In the Alentejo, you travel naturally with and to History. The abundance and the quality of the Heritage which it expresses become easy for you to discover but, if you are visiting the Region for the first time, you could be spoiled for choice. If this is the case, don’t hesitate: opt for our suggestions and you will discover that the magic of the Alentejo is to be found, with endless pleasure, everywhere.
The Cromeleque (cromlech / megalithic enclosure) dos Almendres is a spectacular conjunction of 95 monoliths, some of which display engravings that are geometrical or astral in character. Although many questions about these types of monuments remain unanswered, it is possible that the theories that relate them to an astral cult have some foundation. Recent excavations have shown that many of the monoliths are not now in their original positions and that the monument dates from period between the Neolithic and the Chalcolithic. Surrounded by lush montado (cork oaks and pasture), it affords an excellent view of the City of Évora.The human presence in these places has been documented since the Palaeolithic period. Its finest expression is found in the Gruta (cave) do Escoural, a tour of which should be preceded by a visit to the Centro de Interpretação (interpretation centre) located in the town of Escoural itself.
The highest point of megalithic culture lies between the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, with hundreds of monuments from this period having been identified in the Region. Setting out into the countryside to discover the dolmens (passage graves), cromlechs (megalithic enclosures) and menhirs (standing stones) is one of the most gratifying of the experiences to be enjoyed in the Alentejo. That is what we suggest you do.
If you have only a little time, it is best if you explore the Montemor-o-Novo – Évora – Monsaraz axis, where you will find some of the most important cultural monuments. After a visit to the Núcleo Arqueológico do Convento de S. Domingos (the archaeological museum set in a Dominican convent), in Montemor-o-Novo, or the Centro Interpretativo Megalithica Ebora do Convento dos Remédios (the small museum explaining the advent of the Megalithic, in the Remédios convent, next to the cemetery), in Évora, excellent introductions to the theme of the period of the megaliths, you will easily find: in the area around Évora, the Anta Grande (great dolmen) do Zambujeiro, the antas (dolmens) do Barrocal and the menir e cromeleque (standing stone and megalithic enclosure) dos Almendres; in the area around Monsaraz, the antas do Olival da Pega, the cromeleque do Xerez and the imposing menhirs of Outeiro, Belhôa, Barrocal and Monte da Ribeira, the last re-erected inside an adega patrimonial (a heritage winery). Still within the Évora Region, it is well worthwhile making a short detour to the town of Pavia to take a look at the anta-capela (dolmen-chapel) de S. Dinis, a curious example of the Christianisation of a monument that is considered pagan.
On the Castelo de Vide – Marvão axis, you should visit the Centro de Interpretação do Megalitismo (centre for the interpretation of the Megalithic), situated in a former magazine of Castelo de Vide castle. You could then visit the Anta da Melriça, the Parque Megalítico dos Coureleiros (dolmen 2) and the Menir da Meada; and, in the village of Aldeia da Mata (Crato/Flor da Rosa), the Anta Grande do Tapadão, one of the most beautiful and best-conserved in the whole of the Alentejo.
Many other monuments can be seen. It is enough to train the eye to spot them in the landscape. Some of the walking nature excursions, which we strongly recommend, are the best way of finding them and also of feeling how they are an example of the way in which there is a thousands-of-years-old alliance between landscape and heritage.