite early, unfortunately. But it’s worth it.
[00:32:16.250] – Tamara Gruber
Just don’t do the stargazing at night and then the hot air balloon next morning.
[00:32:21.770] – Rachel Laidler
Exactly. Well, that’s DC. That’s where ethics come in, because we make sure that doesn’t happen.
[00:32:27.110] – Tamara Gruber
[00:32:28.660] – Tamara Gruber
I think everyone now gets a sense, at least, of what Alentejo is all about. And of course, they should talk to you if they want to plan something there. But let’s move on to one of the more popular regions. So let’s head south and talk about the Algarve. I know that there’s kind of mixed feelings about that because while it’s gorgeous and everyone knows the cliffs and the caves there, it’s obviously a lot more crowded. So you always have to balance some of that. But can you give a little overview of this region and some of the more popular actually not the more popular places, but maybe what you would recommend, because I know you kind of were able to steer us away from some of the more crowded places to some of the I wouldn’t say off the beaten path, but the quieter, more scenic places.
[00:33:13.630] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah, absolutely. The Algarve doesn’t always necessarily get the best price, especially because they say it’s sort of where the Brits abroad go. Sorry about that. But I find that that is kind of all very much concentrated in one area, and you can easily avoid it by sort of exploring either the far east or the far west of the coastline. And the way that we have a sort of anti Algarve experience, which is very different to what you typically sort of expect when you go and visit there. And we have a strong emphasis on the mountains around the Algarve where you’re kind of looking out onto the coast. So you’re still by the beach, but not sort of exactly looking directly onto it, which when you do that, you’re kind of at risk of being somewhere that’s a little bit more crowded. And we kind of encourage sort of go local activities in little towns like Lagos or Tavira and Oyao, which is a traditional Fisherman’s town. You guys didn’t get to visit on your visit because we didn’t have time, but they’re both really sort of popular areas for us. And there’s a lot you can do.
[00:34:21.580] – Rachel Laidler
There active adventures in and out of the water, kayaking amongst the cliffs. But it’s easy to do that in parts where it’s not so busy. You want to avoid the likes of Benagal in high season because it’s really just not worth it to be sort of kayaking amongst many. And if you really want to do that, you can. You just have to go on the shoulder season when it’s still really warm. I always say that October is one of my favorite times to go to the algarve because you still have that warm sun and long days, but you don’t have the crowds that come in summertime.
[00:34:57.170] – Kim Tate
I thought October all over Portugal was just amazing.
[00:35:00.630] – Rachel Laidler
[00:35:02.030] – Kim Tate
That was an amazing month to visit.
[00:35:04.610] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, actually, because you kind of have that sort of golden hue on the leaves, but it’s still really warm when the sun is on your skin. And the days like I said, the days are still long then, so it’s very nice.
[00:35:18.650] – Kim Tate
So obviously, the big thing about Algarve, the reason it does attract so many tourists is because families like to go there for beach activities, hang out at the beach and things like that. But what are a few other activities that you think the Algarve is known for that maybe get overlooked? That would be good for families.
[00:35:35.350] – Rachel Laidler
So you can do a lot of they have the mountains in the Algarve, and of course, you have the cliff edges as well, which is really popular for sort of hiking and biking. We do a lot of biking holidays around there where people can hire a bike for a couple of days. And we have a guide that takes them around. And then he sort of incorporates some local exploration, as you do, that there’s some really lovely scenic little towns in the Algarve, like I said, especially on the far east or the far West Coast. So we kind of encourage people to cycle from one town to the next and discover it. Discover the market in Silverge, which is very popular, and the Castle and the Algarve is a very cultural destination. And it’s a destination with a lot of history. And it’s sort of history that we really connect with an epic because a lot of it comes from the Moorish culture and Moorish past, which is dating way back when the Moroccans invaded Portugal. So things such as almonds and oranges and cinnamon, it all has that influence, Carol. It all has that influence coming from when there was invaded.
[00:36:44.270] – Kim Tate
I think Tamara was excited to have some Peri Peri chicken when we were there.
[00:36:47.730] – Rachel Laidler
Well, exactly. I’m not sure that comes from the Morocco in veining, but it’s very important. Sorry.
[00:36:56.010] – Kim Tate
I was thinking, like, just when you need spices and foods, I was like, oh, I know. That was another thing that they were doing.
[00:37:06.210] – Rachel Laidler
No, it’s true. And that’s kind of one thing that’s really special about it. And I think people assume the Algarve to have no culture to be completely empty of that or lacking of that because of the heavily British influence when they come and travel. But actually, you do find when you discover it, it has a lot of that, which is really nice.
[00:37:26.710] – Tamara Gruber
You mean the Irish pub isn’t the culture?
[00:37:29.460] – Rachel Laidler
No, not quite. Although I have to say, if I’m ever craving a full English breakfast, I just take a two hour drive down to Lagos and then I’m there.
[00:37:38.670] – Kim Tate
[00:37:39.410] – Tamara Gruber
Well, you mentioned kayaking. I definitely think hiking along those cliffs is I could spend days doing that. It seems like a good surfing destination. Yeah. Like you’re a surfer.
[00:37:50.110] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. So for surfing, it’s like down in Sagres, which is the sort of most Southern point of Portugal, and sort of on that tip, you have a lot of sort of really nice surfing spots. And they’re all sort of surrounded by a little town. Like there’s a town called Begao, which is sort of I call it the multicolored town because all the houses are painted different pastel colors and it’s really pretty. It’s one of the most photogenic places in the Algae, actually, but not so many people know about it. And I think what I love about the Algarve is just, again, the nature that’s amongst you is you’re driving along, you can stop by a fig tree in the summertime, fill your car full with figs to enjoy before you go surfing, that kind of element. That’s really nice. And it’s a great destination to learn to surf because the waves there aren’t so intense. So that’s quite a nice spot for it. Standard paddle boarding as well when it’s flat is also very popular. And one thing you can do if you don’t want a kayak is you can actually go standard paddle boarding in the cliffs.
[00:38:54.190] – Rachel Laidler
So it’s quite special.
[00:38:56.110] – Tamara Gruber
So you mentioned that you loved the Algarve in October, and I think people would think of it as a summer destination because they think of the beach but is a good year round or what are the best times overall to go or is there a time to maybe avoid?
[00:39:09.510] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah, it was funny. I’m actually about to go down there again tomorrow. So if this is a sign, then maybe that’s a hint that it’s a good time to go. I personally prefer it when it’s not so busy. So I would say your sort of hotspot times are just after Easter, April, May, June, July, that sort of time. I would typically avoid August, although it is a really good time to go. And we would sort of suggest that they go to different parts of the country where perhaps it’s not so crowded with the locals sort of coming down or Portugal coming down to spend their holidays there because in the month of moving in August.
[00:39:49.620] – Kim Tate
Like all the cities empty out, they all get like August off. That’s an important thing to know when you’re exactly the truth.
[00:39:55.170] – Rachel Laidler
Exactly. So they’re all kind of along the coastline. So there are definitely little pockets that we know about where we can kind of encourage people to go to if they still want that experience. Anything’s possible, infinite possibilities, as we say, are epic. We can definitely make it work. But I would probably say that if you want to kind of go and experience the Algarve and have it a little bit to yourself, then sticking to that shoulder season is a really good time to go.
[00:40:20.800] – Kim Tate
So do you have any favorite hotels or rentals? I know one thing that stood out to me when we were hiking along those cliffs that you had us, we did not stay in the Algarve. You kind of found a little gym for us. But one of the things that stood out as the Algarve definitely seems to have sprawling mega hotels. So what for families who are maybe looking for that epic type of immersive travel experience? Do you have some recommendations on places you love in the algarve?
[00:40:48.310] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. So one thing we really encourage is to not stay in the sort of resort accommodation where you’ve got nine restaurants on one resort and you’re surrounded by hundreds of other people because I think our anti algae is to really again be connected with nature. So you guys stayed at Morgado de Quintão, which is again an active winery in the Algarve, which is not so typical. People don’t really associate the region for its wine, but I can definitely or I personally think it’s delicious, if you guys might agree.
[00:41:21.030] – Kim Tate
Yeah, there’s that one bottle. I would have to go look at the menu. But there’s that one wine there.
[00:41:25.510] – Rachel Laidler
That when we had to the one in the black bottle with the black and white label, right?
[00:41:32.780] – Kim Tate
I think so. Probably, yeah.
[00:41:34.490] – Rachel Laidler
It’s the wine that they picked at moonlight. So the grapes. Yeah, it’s really special. And what I like about that is that they have private villas with pools, and so it’s really great for families. And you can kind of look after yourselves. There’s a kitchen where you can Cook, but also they have the main house. So if you want breakfast to be prepared or brought in a basket, they can do that for you. And the sort of local maid will prepare traditional Algarve treats, which are always delicious. If you want something a little bit closer to the coastline. Then in Lagosh, there’s a really nice hotel called Casa Mae, which is sort of inside Lagos. But it’s a very cultural town, and it doesn’t feel like it’s been overrun with tourism. And it has a very sort of local feel to it, which is really nice. And the harbor with the boats and the docks, that’s a really great hotel. And some of the best beaches in the Algarve are within walking distance of the hotel. But they also have a pool if you want some Privacy. And then, of course, if we wanted to go on the east coastline, there’s a really lovely hotel just in between Olhao and Tavira called Casa Modesta.
[00:42:49.440] – Rachel Laidler
And that’s a really small family owned spot which has sort of views looking right out onto the rear format. So which is the natural park. So you really feel sort of like you’re amongst nature when you’re staying there.
[00:43:02.210] – Tamara Gruber
Well, I don’t know about the listeners, but I’m ready to go back. You mentioned some places that we didn’t get to see.
[00:43:13.740] – Rachel Laidler
[00:43:14.390] – Tamara Gruber
So anyway, before we wrap up, maybe you could share, like, just if there are some tips you’d want to share for people that are thinking about visiting Portugal in 2022 or even 2023 and just why it would be good to work with Epic.
[00:43:29.090] – Rachel Laidler
I think the thing with Portugal is it’s one of those destinations where it’s not so difficult to arrange it yourself. But I find that when you do that, it’s very easy to get lost in doing the typical things when you go there. So you easily sign up for the Porto Douro Valley Lisbon route. And one thing, of course, it’s so important and it’s really nice to be able to see these places. But I think if you want to go a little bit more offbeat, a little bit more connected to culture and do what the locals do, then the best way to do that is sort of tapping into local expertise, knowledge, which is what we’re here to do and how we can kind of help with that. And I think that on the ground expertise. And this is what’s really important, the fact that we’ve taken the time to really get to know our partners, every single hotel, we try to know them personally, all our guides. And that kind of really helps them bring out the ethics spirit as well, which is sort of continued throughout a trip with us. Yeah. It’s a way to discover a place a little bit differently.
[00:44:41.470] – Rachel Laidler
I think sometimes it’s not easy to do that when you’ve never been or if you’re kind of looking through the lens of someone else.
[00:44:49.400] – Tamara Gruber
And I think even in within the cities, you guys have still dug out some of those special experiences or the guides that are going to give you the real information and not the I don’t know, sometimes you do those like some walking tours or buses, and you wonder how much they’re making up or they sound like robots as they’re talking. So I think that whether it’s Lisbon or hopefully Lisbon paired with something else, if that’s what you’re doing, that someone would find a lot of benefit working with.
[00:45:21.100] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah, that’s the thing, is that we’re very proud of our destinations, too. It’s quite a random pairing to say that we work in Morocco, Portugal and the we’ve really thought about these places because we really connect with them and we really want to show them to everyone else. And I think that’s kind of one of the most special elements of what we do is we really get to know you and understand you. And then we think, okay, how can we express this through a destination and through discovery? And that’s kind of what ethics all about, really.
[00:45:56.660] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I agree. And I hope that they reach out to you if they’re planning a trip or thinking of it, because it really is. It’s just a better way of really kind of getting into the culture of the country. And I think so often we get caught up, even as bloggers. We get caught up on those top ten things to do and kind of miss out on some of the more unique things. And you guys really know that stuff anytime.
[00:46:17.900] – Rachel Laidler
Well, feel free to tap into my inbox, guys. I’ll be there.
[00:46:22.390] – Tamara Gruber
And you have a special offer for our listeners, right?
[00:46:25.760] – Rachel Laidler
We do. So if anyone who kind of comes through and contacts us through one of your blogs or through the podcast, if they just give the name of the podcast or the name of the blog that they’ve come through, then we can offer a sort of special upgrade or special welcome gift, depending on where they’re going to be traveling and what they want to do. So that’s always another additional personal touch that we can add. Thanks to you guys.
[00:46:51.760] – Kim Tate
We ask all of our guests what they like to wear when they travel. And I’m sure you have some really fun ideas, especially being a Brit living in Portugal and having traveled to Morocco a lot. So do you have any favorite travel gear that you love?
[00:47:06.160] – Rachel Laidler
Travel gear. So I have to say, does my camera count? That’s true because you know me, I’m always traveling with my camera to kind of get those special moments on film. So that’s kind of one thing that you’ll never see me without. And I’m always having that on my side. So I would definitely recommend that.
[00:47:27.600] – Tamara Gruber
Especially when you’re traveling through Alentejo and you’re the most efficient Packer I’ve met in my life. I had, like, a giant bag that could fit a body. And then you have this tote bag.
[00:47:41.350] – Rachel Laidler
We do reduce, reuse, recycle. That’s what I say.
[00:47:44.650] – Tamara Gruber
You’re very good at finding different ways to wear the same thing and look fabulous.
[00:47:50.550] – Rachel Laidler
Thanks so much.
[00:47:53.170] – Tamara Gruber
Well, thank you so much for coming on, sharing your expertise here. I do hope everyone would reach out to you. Can you tell our listeners where they can find you online? Where can they find Epic, both on social and your website?
[00:48:05.300] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah. So you can find us on Epic Travel. There’s no. Co. Uk or.com it’s just Epic Travel where a big sort of cutting edge in that sense. Or you can find us on our Instagram at epic. Beemore. And also feel free to reach out to us directly via email at info at Epic Travel.
[00:48:24.200] – Kim Tate
Thanks so much, Rachel, for all your assistance, you guys. And thanks for helping us travel in the country you call home and sharing the amazing culture of Portugal with us. We really appreciate it.
[00:48:35.900] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Thanks, Rachel. And for all those names that were too hard to catch, that were hard to pronounce. We’re going to put them all in the show.
[00:48:42.060] – Kim Tate
Notes TAmara is going to have fun with the after I do the edit, she’s going to come on, be like, okay, what city was that?
[00:48:50.110] – Rachel Laidler
Yeah, that’s the beauty of Portugal, the language. Well, thanks for you guys.
[00:48:54.800] – Kim Tate
Talk to you later.
[00:48:55.610] – Rachel Laidler
[00:49:00.230] – Kim Tate
Well, don’t forget that you can use the code vacation mavens or mention Vacation Mavens when you talk to Epic. If you do want to have them help, you plan a Portugal vacation because it will give you a special little gift or upgrade.
[00:49:12.240] – Tamara Gruber
And thank you guys for joining us. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as we enjoyed being there. And I think that kind of wraps up our Portugal coverage.
[00:49:20.240] – Kim Tate
Right, Kim? I think it’s good. I think we hit most of the region, so everyone should have a good taste for that country now.
[00:49:27.210] – Tamara Gruber
So I guess that means we need to have another trip in the books for us. But I am going to see you soon. Actually, when this comes out, we will have just seen each other at a conference in New York. And so we’ve will be planning out the rest of the year. If you have any kind of requests for us, we’d love to hear like where you’re going this year, what you’re looking at and we’ll try to plan out some episodes that will help so stay tuned.