Walls, legends and the Tagus
It was not by chance that Gualdim Pais, the first Portuguese Grand Master of the Templar Order, in the 12th century chose the zone of Tomar to erect the headquarters of this military Order that supported the new Portuguese kingdom, by setting its first frontiers against the attacks of Moors, Castile and León. The geometrical centre of today's Portuguese rectangle is located here, crossed by the main roads leading to Porto and Spain. The Tagus line is located immediately south, defended by castles like the Almoroul castle, placed in a rocky island surrounded by water streams. Strictly speaking, the Portuguese geodesic centre, that is to say, the place where two imaginary diagonal lines would meet, is the neighbouring Vila de Rei. Here you will find an imposing observation pillar, Picoto da Melriça, which was the basis of 18th century mapping. It is also a splendid viewpoint.
Throughout the centuries, Tomar became increasingly important. The Convent of Christ was built next to the Templar castle. In the beginning of the 14th century, the Templar Order was suppressed by the Pope. In order to avoid more damages, King D. Dinis converted the Convent of Christ in the headquarters of the Order of Christ. Templar secrets remained well-kept and the vast convent is an extraordinarily rich monument. Infant D. Henrique was the Grand Master of the Order of Christ. The monument is a symbol Manueline splendour expressed in the famous window of the Chapter House, also presenting Mannerism features, which are to be seen, for instance, in the cloister Claustro dos Filipes. Tomar is a must-visit city, crossed by Nabão River, with a well-preserved historical centre.
The same can be said about Abrantes, the ancient sentinel of the Tagus, an amphitheatre-shaped city placed in the right riverbank. Torres Novas has a medieval castle, Cardilio's Roman villa and the welcoming margins of Almonda River. The picturesque villages, some of them made of schist, that surround Castelo de Bode reservoir in Zêzere river are also worth mentioning, stretching from Vila de Rei to Sertã. In the east, peculiar Proença-a-Nova is an unmissable place. This is a zone of rivers and mountains, which offers good conditions for practising adventure sports. Here you will find plenty of riverside villages like Vila Nova da Barquinha, as well as picturesque schist villages in the councils of Sertã and Vila de Rei.
Gastronomy is both powerful and diversified: partridge and chicken in the pot; sweet specialities like "estrelas de Tomar" (egg and almond-based sweet); "beija-me depressa" (literally, "kiss me quickly"); "palha de Abrantes" (egg-thread speciality) or "tigeladas" (a baked dessert made of eggs, milk and cinnamon).