The Alentejo, the raw, beguiling heartland of southern Portugal, accounts for roughly a third of the country´s landmass but only about one fifteenth of the population. It also produces around a third of the world´s cork. Even to other Portuguese, the Alentejo and its people are a bit of a mystery. The Moors occupied Iberia for several centuries and perhaps nowhere on the peninsula is as redolent of this era as the Alentejo. Although easily accessible from Lisbon or the Algarve, the Alentejo has a singular identity at odds with either the sophisticated capital or the pulsating resort areas. Instead, this is a region of vast, cork-forested plains; castle-crowned crags; expansive natural parks supporting rich wildlife; waymarked walking trails; historic palaces, castles and cities; pre-historic standing stones and dolmens. Its allure is strong yet it remains astonishingly little-known. Dividing the Alentejo into three distinct sections, with detailed maps and itineraries suitable for all seasons, this guide offers by far the fullest and most complete coverage of the Alentejo region available. Aimed primarily at independent travellers and holidaymakers of all ages and on all budgets, it caters for nature lovers and hikers, history and archaeology enthusiasts, and anyone interested in discovering one of the least explored regions of western Europe. Regional food and wine specialities are also covered, along with details of the Alentejo´s extraordinary range of accommodation, which is intricately bound with the region's history, from historic castles, palaces and monasteries converted into hotels and pousadas, to farm stays on cork-growing estates and budget pensoes and albergarias (inns).