If you want to explore, a car is an advantage. Driving around is easy, and routes are relatively uncomplicated, but Portuguese motorways aren't for the faint-hearted as the lanes are narrow.
The nearest airports are at Lisbon - serviced by EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) - and across the Spanish border in Badajoz, which you can fly to direct from the UK with Iberia (www.iberia.com).
Trains are few and far between in this part of the world - the rail service from Lisbon only goes as far as Evora.
Country code for Portugal: 351; for Estremoz: 268.
Alentejo Blue by Brick Lane author Monica Ali is an ensemble novel set in the region, and entwines stories of rural Portuguese life with the writer's usual wit and style.
Do go / Don't Go
You get really good weather from April to October - July and August are not crowded (because everyone has headed for the sea), but might be too hot for some people. Spring tends to be sunny and warm, and winters are generally mild.
Locally farmed pigs form the basis of many dishes in the region. Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams and coriander) and migas (chorizo fried with breadcrumbs) are both popular staples of the Alentejo table. Olives, cheese and wine are also regional specialities.
You're far better off hiring your own car, but if you do want to indulge yourself on a wine tour or go out and have a drink with your evening meal, then either ask your hotel to book you a cab or try Rumara Taxis (+351 268 919482).
A charge isn't usually included on restaurant bills, so add 10 per cent for good service - taxi drivers should receive the same.
Bring riding gear if you're an avid horseman or woman - the expansive Alentejo plains are crying out for some serious galloping.
The Alentejo Fresco Route, a trip around the churches of Portel, Vidigueira, Alvito, Cuba and Viana do Alentejo, allows you to see some of western Europe's most stunning religious artwork. Many of these biblical scenes, painted in natural pigments the artists sourced from the countryside, have only been recently discovered after spending centuries under a coat of whitewash. In Estremoz, the little Museu Municipal Estremoz is a great place to see regional craftwork such as pottery, earthenware tiles and marble carvings.
For stunning views of the rolling Alentejo countryside, head into Estremoz's old city and climb up to the castle terrace. Stand next to the gleaming white statue of Queen Isabel for a few minutes and try your best to take it all in.
Stay up late to stare at the ridiculously clear sky, which is completely unobscured by pollution - it won't be long before you see a shooting star.
April Lasting several days, the Ovibeja agricultural festival sees livestock shows and best-of-breed contests throughout the southern part of the Alentejo region. Displays of sporting prowess also feature heavily. Easter Head to Castelo de Vide, where Christian and Jewish traditions merge in a unique celebration of this religious festival. Highlights include the blessing and ritual slaughter of lambs in the town square, and a brass band-led procession through the streets. June The O Tapete está na Rua festival in Arraiolos, up in the northern part of Alentejo, is a strange phenomenon that sees the small town's inhabitants hang rugs and carpets from their windows and balconies. It may sound bizarre, but it signifies the start of a period of cultural events, including exhibitions and concerts, in the region. September Harvest time means that there is a palpable buzz throughout this traditional wine-producing area. Many of the wineries still crush their grapes in the old-fashioned way - by foot.