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Plains - Alentejo

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From the peaceful landscape of the vast Ribatejo open plains to the extense golden Alentejo wheat fields, the peaceful landscape is but a curtain that opens on to an unimaginable heritage. Accommodation | Sightseeing Guided Tours | Places of interest | Regional gastronomy | Festivities | Handicrafts

Estremoz Castle-Pousada


One is first taken by surprise by the remarkable traces of successive cultures: dolmens and cromlechs, Roman and Arab vestiges mingling with the most recent sign of Christianity of which the numerous medieval castles are but one example.

The north-western part of` the region, located on the banks of the Tagus and dominated by Santarém, consists of fertile grasslands, where the finest bulls and horses roam peacefully. To the north-east are the beautiful villages and towns which make-up the so-called Rota dos Castelos (Castle route): Nisa, Castelo de Vide, Marvão, Portalegre and Alter do Chão.

Further south, the landscape becomes warmer and flatter; around Évora (one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal), are Monsaraz, Vila Viçosa, Estremoz, and Arraiolos (renowned for its hand-made tapestries, based on traditional drawings from the 17th and 18th centuries).

Driving on to the south, the vast plains become less inhabited and sunnier, the only shade being provided by the olive trees and oak trees and the only amenity being provided by refreshing dams. A trip to Alvito, Beja, Serpa and Mértola will be worth your time. The coastline to the south-west offers the visitor magnificent Atlantic beaches. As the region with the highest thermal amplitude (going down to 5ºC or up to 33ºC), Planícies are a dispersely populated region with quite open horizons, where the rhythm of life follows the idle sound of regional songs.


Typical landscape of the region


Alcacer do Sal
Pousada Dom Afonso II

Alcácer do Sal - The Moorish castle of Alcácer do Sal follows the lines of buildings from the Iron Age and the Roman times. In the year 966, so the chronicles say, a Viking army attacked Alcácer do Sal unsuccessfully, the reason being the very strong defense provided by the castle. The castle towers over a former Roman and Moslem town
.Accommodation : Pousada Dom Afonso II

Beja - Ancient Roman town, it was a Muslim cultural center later on. In the Queen Leonor Museum are valuable archeological finds. Other legacies: churches of St. António (Visigothic) and St. Maria; convent of S. Francisco and castle (Pousada); Hermitage of St. André (Gothic-Moorish), and Misericórdia Church (Renaissance). Roman ruins at Pisões. Accommodation: Pousada São Francisco  

Roman ruins, Beja

Castle of Borba

  Borba - Given a town charter by King Dinis, Borba is the center of an administrative area which is small but fiercely proud of its identity. This identity dates back to the very foundation of Portugal as a nation-state, as proved by the castle and city walls ordered built by King Afonso II. The whole place was built with local marble, including the paving stones in the streets.
What to see:. The late 16th-century Church of São Bartolomeu is full of marble treasures, including the altars, tables, porticos, fonts, balustrades, basins and stairs. Rising above is a splendid vaulted Renaissance-style ceiling with medallions and religious paintings. In the center of the town is a huge white marble tank and fountain built by Queen Maria I in 1781.

Castelo de Vide - Located among olive groves and chestnut trees in the cool mountain region of São Mamede, Castelo de Vide is often referred to as the Sintra of the Alentejo. Scattered with monuments, this pretty spa town is a place of roses, fountains, orchards and old houses. Steep alleyways lead up to the castle through a 16th-century village, which is enriched with some of the most impressive Gothic entrances in Portugal.
What to see: King Denis began building the castle but it was his son, Afonso IV, who completed it in 1327. It was successfully defended by an Anglo-Portuguese force against the Spanish in June 1704. The town's oldest chapel, the 13th-century Salvador do Mundo, boasts a much-admired painting called Flight into Egypt by an unknown artist. The Jewish Quarter located in the east side of the Medieval town has cobble streets


Castelo de Vide

Aqueduct, Elvas.
Elvas - Famous for its sugar plums, Elvas is also a citadel, whose Spain-facing fortifications match those of Badajoz across the border. Three imposing gates lead into the city which, during its long and chequered history, has been besieged by Moors, Spaniards, Frenchmen and Englishmen.
What to see: Romano-Moorish in origin, Elvas Castle was rebuilt for King Sancho III in 1226. The 16th-century octagonal church of Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos is one of the prettiest sights in Portugal. Its main appeal lies in the fine marble columns and spectacular yellow and blue azulejo glazed tiles added in the 17th century.
Accommodation: Pousada Santa Luzia

Estremoz - Besides the large cities (which in Portugal can be counted on the fingers of one hand), very few Portuguese towns have been the setting for as many dramatic moments of our national history as Estremoz.
What to see: Town is crowned by a 13th century castle, with a citadel (currently a Pousada) and St. lsabel Chapel (18th cent.). Special reference to the Gothic Dom Dinis Palace, S. Francisco Church and Convent (Roman-Gothic), Paços do Concelho (14th cent.), Maltesas Convent (16th cent.), and the Municipal Museum. The church of the Misericórdia located on Estremoz's large market square was once a convent of the Knights of Malta.
Pateo dos Solares*****, Monte da Fornalha (Guest House)
Pousada Rainha Santa Isabel
Nativity, 19th century, Museum of Estremoz

Roman temple, Évora

Évora - Museum town of Roman origins, with historic center classified in UNESCO's International Heritage list. It was taken from the Moors in 1166 by an outlaw knight, Gerald the Fearless, who scaled the walls at night on a ladder of lances. Évora later became a popular residence of Portuguese kings.
What to see: Roman temple; Cathedral, housing Sacred Art Museum (Roman-Gothic); S. Brás Chapel (Gothic Moorish); S. Francisco Church (with Capela dos Ossos) and St. John the Baptist Church (Gothic-Manueline); churches of Nossa Senhora da Graça (with convent), St. Antão and S. Vicente (Renaissance). Palaces: Archiepiscopal, Dom Manuel and Dukes of Cadaval. Special reference also to: Praça de Giraldo, with medieval arches; Aqueduct; Convents of St. Clara, St. Helena do Calvário and Lóios (this one currently a Pousada); University; ancient Jewish quarter; Évora Museum.
Guided Tours (departing from Lisbon)
Accommodation: Hotel M'AR De AR****; Pousada dos Lóios, Hotel Convento Espinheiro*****, Hotel Monte do Carmo**** , Evorahotel***

Marvão -This tranquil town is completely surrounded by walls dating from the 13th to the 17th century. From the narrow streets filled with neat white houses a spectacular view can be obtained, as Marvão stands at more than 862 meters high. Near Marvão, one can play golf at Vale da Aramenha,.
What to see: 15th century mother church and the Municipal Museum, open in the former church of Santa Maria and displaying local ethnological and cultural traditions and archaeological findings. Rua do Espírito Santo, with the former governor´s house exhibiting beautiful iron-wrought balconies from the 17th century, leads to the castle, mostly built by King Dinis in 1299 and dominating the village.


Mértola - The town’s main attraction is its castle, built by the Moors, with a guard tower from the 13th-century. The main church, with its sculpted facade, contains elements from the Manueline period, occupies the site of what once was an ancient mosque. Mértola has three important museum sites as a consequence of the intense archeological activity there. The Roman museum occupies the Town Hall building. The Islamic collection includes the country’s most important archive of ceramic objects (9th to 13th-centuries). Here too is one of the rarest early Christian basilicas in the entire Iberian peninsula (dating from the 5th-century).



Menir of Outeiro, Monsaraz

Monsaraz - Perched above the River Guardiana on the frontier with Spain, the tiny medieval walled town of Monsaraz is one of the most atmospheric places in the Alentejo. With its narrow cobbled lanes, low-rise old houses and an imposing castle, visitors are offered a feel of medieval Portugal in one of the oldest places in the country. Regained from the Moors in 1167, the town was handed over to the Knights Templar before Dom Dinis added the castle and fortified walls in the 14th century.
What to see: The parish church of Santa Maria do Castelo houses an ornate marble tomb dating from the 13th century. Next door is a religious museum containing a 14th century fresco of a judge being simultaneously tempted by the devil and encouraged by the majestic justice of Christ.

Montemor-o Novo - is distinguished by the ancestral force of religious orders and rural nobility, expressed in beautiful 17th century manor houses, in several convents (some restored to provide new functions), in churches which display Manueline doorways, rich Baroque altars and unforgettable frescos and tiles. The memory of those times lives serenely with the present and integrates itself with it, as in the more modest houses which have a steadier history.   Montemor-o Novo

Moura - the name of Moura (Moorish woman or girl) is born from a mixture of legend and history. Salúquia, daughter of the region´s Moorish governor, was waiting for the arrival of her lover when his sequit was attacked and he was killed by the Portuguese, who then used the Arabs´ clothes to trick Salúquia into ordering the drawbridge to be lowered. She is said to have committed suicide, throwing herself from the castle tower, both by grief for her bridegroom´s death and guilt for the enemy´s victory.   Moura
Ponte de Sor   Ponte de Sor- The city's name is derived from the first roman bridge, which was part of the 3rd military road connecting Lisbon to Merida. An area of upheaval in between borders during the reconquest, Ponte de Sor, which initially belonged to the Templars, was taken back by the Order of St. Benedict. Its first "Foral Charter" was bestowed upon it by the Diocese of Évora in 1161, and later ratified by D. Manuel. Once the roman bridge was gone, King João VI had the bridge that stands today built in 1822

Portalegre - A town located close to the border of Spain that has strong religious background and this is evident by the number of churches and monasteries dating from the 13th Century.
What to see: the Cathedral, St. Bernardo Convent, the church of St. Francisco Monastery (13th-18th cent.), and the Regional, Sacred Art, Municipal Library and Casa de José Régio Museums, the ruined castle which is is of medieval origin. Accommodation: Hotel Convento D' Alter****

Portel   Portel - King Afonso III gave permission to João Aboim for the castle to be built in 1261. The circular towers and keep date from the earliest construction period. In the 15th century it became a pertinence of the Dukes of Bragança, who made only minor improvements.
The castle guards the walled town nestled beneath it, and the height of the keep ensured a good view of the surrounding countryside

Santiago do Cacém   Santiago do Cacém - This is a village has a majestic castle of Arab origin, it was completely rebuilt by the Christians in the 12Ith century. Beside the castle is the São Pedro Chapel, which dates from the 7th century, while the main church dates from the 8th century. Near Santiago do Cacém one should visit the archeological site of Miróbriga, which was an important urban center in Roman times. The site contains a hippodrome, houses decorated with mural paintings, an acropolis, a forum and a very rich bathing complex, which is one of the best preserved in the country.

Serpa - Famous for its creamy cheeses, Serpa is a sleepy agricultural hilltop town of white houses. The town itself, which is walled, was founded in 400 BC by the Turdelos, one of the original peoples of Iberia. Known to the Romans by the same name, Serpa was later conquered by Geraldo Sempavor in 1166, taken again by the Moors and finally regained in 1232. Visitors to Serpa are sometimes serenaded by the town's traditional singers, who are genuine descendants of medieval troubadours.
What to see: The convent church of Santo António has a small cloister and flamboyant 18th century azulejo glazed tile panels depicting the life of St Francis. Of Moorish origin, Serpa's castle was rebuilt by King Dinis in the late 13th century, but badly damaged during the Spanish invasion in 1707.

Sines   Sines - is part of the St. Vincent and Southwest Alentejo Coast Natural Park, one of the best-preserved coast areas in Europe. There are some of the finest Portuguese beaches ("praias"), small bright sand sheets among huge rocks creating an ambience of intimacy and exclusiveness (we point out Praia Grande de Porto Covo, Praia da Ilha, Praia de Morgavel).

Soursel View from the Pousada So Miguel   Sousel - is a quiet town with several interesting churches, such as the Mother Church (16th century and including emblazoned grave-stones of artistic and historical value), the Misericórdia Church (18th century, with a gilded altarpiece) or the Church of Our Lady of Oratory (dating from the 15th century but later altered and enlarged, with blue and white painted tiles from the 18th century), among others.
Accommodation: Pousada São Miguel

Torrão - Located at one tip of the Vale de Gaio dam, this tiny town has bleached white houses with enormous chimneys to characterise its streets. The matrix church boasts a lovely Manueline portico and, inside, still has Spanish-Arabian tiles in the lateral chapels.
Of what remains of the convent, there is still the belvedere where nuns could look out over the fields of sunflowers that both then and now surround this charming place.

Pousada Torrão

Vila Viçosa - Dukes Palace, with Renaissance facade and Museum-Library. Other places of interest: Castle (13th-14th cent., with St. Maria Church); St. Agostinho Church (13th-18th cent.); Chagas de Cristo Convent (Pousada); Nossa Senhora da Esperança Monastery; Castelo Novo (Renaissance).
Accommodation: Quinta do Colmeal (Self catering), Pousada Dom João IV

Vila Viçosa
Dukes Palace, Vila Viçosa

Other places of interest Alcáçovas, Aljustrel, Alter do Chão, Alvito (Castle 15th century Pousada), Arraiolos (Pousada), Avis, Campo Maior, Constância, Crato (Pousada), Escoural (parque arqueológico), Évora-Monte, Flor da Rosa e Marvão (Pousada), Monforte, Moura, Nisa, Ourique, Redondo, Santa Clara (Pousada), Sousel (Pousada), Viana do Alentejo, Vila Nova de Mil Fontes.


In this region, the cuisine is also particularly varied and flavourful. You can choose to try the stewed eels, the shad soup or the Tagus lamprey, the sausages from Castelo de Vide, from Nisa, from Arronches or from Arraiolos, or the kid stews, the hare with the red beans and the fried rabbit with Alentejo olive oil. Do try the delicious regional bread, that you can add to the sheep cheeses from Serpa, Nisa of from Évora or the Alandroal goat cheese. In this region you will also find an enormous variety of cakes and pastries, such as the "celestes" from Santarém, the "palha" from Abrantes, the "imperial" cakes from Almeirim, those from Évora baked with eggs and almond paste, and the convent pastries from Portalegre and from Beja. Do not forget the fruit: the melon from Almeirim and from Alpiarça are rightly famous. Try also the Cartaxo wines and those from Almeirim, Borba, Reguengos and Vidígueira.


Pilgrimage to Our Lord of the Afflicted - Portalegre, May
Horse Festival - Alter do Chão, June
St. John's Fair - Évora, July
"Museu Aberto" - Monsaraz, July
Fair of the Monte - Santiago do Cacém, September.
Horse Fair - Golegã, November


Arraiolos' rugs,
Portalegre's tapestries and Nisa's embroideries.
Wrought-iron works.
Hand-painted furniture.
Leather goods.
Glazed and painted pottery and earthenware.

Typical landscape of the region
Typical landscape of the region

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Places of interest | Regional gastronomy | Festivities | Handicrafts

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Plains - Alentejo