Sunvil Discovery will launch its inaugural BMI charter flight direct into Beja. The Embraer 49-seat plane, with full catering and free 20 kg luggage allowance, will operate on a weekly basis from Heathrow on Sundays, and will be the only direct flight route from the UK into what is an exciting new region to explore this year – The Alentejo.
A former military airport, Beja will open as a civil airport with a 3.5 km long runway in April 2011. It is located a few kilometres from the city of Beja, in the centre of The Alentejo, a little-known, yet extensive rural region in south-central Portugal.
Ideal for self-drive holidays and multi-centre trips: occupying approximately one-third of Portugal, The Alentejo is situated south of the River Tagus (Tejo) and north of the Algarve, with a stunning Atlantic coastline to the west – much of which has National Park status - and the Spanish border to the east.
Discover world-class culture, world-class wines and gourmet treats: inland, savour the scenery - magnificent plains, dotted with cork forests, olive groves, vineyards and sweeping sunflower fields; explore hilltop towns crowned with medieval castles and the beautiful city of Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage site, overflowing with beautiful religious architecture, fountains and former palaces. Sample world-class wines from over 250 producers, who cultivate over 22,000 hectares of sun-drenched vineyards, many of which are located in DOC-accredited* areas such as Redondo and Reguengos de Monsaraz; try delicious cheeses, cured meats and fish dishes, accompanied by a wide selection of breads and olive oils, and seasoned with aromatic herbs. For dessert, be sure to try the ‘Golden Soup’, made from egg yolks, cinnamon, bread and almonds, originally made by nuns to use up leftover egg yolks.
Enjoy escapism at its best on the largest artificial lake in Europe, the Alqueva Lake (approximately 250 km2), located in the east of the Alentejo. It is a huge feat of engineering, providing hydroelectric power and irrigation for surrounding farms. Learn how to steer a small houseboat (1½ hours of training is required) and cruise around the lake, for a day or a week, as you wish, stopping off in tiny Portuguese villages on the shores.
Step back in time: the coastal region of the Alentejo (Costa Azul) is reminiscent of the Algarve 40 years ago - practically deserted, with sleepy and pristine whitewashed villages overlooking glorious sandy beaches and sparkling waters. See incredible sunsets from the villages of Porto Covo and Vila Nova de Milfontes.
Choose from a wide range of accommodation: The Alentejo prides itself on the absence of large chain hotels, favouring preserved, historic buildings, boutique properties and family-run wineries to accommodate visitors. The stylish Hotel Evora, located 15 minutes’ walk from the city centre, is family-friendly with two swimming pools; also in Evora is the five-star Hotel Convento do Espinheiro, one of the most famous monasteries in Portugal and a national monument, which has been converted into a luxury hotel and spa, operated by Starwood Hotels. The Casa da Eira in Vila Nova de Milfontes, with six apartments and six bedrooms, has brightly coloured furnishings and is a most welcoming property, whilst Troia, situated in the north, with some of the finest beaches in Portugal and significant archaeological sites, is home to the Aqualuz Resort, made up of three separate suite hotels with family-friendly accommodation (see background information sheet for prices, next page).
Direct flights to the heart of The Alentejo: Heathrow-Beja flights will operate from 22 May to 9 October.