I have to admit that I thought about giving up on visiting Monsaraz and going straight away from Evora to Lisbon. We had a few really intense days behind us, a trip to Lisbon, the need to be there on time in order to get the media passes for traditional Marchas Populares de Lisboa. I was also afraid of traffic jam on the road and we almost decided not to go to Monsaraz…
And these would have been the biggest mistake since the little town is absolutely charming and the views are truly breathtaking! After visiting Monsaraz we’re no longer sure which of the cities should become our favourite since both Monsaraz and Marvao are places you simply cannot leave. Both towns are located on hills (for defensive reasons) which makes the views of Guadiana river marsh on the border of Spain and Portugal even more spectacular. It’s amazing!
Located near the Spanish border, Monsaraz is a calm and quiet white town – typical for Alentejo. Tiny with only 700-800 inhabitants. You don’t need a lot of time to walk it through. Leave the car (best way to see Alentejo) at the border of the own and have a walk through the main street Rua Direita in order to feel the medieval vibe. You can stop by for lunch or coffee in a restaurant with a view of surrounding areas, walk around the walls, visit a museum-church or one of the few shops selling colourful pottery, typical for the region. The defensive walls are the remains left by the Knights Templar who fortified their settlement in order to protect it from Moors. Later, due to the closeness to Spanish border, the city became strategically valuable for the country. However, ever since the Portuguese and the Spanish stopped fighting with each other, Monsaraz has remained a chilled and quiet place. Especially during siesta. Have I already told you that I love such ‘sleepy’ hot towns? 🙂
If you’re in need of a place to stay in Monsaraz, on your trip through Alentejo then we got something for you: Horta da Moura – a beautiful place which can be described as a ‘rural hotel’ since it’s located among the fields, trees, orchards and various crops. It is not only known for the views, but also for its own olive orchard with the oldest olive tree in Portugal – 2450 years old!!! Wow! What’s more, the hotel offers olive oil produced from these olives. It’s delicious!!! Surely the best from all that we tried in Portugal. They produce 150 litres annually and you can try it there exclusively.
Check out one of the pictures of the trunk… doesn’t it remind you of something? 🙂
There’s plenty of other old trees in the orchard – some are more than 1000 years old others have already been around for a few hundred years. You can determine the age of an olive tree by looking at its trunk. After 1000 years it splits in two, after 3000 years – in 3. The biggest trees produce as much as 800 kg olives annually while the smaller ones usually give 300 kg. Apart from olive trees, in Horta da Moura they cultivate lots of fruits and vegetables – oranges, lemons, figs, grapes and even nuts. It’s a place where people care about their product. Apart from that, they have a swimming pool with a beautiful view, own horses and donkeys and beautiful white houses that work perfectly with Alentejo’s vibe. Remember about this place if you ever find yourselves anywhere near.
Their food is simple yet a bit more original than typical alentejana cuisine. They add plenty of their own herbs to the meals and serve bread with delicious olive oil before the main course. We loved the octopus salad the most along with cold cod with chick peas, covered with olive oil and vinegar – delicious! Cold melon soup with coriander, mint and dried ham turned out to be interesting as well. Cold meals are a specialty in Alentejo – this region is usually described as hot like hell…
Remember about Monsaraz when you’re in Portugal. Hopefully Alentejo’s already on your list. It’s gorgeous! 🙂
* You’ll get to Portugal with Wizzair -they fly from Warsaw to Lisbon twice a week (Mondays and Fridays), and the ticket prices start at PLN 369 one way.
* We visited Alentejo thanks to Visit Alentejo which is a part of Fiestas of Europe prject.