Exploring the open waters of Portugal's Grande Lago do Alqueva, the largest human-made lake in Europe
The Grande Lago, or Great Lake, at the Alqueva Reservoir in the Alentejo is a lovely spot to relax and explore. Never mind that this is the largest artificial lake in Europe, fed by the River Guadiana. It is more than 100 square miles and touches on five historic Alentejo towns, with views of the castles of Juromenha, Alandroal, Terena, Monsaraz and Portel. Nearby the fortified hill towns of Mourão and Moura loom over the vast lake.
Here olive groves and cork forests brush up on sandy beaches, and there are outfitters offering sailing, waterskiing and even wakeboarding. Lola towns offer quaint inns, and there are lots of great local restaurants, crafts, museums and archeological sites. There are lots of wineries that welcome your visit, too. Houseboats may be rented from the Amiera Marina (www.amieiramarina.com) sleep two to 12.
At night, lighting is in accordance to the Dark Sky initiative, with thousand of stars lighting the sky. The Grande Lago was begun back in 2002 with the opening of the Alqueva Dam on the Guadiana. It slowly filled up, enhancing the landscape, and assisting the local wine industry.