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NORTH ALENTEJO

Where the cities are viewpoints

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Portalegre sets the borderline between the plain in the south and the heath land of Beira region in the north. It covers a never-ending flat horizon and the imposing elevation of S. Mamede Mountain, a natural park and a mountainous zone rich in fauna and flora, which is over one thousand meters high. S. Mamede peak (1.025 m), the highest spot south from Tagus River, rises upon Marvão, Castelo de Vide and Portalegre. From the top of this mountain, you will enjoy a view over Estrela Mountain in the north and the Spanish Extremadura region.

 

Portalegre, a city "surrounded by mountains, winds, cliffs, olive trees and cork oaks", in the brilliant words of José Régio, is situated in the middle of the hill in the western slope of S. Mamede Mountain. This traditional amphitheatre-shaped city knew how to carefully renew the historical quarter. A high location is a common denominator of other cities of the region, such as Marvão located at the top of a rocky cliff, or Castelo de Vide placed in the middle of the hill. The castles, Alegrete Castle for instance, are also situated in high spots.

 

For centuries, border defence was a major concern. Therefore, here you will find fort-squares like Elvas, a true jewel of military architecture, whose wall perimeter is supported by Graça fort and Santa Luzia fort. Likewise, Campo Maior and Ouguela were key-points of border defence, also very interesting in terms of heritage. Military Orders left a diversified legacy, for instance in the towns of Aviz and Crato. Jewish heritage in Castelo de Vide is also worth mentioning.

 

Cereals were born out of the peaceful plains and stockbreeding out of the wild mountain relief. The earth provides the bread, soaked in soup and in the "açordas" (mashed bread speciality). Still, in Alto Alentejo (High Alentejo), apart from the views that vanish as the sky touches the earth, you will also feel the scents: of coriander, parsley, rosemary and thistle. And the colours as well: the colours of the ripe cereal fields, the brown in autumn, the green that appears with the first rains of winter, white daisies and red corn poppies as Spring arrives.

 

The Flower Feast in Campo Maior, a quite spontaneous feast that happens when local inhabitants wish so, is a popular celebration that attracts many visitors to the region. In this city, the Coffee Museum evokes the memory of the important role played by coffee milling and roasting in regional economy. Cabeço de Vide thermal stations and the Royal Stud Farm of Alter do Chão, the capital of the Lusitanian horse, are also other tourism highlights of Alto Alentejo region.

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