Portugal as a starlight destination

April 26, 2019

A little known fact about Portugal is that it is the first location in the world to be awarded a “starlight tourism destination” certification. This particular certification is supported by UNESCO and is awarded to destinations that offer perfect conditions for observing starry night skies.

Across Europe and the rest of the world, the expansion of cities and towns has meant that areas with low light pollution and clear skies are few and far between. However, many people think that they must venture far away to exotic destinations beyond Europe in order to be rewarded with clear night sky observation and the opportunity to see the Milky Way…this however, is not the case.

Portuguese Starlight Destination Night Sky Milky Way

Portugal offers one of the best places in the world to observe the Milky way. Photo credit: João P. Santos

In order to find this special place you must head to the Alentejo region, in particular, the small towns and villages surrounding the Alqueva Lake such as Reguengos, Monsaraz, Barrancos, Portel and Moura. The starlight tourism destination covers an area close to 3000 square kilometers, but these towns and villages offer the ideal place to base yourself at, ensuring that you have plenty of culture, activities and gastronomy to enjoy whilst you wait fior the sun to set and the stars to come out at night.

Villages around the portuguese lake of the starlight destinations

These villages surrounding the lake are the ideal locations to base yourself at.


There are plenty of incredible gastronomic experiences to enjoy whilst spending times in the Alentejo and we will pick out a couple of our favourites. ‘Os Sabores de Monsaraz’, situated within the walled city, is an excellent option for trying some delicious local food at very reasonable prices. If stunning views are what you are after, then ‘Taverna dos Templares’ is the place to visit. This medieval themed restaurant not only cooks up some delicious food, but also offers some stunning views overlooking the Alqueva lake.


Whilst we have spoken about the incredible activity you can do at night here, there is equally plenty to do during the day. The Alqueva Lake offers an abundance of activities including water sports, boat rides and hiking. Whilst other activities in the area include wine tasting, hot air balloon flights and horse riding.

Our Properties in this area:

1. São Lourenço do Barrocal

Sao Laurenco do Barrocal one of the best starlight destinations

Location: Monsaraz, Alentejo

Setting: countryside

Style: Rustic

It seems like every other week São Lourenço do Barrocal are winning an award or two for their incredible rural hotel and retreat. The 780 hectare estate offers a relaxing atmosphere in combination with exquisite luxury. At the foot of the medieval village of Monsaraz, you discover this fantastic country hotel surrounded by the unique nature of the Alentejo.

A lovely decorated double room, a spacious suite or your own little cottage: it’s your choice! All the accommodations include air conditioning, cable television, coffee machine as well as a private bathroom. The cosy cottage also offers a seating area, a dining room and a fully-equipped kitchen.

São Lourenço do Barrocal make their own wine and olive oil which guests are more than welcome to sample during their stay. 

Sao Lourenco do Barrocal Night Sky Starlight destination

Credit: Nelson Garrido / São Lourenço do Barrocal

2. Monte Alerta

Bed in Monte Alerta one of the best starlight destinations

Location: Monsaraz, Alentejo

Setting: countryside

Style: Rustic

A typically cute rural Alentejo house — made for relaxation. This late 18th century rural house was originally used as a granary and has been in the hands of the present owner’s family for six generations. The architecture is typical Alentejo — simple lines and whitewashed walls that help keep the visitor cool in the summer. The house itself has been decorated with family owned objects, which added to the owner’s hospitality give it a homely feel. Outside there is a swimming pool, stable and even a small river nearby.

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When you enjoyed reading this article we also recommend our blog post about the Azores Islands to you.

If you need any help or advice with booking and finding hotels whilst planning a trip to Portugal, then we can help you! Just contact us at www.secretplaces.de, by email to info@secretplaces.com or by phone +498980910934.