In early April we were fortunate, as members of the Terras D’Ossa Association, to be invited to take part in a guided tour of Vila Viçosa. The theme of the walk was the use of marble in religious buildings in the town—churches, convents and other religious monuments. You may think this sounds like it could make for a boring morning, but far from it!
Having been living full-time in Estremoz, Portugal, now for a year and four months, all of that time under the cloud of Covid, we were beginning to feel a little restricted. So we decided to look around for a suitable van for nights away, or to ‘pernoitar’ as the Portuguese say, and a chance to get out and explore the country.
This week, a friend suggested we go to see the winner of Portugal’s Tree of the Year, as it is just down the road from Estremoz in Vale do Pereira, near Arraiolos.
Although this monument is a little way off from Estremoz, the Anta Tapadão at Aldeia da Mata really is worth a visit as it is one of the most accessible and complete dolmens in the country.
An hour’s drive north from town, Aldeia da Mata is a small village in the Portalegre district. As you draw close huge rock formations begin to appear in the surrounding fields – some even used as fences or outbuildings by local farmers – conjuring up an ancient medieval atmosphere before you arrive at the historic site.
Due to its geographical position bordering Spain, and the animosity that existed between the two countries down the years, it seems that just about every town and village in the Alentejo has some kind of defensive remnants—and Juromenha right on the banks of the Guadiana River that divides Portugal and Spain is a fine example.
Once an important powerhouse, the fortress at Juromenha looks out across the peaceful river and beyond to the plains of Olivenza in Spain. Today, left in ruins, it is a shadow of it’s former self and when you visit it is hard to believe that it once played such an important role in the on going skirmishes with the Spanish.
I own a copy of a lovely coffee table book called ‘As Mais Belas Vilas e Aldeias de Portugal’ (Portugal’s Most Beautiful Towns and Villages), which I bought way back in the 1980s—and even though I have moved country a couple of times in the interim, I still have the book with me.
One of the most intriguing places that always stood out for me was the village of Pavia, in the Alentejo, and it makes sense that it was one of the first places that I wanted to visit when we moved here in 2020.
As most of Portugal is slowly coming out of lockdown, we decided it was time to venture out and explore the local countryside a little better. It was also our five-year anniversary and a good excuse to dust off Olive, our 1971 VW beetle, and enjoy a little bit of a road trip.
So while the whole of Portugal prepared to go into lockdown, we decided to spend our last day of freedom by seeking out a trail and walking in the Estremoz countryside.
We were surprised to discover that it is actually quite difficult to find good places for Walking in Estremoz, as much of the land around the town is privately owned and therefore fenced off with no public footpaths or right-of-way trails. And when we asked at the Estremoz Tourist Office for information on any local walks – there was none available.
The typical Alentejo country town of Sousel actually falls under the district of Portalegre and is located 17km from Estremoz, reached by following the winding N245 road northwards. There is nothing very remarkable about the town itself but it does have a great miradouro or viewing point from which to survey the surrounding countryside.