The Eastern Way

To experience the Caminhos de Santiago Alentejo e Ribatejo is more than a journey, it is an experience like no other, which marks us, and which we treasure.

The Eastern Way

Journeying on the Caminhos de Santiago Alentejo e Ribatejo is a promise of adventure, of unexpected discoveries, of a history preserved in people’s memories, a story that unfurls at every stop.

Journeying on the Ways is to relive that history in the traces that the passing of time failed to erase, it is making the traveller a witness to a narrative revealed in its tangible and intangible heritage, in its lands, towns and curiosities, its cuisine, peoples and customs, those that have gone and those that continue to be, and who by taking part are unable to resist the enchantments revealed along the way.

More than a journey, it is to experience landscapes which, though different, share the fact of being unique, reverberating like echoes in our memory.

To experience the Caminhos de Santiago Alentejo e Ribatejo is more than a journey, it is an experience like no other, which marks us, and which we treasure. One we will want to repeat.

Alcoutim (Algarve) Mesquita

“…Coming from Alcoutim, we “navigate” the Guadiana river always along the Portuguese margin, following the signs of route GR15, until we reach the stream Ribeira do Vascão, already with the accumulated fatigue of some kilometers through the Algarve mountains.

The passage of Vascão Stream is made in the marked area, assuming that the water level is shallow, as it almost always is, except in the periods of heavy rains…”

Mesquita Mértola

“…We leave the village within the ancient stone walls that already then led people to Mértola. We enter the protected area of the Natural Park of Vale do Guadiana and, further away from the Algarve, we follow the Way to the north, towards the deep Alentejo.

Here, the green of the juniper scrublands and the singular holm oak forest are worth notice. In spring, the centenary blossomed tamarisk trees add some yellow and pink to it. We breathe the fresh air and go on our way!…”

Mértola Amendoeira da Serra

“…In a region where hunting is the dominant activity with centuries of history, as in the entire municipality of Mértola, the wealth of fauna resources in Amendoeira da Serra is great. This is particularly emphasized during the Feira da Caça (Hunting Fair), in October.

Here, we breathe history and, on the way there, we go through the Via Romana XXII (Roman Road), through the forest of stone pines that accompany us. The Road belonged to the Itinerarium Antonini Augusti, the register of the Roman Empire stations and roads…”

Amendoeira da Serra Cabeça Gorda

“…The origins of Cabeça Gorda village, by now in the municipality of Beja, are unknown. However, there are historical data showing that its creation was much earlier than Portugal’s birth, probably during the Arab occupation, which began in the year 711 AD.Created under the name of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of Conception) da Rocha, it is today known as Cabeça Gorda (Fat Head), a popular name that is believed to be associated with its toponymy: “cabeça” (head) deriving from “Cabeço”, that means hill, and “Gorda” (large) because of its width…”

Cabeça Gord Beja

“…The origins of Cabeça Gorda village, by now in the municipality of Beja, are unknown. However, there are historical data showing that its creation was much earlier than Portugal’s birth, probably during the Arab occupation, which began in the year 711 AD.Created under the name of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of Conception) da Rocha, it is today known as Cabeça Gorda (Fat Head), a popular name that is believed to be associated with its toponymy: “cabeça” (head) deriving from “Cabeço”, that means hill, and “Gorda” (large) because of its width…”

Beja Cuba

“…Pure and hard plain, without shadows, some horses grazing, some olive trees lined up and a few planes taking off from the aerodrome, which aims to be an international airport. Beja serves as a starting point for another stage, which ends in Cuba, a town with several attractions. Right from the start, in the square where the Tourism Office is located, we discover the controversial statue of Cristóvão Colombo, by sculptor Alberto Trindade, which was inaugurated in 2006 and weighs one and a half tons…”

Cuba Viana do Alentejo

“…When you arrive to Viana do Alentejo, you can’t miss the panoramic view of the 13th century fortress, where you can see the church of Nossa Senhora d’Aires, the place where one of the main Alentejo pilgrimages of the Alentejo is celebrated, during Feira D’Aires. The majestic main church is protected by the wall, with an imposing marble portal, and through which you can climb to the roof to see closely the bronze bell in the Misericórdia tower…”

Viana do Alentejo Évora

“…There is not enough space here to the describe the many obligatory visits that the fascinating Évora offers us: the Cathedral, the countless churches, the Roman temple, the University, the genuine and ancient alleys, the convents and megalithic monuments in the vicinity, the Capela dos Ossos (Bones Chapel) in the Church of São. Francisco, where the message on the door is a reminder of the timeless human frailty: “We bones who are here, waiting for yours…”

Évora São Miguel de Machede

“…Évora is one of the cities with the richest historical past in the world. We could stay there, or come back a hundred times and, as Raul Proença says (in Guia de Portugal), we would always find “(…) towers that rise up, walls that crush us, crossroads that make us perplexed, façades that advance or retract, slopes, kinks, niches, small chests, counters, watercolor sections, (…).”…”

S. Miguel de Machede Evoramonte

“…The walled perimeter of Evoramonte Castle dates back to the beginning of the 14th century when D. Dinis ordered the town fortification. From there, the panorama is grandiose and stern, with a vast and imperturbable horizon that takes our breath away. Today, Evoramonte is the seat of the European Network of Sites of Peace, a network of places in Europe where peace treaties or capitulations were signed, represented by public and private institutions, in order to work together to build a culture of peace and promote these places based on their Common Historical Heritage – the PEACE…”

Evoramonte Estremoz

“…Until Estremoz we will have another journey of long intimacy with the cork oak and holm oak forest, winding through the dark green of the plantations and the buildings of the scarce estates. It is essential to prepare ourselves, both in terms of physical supply and mental robustness, because it is not foreseeable that we will find any kind of support on the Way…”

Estremoz Sousel

“…A village of great historical interest of the Middle Ages, Sousel is a true municipality with history, the same that helps to explain the origins of its name, shrouded in great controversy. For many, the origin is in the phrase pronounced by D. Nuno Álvares Pereira, the kingdom’s constable at the time of D. João I – “Ora Sus a Ell” – in 1834, in prayer during the battle to defend against the Castilians. For others, the name comes from the fennel Seseli, which grows wild in the local fields…”

Sousel Fronteira

“…On the way to Fronteira, an Alentejo village whose vestiges of human occupation date back to more than 10,000 years ago, we can find other vestiges, these from a less distant past. In 1384, when Portuguese independence was threatened by the siege of the king of Castela and by a Castilian invasion of the Alentejo, Nuno Álvares Pereira, at the service of the future King D. João I, gathered an army of just over 1500 men, 300 lancers, and 100 archers. The battle took place in the marshy site of Atoleiros, where the Portuguese troops adopted the square tactic and thus managed to supplant an army composed of three times more soldiers. The Castilian cavalry, defeated by the Portuguese lancers, began to disperse and abandon the battle, ending it with a victory for the Portuguese side, which prepared other important battles in the following months…”

Fronteira Cabeço de Vide

“…According to legend, it was at the head (“Cabeço”) of a hill that the survivors of the plague that followed a Saracen attack took refuge and, recovering their health, from then on they called it “Cabeço de Vida” (Head of Life). Cabeço de Vide is our next destination, where the Roman settlement overlapped the previous occupations, known since the Neolithic period, and left a strong influence in the region. There used to pass a subsidiary road of the important road that connected Lisbon to Mérida and served the Sulfúrea thermal springs, where ruins of a bathhouse were found as well as many other archaeological vestiges of that period…”

Cabeço de Vide Alter do Chão

“…On the way to Alter do Chão we pass by Alter Pedroso, which was granted a charter in 1216. The castle was probably erected from that date, possibly on the initiative of the Order of Avis, in whose possessions the town was established. The evolution of the works in the following decades is unknown, except that, in 1662, in the midst of the war between Portugal and Spain, the fortress was totally depleted and was devastated by the invading troops. Very little remains of the fortification, limited to traces of the wall, which formed an originally elliptical perimeter, and the main access door to the interior, of Gothic profile…”

Alter do Chão Crato

“…The ancient Ucrate was taken to the Moors in the 12th century and donated to the Order of the Hospitaller Knights of Malta soon after. The Cross of Malta is omnipresent here, attesting to the town’s importance in the medieval period of the Grand Priory of Crato, which incorporated an extensive region that today reaches part of the central region of Portugal.The village of Crato was conquered by Portuguese troops in the 12th century, but it was only after the donation to the Order of the Hospital, in 1232, that the settlement of the locality and region was uprooted…”

Crato Alpalhão

“…This stage begins in the village of Crato, having the Mosteiro de Flor da Rosa as a reference, the most important Portuguese medieval church-fortress, designed to house the seat of the Order of the Hospital in the country, and to which a monastery and a palace were associated.

Alpalhão is a small village in the municipality of Nisa, situated on the plain between the mountain range of São Mamede and the river Tejo, which integrated the domains of the Order of the Templars…”

Alpalhão Nisa

“…The Açafa estate, where Nisa would be born, was donated to the Order of the Temple by D. Sancho I. Around 1290, D. Dinis ordered the refounding of the village of Nisa in the Azambujal valley, a few kilometers south of Old Nisa. The construction of the village’s defensive fence dates back to the end of the 13th century. The works were directed by Lourenço Martins, master of the Order of the Temple, who erected a quadrangular fence, reinforced by towers. This defensive system was the object of several renovation campaigns in 1343, 1512 and 1646…”

Nisa Vila Velha de Rodão (Centro)

“…The vestiges of the past of Ródão are old, very old, mainly of geological nature, dated about 600 million years. Schist and quartzite rocks, fossils of trilobites and bivalves, are a testimony to an ancient sea that used to arrive until there. But there are many more traces of history, from different eras and peoples, from the Romans to the Muslims. On the way to Vila Velha de Ródão, it is also possible to see traces of the Order of Santiago’s contributions, in the part of the Porta de Santiago gate that is still preserved, with its arch pointed and flanked by two quadrangular towers. As we pass the street named Santiago, we can see that the connection to the apostle persists…”

History is also writtenon buildings

Not far from where we set off, the Eastern Way takes us to Mértola,where the castle is practically a mustsee. Founded on far more ancient structures, it was built in Christian times, its keep going up in 1292 by order of Dom João Fernandes, Master of the Order of Santiago. It is an archaeologically rich site and a prime location to look over the city and its surroundings.Further ahead, Beja reveals itself to be a wonderful place to observe nature, above all the birdlife, its county lines serving as the place of ‘pilgrimage’ for about two hundred species. The opportunities for birdwatching are substantial, species such as the osprey, scrub robin or blackbellied sandgrouse gracing the most attentive with their presence.

Through its Azulejo pannels, a legacy of five centuries of tile painting that also tells the history of the city, Beja offers us flashes of colour, indoors and out.

A homage to the art of working in clay awaits the visitor in Évora, in the form of an actual village going by the name of Aldeia da Terra (Earth Village), consideredby many as the funniest in Portugal.

This 3D cartoon strip is a marvel of well-observed, irreverent good humour.

Not to be missed is Igreja de São Tiago (St James Church), rebuilt in the 17th century but which still has traces of the Manueline period, such as the battlements of the south wing. With a single nave, the domed roof greets us with magnificent frescos, painted with sacred and profane decorative motifs.Évora has a lot to offer its visitors, such as Praça do Giraldo square, baptised in homage to Geraldo Geraldes the Fearless, to whom the reconquest in 1165 of Évora from the Moors is attributed.

Baptised the ‘white city’ of the Alentejo, Estremoz has its own 16th century church, the Igreja de Santiago, which is known to have existed since the reign of D. Afonso III (1245-1279, and celebrated for its bell tower, triangular marble gable with a cross, the 18th century picture window and over the doorway, the cross of the Order of Aviz. The medieval castle in the centre of town stands out for its keep that is 27 metres high, one of the best preserved in the whole country. In 1336, this became the last resting place of Queen Santa Isabel, who died in her chambers there.In Crato, Mosteiro de Flor da Rosa monastery is one of the most original and intriguing Gothic buildings in the country, now home to a Pousada hotel.Dating from 1356, this monument consists of three separate structures: the church-fort in the Gothic style, a Gothic castellated palace and convent priories.

Meanwhile Crato, influenced in days of yore by the presence of Megalithic shepherds and their habits and culture, also reveals traces of other stories in its dolmens, or antas. As a matter of fact, in this municipality alone over 70 have been documented, most prominent of all being the dolmens found at Anta do Tapadão and Anta do Crato, designated national monuments.

As we come to the end of the Eastern Way, there’s still time to visit Nisa, with its 17th century pillory, which looks today much as it did then; the shrine of Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Graça, famous for its religious procession which takes places every Easter, or the traditional red clay ceramics, pitchers and jars decorated with small white stone flower motifs.

Along the Tagus river

When leaving Lisbon on the Central Way, we embark passing through Vila Nova da Rainha, the setting chosen for the wedding of the royals D. Nuno Álvares Pereira with D. Leonor de Alvim, celebrated on 15 August 1376. Further ahead, in the Ribatejo town of Azambuja stands the church of the brotherhood of Senhor Jesus da Misericórdia de Azambuja, designated a monument of national interest. According to history, it was at the turn of the 18th century that the confreres of Espírito Santo (Holy Spirit) founded there a brotherhood and medieval hospice, with the aim of helpingpilgrims, passers-by and the poor patients. Or we can contemplate the small islands emerging from the river, which are home to eagles, egrets, wild ducks, choughs and many other animals. The Way also passes through Cartaxo which has been, throughout history, an important waypoint to the interior of the country, either by river (the Tagus) or land, and opens onto the magnificent plateau of Santarém.



The culinary richness of the Alentejo and Ribatejo needs no introduction. Here, words cannot do justice to the feast that awaits, failing to adequately express the emotions it inspires in us. Our passage through these ports of call always implies another journey, that of the taste buds. Even so, it is by using words that we shall try to explain the best these regions have to offer.

Bread and wine on the table

Traditionally, bread and wine are essential on a Portuguese table. And whether we take the Central or Eastern Ways, good wines and wonderful breads are guaranteed wherever the traveller goes in the Alentejo, in what is one of the main winemaking regions in the country.

The combination of different grapes, rooted in the warm earth, has resulted in a variety of wines, from whites to reds, that make it difficult to take your pick. So, there’s no better reason to taste it, raise a glass and make a toast that is celebrated as far as the Ribatejo, a land of wines whose origins are lost in time and are inextricably linked to the nation’s identity.

Thanks to a diverse range of soils and climates, wich ends up being reflected inside the bottle, the god’s nectar lives up to its promise.

On a full stomach

Simplicity is the key to the Alentejo cuisine. It is reflected in the ingredients, harvested from a region which has long enchanted us with its flavours, and has resulted in a knowledge passed from generation to generation, constantly reinventing itself without ever losing its identity.

All begins with the appetisers, the fresh, cured goat and sheep cheeses with an unmistakable flavour and smell; the Alentejo presunto (ham), the paio do cachaço (pork neck sausage), the farinheira (a sausage with flour and spices), linguiça, morçela and painho…But that is just for starters.

The bread, which never leaves the table, becomes the main attraction in dishes such as Açorda à Alentejana and the Migas, and is the perfect companion for the Sopa de Cação (dogfish soup), Sopa de Tomate or the Ensopado de Borrego (lamb stew). Also on the menu is the lamb or pork Sarapatel, partridge or freshwater fish, from lamprey to carp, grilled or fried, and always seasoned with aromatic spices redolent of the smells of the Alentejo.As for the Ribatejo, the menu is no less impressive or easier to choose from.

Let’s begin with the appetisers, the barbecued pork chouriço, the winecured sausages, the black pudding (morcela) and farinheira, the cured goat, sheep and cow-milk cheeses that tantalise the taste buds.

Following we have Sopa da Pedra (’Stone’ soup, but these days served without), Feijão com Couves (bean stew with cabbage) and also the Sopa de Peixe, or fish soup. Next is the Magusto com Bacalhau Assado (oven-roasted cod with cornbread mash), the mullet of the Fataça na Telha, eel à Ribatejana, the roast lamb, fava beans with chouriço or the Iscas com Elas, strips of fried liver with boiled potatoes.

Whoever passes through the Alentejo or the Ribatejo knows it’s also bound to be a sweet experience. The reason for this is the honey, varying from place to place but always sweet, and a repertoire of cake making across both regions inherited from the nuns.

Eggs, sugar and almonds are blended together in perfect harmony to whet the appetite, in Ribatejo cakes and pastries such as the Queijinhos do Céu, Pão de Ló, Sopa Dourada, Manjar Celeste or Pampilhos or the Pastéis de Santa Clara, Bolo Podre, Tibornas Doces, Pão de Rala and Sericaia of the Alentejo.

Closer to the coast, menus give off a tang of the sea thanks to the Açorda de Marisco (a seafood bread stew), Feijoada de Búzios (bean stew with whelks) or Mariscos (shellfish), and the Arroz de Lapas (rice with goose barnacles), and lest we forget, Salada de Choco or Ovas (cuttlefish or roe salad) and Polvo à Pescador – freshly-fished octopus.