4 day trips around Alentejo
Nestling with dignified repose in the heart of Portugal‘s sun-baked Alentejo province, Évora is one of the country’s oldest and most enchanting cities. Rising to prominence under the Romans, the town was also occupied for some 500 years by the Moors. Medieval Évora thrived as a center of learning and the arts, and was patronized by a succession of Portuguese kings. Its numerous churches and monasteries stand as testament to a devout and pious legacy.
Even if you can discover more about Évora thanks to our other article about it, we hereby to propose 4 day trips from Évora to discover the amazing area which is located around this historical city of Portugal. Considering as ideal introduction to Portugal’s Alentejo region the Hotel Convento do Espinheiro which has given new life to a 15th century convent, considered a national monument, where important nobles throughout history helped shape Portugal‘s destiny, here are our trips to do in your next vacation there.
Cromeleque dos Almendres
About 15 kilometers west of Évora is the isolated megalithic Cromlech of Almendres (picture above), a mysterious oval made up of 95 lichen-encrusted granite stones that date back to between 4000 and 2000 BC. This mysterious piece of Neolithic real estate is believed to have been a temple dedicated to a solar cult. Indeed, some archaeologists maintain that the circle functioned as some kind of primitive astronomical observatory. As if to strengthen the enigma surrounding their purpose, a solitary two-and-a-half-meter-high stone, known as the Menhir of Almendres, is positioned one and a half kilometers away from the cromlech. The two sites are linked by a marked pedestrian trail that snakes through an olive grove, and while kids will appreciate the hide-and-seek opportunities provided by the stones, mature minds will no doubt be moved by this ancient and sacred destination.
The fortified village of Arraiolos is noted for the dramatic ruins of its 14th-century castle, the walls of which embrace the whitewashed Igreja do Salvador. The hilltop stronghold affords impressive views of the surrounding countryside, but what really crowns this picturesque hamlet is its reputation for needlecraft. Some of the best carpets in Portugal are woven here, hand-embroidered bright wool rugs stitched by nimble-fingered ladies following a tradition that has endured since the 13th century. The finest examples are the elaborate floral designs crafted over several months by teams of women who weave around the clock to produce beautiful and intricately designed tapestry. The rugs make unique souvenirs, either as wall hangings or floorcoverings, and are sold in the carpet shops found threaded along the main street.
About 80 kilometers from Évora, the charming town of Beja clings to a hilltop in the fertile plain of Baixo Alentejo. It is the largest town in Alentejo after Évora and an important commercial center, especially for agricultural produce. The Old Town of Beja boasts many fine old buildings and winding alleys lined with gleaming white houses. The best starting point for a tour here is the Praça da Concaiçao, embellished with a statue of Queen Eleanor (1458-1525). In this square lies the remains of the Convent of the Conception (Nossa Senhora da Conceiçao), which once cloistered nuns from the order of St. Clare. Built between 1459 and 1506, the convent displays some Manueline features and currently houses the regional museum with archeological exhibits, paintings, coins, folk art, costumes, furniture, and one of Portugal’s finest private collections of azulejos. Diagonally opposite the convent lies the church of Santa Maria (13th century) with four small towers linked by Gothic arches. Another worthwhile tourist attraction is the massive castelo (castle) above town built by King Dinis I around 1300 on the remains of a Roman fortress. Its handsome crenellated tower, built partly of marble, is the highest castle tower in Portugal. At Trancoso, near Celorico da Beira, sightseers can also visit the ruins of the castle where King Dinis married Queen Isabel in 1282.
Estremoz, less than 50 kilometers from Évora, is famous for its beautiful marble. So plentiful is this precious stone, that it adorns much of the town and is even used in the cobblestones and steps. A castle dating from 1258 presides over the old town and is now an elegant pousada (historic hotel). During the early 14th century, it was the residence of King Dinis and Queen Isabel. Today, visitors can admire a marble statue of the queen on the terrace or climb the 13th-century keep for panoramic views. Nearby is the Municipal Museum with a collection of antique furniture, local pottery, and ecclesiastical art. For shoppers, the Saturday market in Rossio Marquês de Pombal, the town’s main square, sells a fabulous selection of local cheeses and pottery and is one of the biggest markets in Portugal.