For the first road-trip of the year in our van we didn’t want to venture too far from home. The weather was forecast to reach 30° and we were ready to try out camping in an ASA (service area for camper vans) rather than a costly campsite. So checking on the trusty Park4Night app within a 100km radius of Estremoz, we decided on the Viana do Alentejo area, and in particular Valverde and Alcáçovas. With just a little research online we soon found that we would be able to combine country hikes, nature, history, culture and good food in a short two-night stopover. Perfect!

Great dolmen of ZambujeiraFirst stop Valverde & the Anta Grande do Zambujeiro

We took the rural highway from Evorá to Alcáçovas and after around 12 kilometres turned off to the village of Valverde, which is home to the veterinary faculty of Evorá University and also what is said to be the largest funerary dolmen in Europe.

The Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro is a 2km walk from the centre of the village, along a track that is only manoeuvrable with a 4×4, which means it is pretty tranquil. Set among beautiful ‘montado Alentejano’ it is quite a sight to behold. Standing seven metres tall the megalithic structure consists of a classic burial chamber and a 12-metre long passageway.  Built between 4,000 and 3,500 years BC, over 100 bodies were found in the inner chamber alone. The anta is open to the public 24/7 at no charge.

Back in the village we had a picnic lunch followed by coffee and a short woodland hike to the Pego da Curva, a very relaxing and little-known beauty spot where the Ribeira do Valverde narrows over rocks creating several little waterfalls. Perfect place to observe birds, frogs and woodland flora.

Paço dos Henriques, AlcáçovasGarden of seashells, Alcáçovas

We drove on to the small town of Alcáçovas, famous in the Alentejo for the manufacture of cow-bells! We left the van at the ASA and walked into the centre. As with most Portuguese towns and villages there are numerous churches and chapels to be explored but the palace in the town centre is really special.

Jardim das conchas, AlcáçovasThe Paço dos Henriques, built by the Henriques family, is a ‘place of peace’ being famous for two important events: the signing of the 1497 Treaty with Castile and the drawing up of the last will and testament of King João II. It has of course changed a lot over the centuries and it now houses the museum, art gallery and tourist office.

Across the street is a walled kitchen garden with its own chapel. Decorated with thousands of shells from all over the world, coloured stones and pieces of pottery it dates back to the 17th century.



 Paço dos Henriques, AlcáçovasOutside it has not fared so well against the weather, but inside the two little chapels are beautifully preserved. Of note is the mural of a knight crusader (presumably a member of the Henriques family) and two angels above the doorway to the chapel. Well worth a visit, so ask for the keys at the tourist office – entrance is €2.

We enjoyed an excellent dinner at Restaurante O Barrela of chocos fritos from Setubal and bitoque, washed down with a lovely local red. Sabores da Vila is another recommended place to eat. In the morning we wandered around the narrow streets and had breakfast in a little tasca.


Valverde and Alcáçovas

Both Valverde and Alcáçovas are very friendly, clean and welcoming towns and with more dolmens to visit, more trails to hike and more restaurants to try out, I’m sure we will visit again very soon!


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