Alto (high/north) Alentejo – Portalegre district – is an almost mythical region, a region where time stands still. This part of the Alentejo is a paradise for hiking, biking or driving around. Routes pass over smuggling paths, show old towns and go through endless kilometers of nature and tranquility. You will find plains and mountains, wild water springs, medieval castles built by man both for ancient wars and for peace. Find out how our ancestors used the stones of the dolmens and menhirs and travel back in time.
Enjoy the unique flavors generated in secret in the ancient convents and wineries, the festivals, the music, the dancing, and the local art, where tradition is maintained. Since prehistoric times this corner of Portugal has been sought by mankind. Over half a hundred dolmens and menhirs – of which the Meada (close to Castelo de Vide), is the biggest of the Iberian Peninsula – give witness to the high spirits of the megalithic culture. The Romans surprised the natives in their fortifications. They forced them out and built on the best lands of the valley and plains, the start of our civilization.
The Roman town of Ammaia (Marvão) and the Roman villa of Torre de Palma (Monforte), with their beautiful mosaics, retell a little of the splendors of the Empire. Following the Barbarians, the Moors left their imprint on the language, the agriculture, the military architecture (Elvas, Marvão) that the Christians from the North were able to assimilate and transform into anchors of Portuguese nationality.
The castles and town walls of Alto Alentejo – which form the country’s most important group of fortifications – as well as the headquarters of the powerful military religious orders (Crato, Avis) constitute the eternal documentation of those disturbed times of the fight for independence. They now form a countless heart of historic centers unmatched in Portugal: Marvão – World Heritage candidate – Castelo de Vide, Portalegre, Crato, Alter do Chão, Campo Maior and Elvas show their purity, in places, churches and convents, given by centuries of the Discoveries.
Nature flourishes in the Natural Park Serra de São Mamede and offers many beautiful trails for hiking and biking. For the ones who love bird watching, during your walks you are bound to see many and if you have never seen Vultures, this the place to be.
Do not forget to visit the capital of what the district is named after: Portalegre. Portalegre‘s history dates back to the mid-13th century but the city’s boom years were in the 15-17th centuries, when tapestry and later silk production financed the building of Portalegre’s many fine merchants’ mansions to be seen on the main street – Rua 19 de Junho-. The old part of town still retains much of its city walls, while the newer town stretches out to the north. The Museu da Tapeçaria de Portalegre (tapestry museum) opened in 2001 and is dedicated to the local tapestry industry. On display are tapestries depicting works of art by some of Portugal’s most famous artists of the 20th century including Vieira de Silva, Costa Pinheiro and Almada Negreiros.