It takes at least an hour to drive to the stunning Cromlech of the Almendres from Évora, not because it is so far from the Portuguese city – it is actually only fifteen kilometres away – but because the road to it is in abominable condition. Believed to be the largest collection of prehistoric menhirs in Europe, the Portuguese Stonehenge in the heart of the beautiful cork region of Alentejo is at least five thousand years old which, going by the state of it is probably when the road leading up to the cromlech was last tarmacked.
The cromlech was discovered in the 1960s where few of the stones were still standing. Over the decades archaeological research has helped to restore most of the menhirs to their original position. Unfortunately, the restoration of a sole menhir a short distance away from the cromlech – but believed to be connected to it – wasn’t so successful.
Pina also discovered a rare neolithic tomb close to the village of Valverde, ten kilometres outside Évora city. As with the cromlech, the Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro is believed to have stood in its spot for over five millennia, but no thanks to Pina’s curiosity, it is unlikely to remain standing for another decade let alone another millennium. Pina had the cap stone removed from the tomb to examine the bodies and artefacts inside, but in doing so he rendered the remaining structure unstable requiring artificial reinforcement… although this too wasn’t particularly respectful to the megalithic monument.
It is a real shame that there is no government or government-funded organisation like the National Trust to properly protect and preserve these important historical monuments in Portugal. All three monuments are open to the public and although it is important to allow people to see them, it is only by sheer luck that since the 1960s these monuments haven’t been abused and interfered with. Local conservationists are doing their best to educate visitors and protect the monuments as best they can, but unless vital funds are raised and government policy is changed, it is unlikely the dolmen at least will survive for much longer.
Évora can be reached by regular bus or train from Lisbon and the journey takes around ninety minutes. More information can be found here.
As stated, access to the monuments is free and can be visited any time day or night. The only way to reach them is by car with very good suspension. I don’t usually recommend tours and tour-guides, but on this occasion I believe it is not only vital but also respectful to use a local tour guide to reach and explore these monuments. Archaeologist and Évora-born Mario Carvalho from Ebora Megalithica Tour Guides made a film about the monuments that is both beautiful and truly inspiring. Watch it by clicking here …and for the record, I have received no payment or incentive for including Mario’s business website here. I am simply doing so because I was so impressed by his desire and determination to preserve these incredible monuments.
So inspired myself by his film and tour of the monuments, I made my own film of the megaliths and Évora city. It may not be as beautiful nor as polished, but hopefully it is just as enjoyable. Just press play below.
Évora: the magnificent church of tiles and the macabre chapel of bones
Lisbon: a touch of Rio and San Francisco in the heart of the Portuguese capital