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Birding in the Alentejo

Birding in the Alentejo

Birding in the Alentejo

  • Superb birding in Portugal's Alentejo: 120+ resident species with many more visiting at certain times of the year
  • Three full day birding trips; two days' independent walking; one morning's guided walk
  • Crystal clear lakes, scented river valleys, proud Atlantic cliffs backing wild deserted beaches
  • Exceptional value for money - all evening meals and generous country farmhouse picnics
  • Charming and intimate rural lakeside hotel with charismatic, qualified bird expert owner
  • 7 night, Guided walking holiday
  • From $1860
  • Excellent for
  • Holiday details
  • Departs Selected Saturdays and Sundays from 1 Apr '17 to 22 Apr '18
  • Continental breakfast, 6 picnic lunches and all evening meals
  • Managed locally by Headwater appointed guide
  • Sustainability rating: 86%
  • Bird watching checklist provided

The Alentejo in southern Portugal is one of the foremost birding destinations in Europe, and Headwater are delighted to offer one week with expert birder and qualified guide Frank McClintock staying at his beautiful Quinta on the shores of Santa Clara Lake.

Ornithology here is extraordinarily rich due to the many diverse habitats, with over 120 birds living year round, and many more migratory species passing through at certain times of the year - April and September being particularly prolific, while in June, birding weather is at its best as young birds leave the nest for the first time. During the course of your stay you'll explore the inland plains and pockets of cork oak forest to the north (where 85 species in one day is a house record for one group of lucky guests) as well as heading over to the south western coasts - excellent for spotting waders and shore birds.

The focus on this holiday is very much on the birding with lots of time spent travelling (by vehicle) on three days in order to spot as many varieties as possible. We have, however, combined vehicle use with exploring on foot by including two optional self-guided walks direct from the Quinta, as well as one morning's guided birding walk with Frank or one of his ornithological experts. The 'Water Rail' hide is a recent addition to the Quinta grounds, overlooking the River Mira with regular good views of Kingfishers, Water Rails and Common Waxbills to name just a few as well as other wildlife including otters, polecats and water voles.

Frank runs his precious rural hideaway with his wife Daniela, and the 10 rooms look out over the water. Terraced lawns step down to the lake attracting scores of local feathered residents who love Frank's garden as much as he does. The wide open panoramic window in the dining room even allows you to spot birds from the breakfast table! Bedrooms are simple and homely, the atmosphere warm and welcoming, and dinners are a special highlight with all guests dining together in house party style.

Please note sightings of specific species cannot be guaranteed and in order to get the best sightings there are very early starts on some days.

Photos courtesy of Frank McClintock

Typical day-by-day itinerary

Day 1 Arrival

We meet you and transfer you through valleys of scented rock rose to your lakeside farmhouse and base for the week.

Day 2 Guided Morning Walk

We spend the morning exploring local trails with our guide, strolling through contrasting habitats, from river valleys and cork oak forest to open hillsides pretty village gardens. Possible species include Corn Bunting, Azure winged magpie, White Stork, Common Waxbill, Serin and Golden Oriole. We return for one of Daniela's famed lunches. Frank designed the gardens specifically to attract bird life so this afternoon relax in the gardens, swim in the lake and let the birds come to you! Enjoy a gin and tonic on your terrace with a view over the lake before dinner.

Day 3 Alentejo Plains

We drive (60 minutes) to the Alentejo Plains today - the tawny flat lands of southern Portugal and the country's bread basket. A myriad of possible sightings await: Great and Little Bustards, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Red-rumped swallow, Rufous Bushchat, Stone Curlew, Black-winged Stilt, Thekla, Crested, Wood and Calandra Larks, Short toed, Booted and Bonelli's Eagles among them. Frank's record for one day here is 85 different species - incredible!

Day 4 - Corte Brique Valley Walk (17km/11mi/5hr)

After yesterday's long day on the Plains, stretch your legs with a day walk through rustling cork oaks listening to Nightingale song, before emerging into wheat fields in Corte Brique Valley guarded by low hills. Chat to farmers in the local bar before spotting hoopoes along a track leading back through hillsides of rock rose. Back at the Quinta perhaps make use of Daniela's massage skills to round off a perfect day. Dinner is a mouth-watering three course meal with a selection of 'ornithological' wines to select from (pay locally).

Day 5 Monchique

Today's excursion explores the high hills near Monchique to the south, and then drops down to the west coast (60 mins away), taking in the cliffs of Europe's most south-westerly point. Coastal views are tremendous - all the way to the very corner of Europe, with crashing surf below us. Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Linnet, Cuckoo, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes, Roller, Chough and Peregrine Falcon may be sighted today. We drive back to the Quinta for another convivial dinner this evening.

Day 6 - Santa Clara Circular Walk (11km/7mi/3.5hr)

A local walk from the Quinta lined with purple gladioli dips and weaves between ridges offering shimmering lake views today. Descend to the hamlet of Cortes Pereira and Ermelinda's tiny bar. Look out for Crested Tits, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Rock Buntings, Black winged Kite, Short-toed and Bonelli's Eagles and Black-eared Wheatears. A leafy trail leads back through cork forest sprinkled with green winged orchid and one-leafed squills. Relax on your jasmine scented terrace before dinner, watching Grey and even Purple Herons patrolling the shoreline of the lake below you.

Day 7 Lagoa St Andre

Our final day in the vehicle takes us north (90 minutes) to explore Lagoa St. Andre - a favourite haunt of Bee eaters, Marsh Harriers, Zitting Cisticola, Great Reed, Savi's, Melodious and Dartford Warblers, Hobby and Black Kite. After a picnic lunch we'll drive back via Cabo Sardao, (where you'll be able to see the only sea-nesting White Storks in the world), before returning for a farewell dinner tonight.

Day 8 Departure

We transfer you from the Quinta and drop you off to complete your return journey.

Where you stay

This single-centre holiday is based at the following hotel. If you'd like to extend your stay here, or upgrade your room, just let us know at the time of booking. You can call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 to discuss accommodation options.

Quinta do Barranco da Estrada, Santa Clara (4 acorns)

Barranco da Estrada, also known as ‘Paradise in Portugal' is a unique property. Frank McClintock moved here and bought the land in the 80s, and his ten room property has taken shape slowly but surely over the intervening years.

The rooms are set out in a row above the (mosquito free) Santa Clara Reservoir with panoramic views over the water. The landscaped garden is stepped and leads down to the waterside with many beautiful secluded corners. It was created specifically to attract local and migrating bird life, and does the job brilliantly.

The lounge and dining area has an amazing open feature window with perfect views, and dinners are taken around a large table in dinner party style. Rooms are homely rather than luxurious, each with a private terrace and en suite bathroom.

Find out more on the hotel website and read customer reviews on Tripadvisor.

Room upgrades are not available at this hotel.

Please contact us for extra night prices.

Extending your stay

If you'd like to extend your trip with extra nights at the start or end, or if you'd like to arrange a stop off point en-route, then we recommend the following hotels.

Pousada Palacio de Estoi, Faro (4 Star)

Swimming Pool Icon Hair dryer icon NEARBY:

The Pousada de Faro, is situated in the small village of Estoi, just a 25 minute bus journey or 15 minute taxi ride from Faro. Set in the hills overlooking Faro and the coast, this wonderful hotel was born from the ruins of the Palacio de Estoi. A C18 Rococo palace once owned by the viscount of Estoi, it has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and provides a relaxing haven complete with beautiful pool just above bustling Faro and just a twenty minute walk to the Roman excavated village of Milreu.

Whilst keeping an eye to the past, the rooms have a modern fresh feel all of a good size, with views down to the coast. The hotel boasts a large SPA complete with sauna and Turkish bath. There is a nice restaurant offering set menus and a la carte.

Find out more on the hotel website and read customer reviews on Tripadvisor.

Room upgrades are not available at this hotel.

Dates Double Room Single Room Superior
01/11/2016 - 31/03/2017 £58 £98 £68
01/04/2017 - 12/04/2017 £70 £122 £82
13/04/2017 - 15/04/2017 £76 £134 £90
16/04/2017 - 01/06/2017 £70 £122 £82
02/06/2017 - 15/07/2017 £76 £134 £90
16/07/2017 - 09/09/2017 £100 £182 £118
10/09/2017 - 30/09/2017 £76 £134 £90
01/10/2017 - 31/10/2017 £70 £122 £82

All prices shown above are valid from 03/04/2017. Prices are per person per night including breakfast,
Superior rooms are slightly bigger and guarantee a higher floor giving better views.
For Half Board add £27pppn


Prices include our standard flights/transfers

British Airways Gatwick to Faro 08:35/11:30, (transfer to hotel, 90 mins, provided). Return: Faro to Gatwick 12:15/15:00. Business/club/first class seats are available on request.

Alternative travel

Alternative Air Travel
In addition, alternative flights, onward rail to your holiday area, and connecting private transfers can be arranged from most UK airports. If you would like to use one of the many 'low cost' airlines, we can book these on your behalf (£30 admin fee per person). We can also book UK shuttles to connect with your onward flight, please call for details and prices. Popular alternative routes for this holiday include:

From To Airline(s)
UK Faro Various Airlines

If you choose to book your own flights please check with us first that your chosen departure date is definitely operating as our guided holidays are subject to minimum group sizes.

Tour only

Standard transfers
Tour only: Transfers included from Faro airport at 11:30 and back to Faro airport at 08:30.

Alternative transfers
If you require alternative transfers (because you will be arriving at a different time to our standard flights), then we can usually arrange these for you (there may be an additional charge).

Holiday extras

Should you require overnight airport accommodation, airport parking or even a uniformed chauffeur to take your car from your departure terminal and park it for you, we can arrange this for you through Holiday Extras. You can book airport parking, airport hotels and executive lounges directly through their website - or call us for further details of all the services on offer. Early booking is recommended to obtain the best availability and prices.


Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.

Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

Dates and prices

The prices quoted below for each individual departure supercede those published in our current brochures. Air prices are subject to change and are shown for guide purposes only. Please see our Planning your holiday and What's included in the price? pages for additional information.

Alternatively, you can call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 to discuss your requirements in more detail.

You can be confident that our pricing includes all the standard requirements of your holiday and many additional extras. Always ensure that you are comparing like for like when booking your holiday. Find out about The Headwater Price Promise to ensure you're getting the very best value for money.

  • Apr
  • Oct
  • Apr
Apr 2017 Tour only Availability
1st Apr US$1860 Check
15th Apr US$1860 Check
Oct 2017 Tour only Availability
1st Oct US$1890 Check
Apr 2018 Tour only Availability
22nd Apr US$1890 Check

Holiday details

This holiday is unsuitable for children.

Holiday type
Managed by Headwater rep.

from 1st Apr 2017 to 22nd Apr 2018, for nights.

Tailor-made travel

Tour only


Due to the tailor-made nature of our holidays, we need a little more information in order for us to check availability for . Simply complete the form below and a member of our sales team will contact you (when it's most convenient for you) to provide availability information, travel options and an accurate price. Of course there's no obligation, but if you do wish to proceed with a booking they will be on-hand to assist you throughout the process.

Alternatively, you can call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 to discuss your requirements in more detail.

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We can often obtain preferential rates with our travel partners.

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