Serra de São Mamede Natural Park
The Serra de São Mamede Natural Park is a protected nature reserve, lying along the border with Spain, and noted for its pristine flora and fauna, and beautiful scenery. The Park was created to protect wildlife and rare native plants, and preserve local traditions and is one of the most interesting examples of biodiversity in the country. Its location, where the Atlantic climate meets the mountains, creates a fascinating range of natural vegetation and wildlife including, wild boar, the Iberian frog and Iberian midwife toad, Black vultures, Bonellis eagles, Egyptian vultures and the largest European colony of bats. Cork oaks, chestnut trees (this is the most southerly point that they can grow) and olive trees still cover large areas of the Serra while wild flowers are abundant in spring and early summer.
The Park is an outstanding place for walking, mountain biking and bird watching. Whichever way you choose to explore the Park, amongst the hills and valleys you will discover clean air, panoramic views and an area barely touched by tourism.
There are a number of walking trails in the Park, which take you through beautiful countryside, pine forest or groves of chestnut and cork trees. Many of the walks are circular routes, starting and finishing in the respective town or village and taking you out into the surrounding countryside. The Requengo walking trail starts and finishes in the village making it easy to do at least one walk and enjoy the clean air, peace and scenery so typical of this area. We have self-guided walking maps and notes available in reception for the various walking trails.
For more information see:
Mountain bikers of all levels are also well catered for with kilometres of quiet tracks and roads to explore through the São Mamede hills. If you can’t bring your own mountain bike we can arrange the hire of mountain bikes for you (at very reasonable rates and subject to availability); just let us know beforehand.
For suggested mountain bike rides see:
The Park supports more than half of the species of birds that breed in Portugal and is a stopping off point for many birds migrating between Africa and Northern Europe, so there’s plenty for bird watchers to look out for. Falcons, Bonellis eagle, Black vultures and Egyptian vultures can often being seen circling overhead.
Horse Riding / Trekking
Through Caballos Marvão, a horse trekking centre near Marvão, the stunning countryside of the Park can be enjoyed on horseback. No prior knowledge of horseback riding is required and there are a number of trails to choose from, including the ‘smugglers route’ which in the past was used for smuggling goods across the border of Portugal and Spain. We can arrange guided horse rides/trekking with Caballos Marvão for you when you make your reservation or when you arrive.
For more information see:
In the summer, what better after a day exploring the region than a refreshing swim?
Although the Quinta does not have a pool there is a beautiful, open-air swimming pool with snack bar and picnic area in Reguengo, a short walk from the Quinta. Alternatively, there are also open-air pools at Monte Carvalho (6 kms), Quinta da Saúde (5 kms) and the river beach, swimming pools, snack bar, picnic area, restaurants and cafes near Marvão (14.5 kms). For those wanting a bit more action there is the Lusiberia Waterpark at Badajoz (1 hour’s drive).
Please note that all swimming pools and river swimming are seasonal.
There is fishing on the Apartadura lake, Caia lake near Arronches and Povoa lake near Castelo de Vide for bass and carp, or on the Tagus or Guadiana rivers for barbel and carp. Fishing can be arranged on the private 4 hectare Alfarofia lake near Elvas. A local fishing licence will be needed which can be obtained from the ICNF offices in Portalegre.
This region of Portugal is steeped in history and Quinta da Vila Maria is an excellent base for exploring the historic towns, villages, castles, Roman remains, Megalithic monuments, museums and other places of interest throughout the area.
Nearby is the medieval mountain-top village of Marvão with its stunning, panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Within this walled village, wander through the narrow cobbled streets, lined with whitewashed houses, up to the well conserved 13th century castle.
Also nearby is the hilltop, medieval spa town of Castelo de Vide. From the main square walk up to the ruined castle where, within its walls, people still live as they have done for centuries. Then wander down through pretty, cobbled streets to the Jewish quarter with its 13th century synagogue. Castelo de Vide also has a wide selection of cafes, bars and restaurants.
Nestled on the slopes of the Serra de São Mamede, and just 4 miles/6.2 kms away from the Quinta, historic Portalegre has a castle and walls that date to the 13th century, an array of grand Renaissance and Baroque houses that tell tales of past splendour and importance and an excellent tapestry museum where you can learn about the city’s longstanding textile tradition.
If Roman history interests you, visit the partially excavated remains of the Roman city of Ammaia, near Marvão, or the remains of a Roman villa at Torre de Palma, near Monforte. Ammaia also has a small but interesting museum of Roman artefacts found in the area while the villa at Torre de Palma has beautiful floor mosaics still in situ.
This area is rich in megalithic remains with over fifty dolmens and menhirs to see. North of Castelo de Vide lies the Megalithic archeology route, a 32 mile/52 km driving route where you can see a range of dolmens and menhirs including the menhir of Meada, commonly regarded as the largest and most well preserved relic in the Iberian Peninsula.
To the west of Portalegre, Alter do Chão is a charming, small town with a castle dating back to 1359 but it is best known for its Coudelaria de Alter, which since 1748 has been breeding the Portuguese Alter Real Lusitano horse. Nearby are the small towns of Crato, a traditional Alentejo town with small white houses, lots of ornate churches and a ruined castle, and Flor da Rosa, famous for its certified pottery and the Flor da Rosa Monastery.
The small town of Campo Maior, not far from the Spanish border, has a diminutive Chapel of Bones, one of only three of its kind in Portugal and two excellent, small museums, one covering the region’s history and the other the production of olive oil. Just before you get to Campo Maior is the vineyard and winery (designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira) of Adega Mayor and the excellent Coffee Science Centre.
Excellent day trips can be made to the historic towns of Elvas, Vila Viçosa and Évora and in Spain, Badajoz and Mérida, all of which are within easy reach of the Quinta on excellent, quiet roads.
Elvas, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is principally famous for its military fortifications, the largest of their type in the world and among the most sophisticated and best preserved in Europe. In addition to these it also boasts an impressive aqueduct and many beautiful churches. Wander through the cobbled streets and explore the many shops selling linen and towels or buy some Elvas plums, which originate from here.
One of the “marble towns”, Vila Viçosa is famous for its impressive Ducal Palace but there is plenty more to see. There is a medieval castle and a later, Italian style 16th century castle, an excellent Museum of Archaeology, several churches and former convents and a marble museum. It is a very pleasant town to walk around with tree lined squares and streets, marble bench seats to rest on and many restaurants and cafes.
Said to be the best Roman remains outside of Italy, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mérida in Spain makes an excellent day out. The extensive and impressive remains are scattered throughout the town and include: a theatre (where music performances are held in the summer), a circus (where chariot races used to take place), an amphitheatre, Diana’s temple, Trajano’s arch, two aqueducts and excellent Museum of Roman Art. In addition there are also the Moorish citadel and walls.
Tourist information and maps for many of these destinations are available in reception.
Vineyards and Wine Tasting
If you are interested in wine, Reguengo and the surrounding area is a renowned wine producing region with a number of vineyards and wineries nearby. If you would like to visit a vineyard and do some wine tasting let us know beforehand and we can arrange a visit for you.
There are three excellent, local restaurants (Tombalobos, O Malagueta and Lareira da Serra) within a 5 minute drive of the Quinta, all serving delicious meals and first class Alentejo wines, and many more to choose from just 10 minutes away in Portalegre.
For more information:
Lareira da Serra - http://www.lareiradaserra.pt
If you prefer to prepare a meal in the kitchenette in your apartment, there are 6 supermarkets in Portalegre and every Wednesday and Saturday morning you can buy vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, delicatessen and bread in the Municipal Market – a great place to buy fresh produce from local suppliers. The local baker's bread van stops outside the house four times a week with a selection of freshly baked Alentejo style breads and cakes.
Going to a local festival allows you to experience Portuguese life and culture firsthand. Festivals are held in towns and villages throughout the year and are well worth going to.
Information on local festivals is available in reception at the Quinta.
For something different, try shopping in one of the local, traditional markets!
Every Saturday morning Estremoz (50 minute’s drive away) holds a classic Portuguese market in the Rossio square, selling everything from earthenware to cheese, all locally made.
A twice weekly market is held in the Portalegre Municipal Market (10 minute’s drive away) every Wednesday and Saturday morning, where you can buy vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, delicatessen and bread.
The open air market in Castelo de Vide (30 minutes away) is held every Friday in the centre of the town.
Portalegre and Esperança (30 minutes away) both hold monthly open air markets that sell a wide range of food, clothing, shoes and homewares.
Or pop over the border to Spain and look round the weekly market at Valencia de Alcántara (also about 30 minutes away).
Or if you like shopping centres visit El Faro on the west side of Badajoz, Spain (1 hour’s drive) which has a large range of shops and restaurants all under one roof.
There is so much to see and do in this area!
Quinta da Vila Maria’s location makes it an excellent base for exploring this exceptional and unspoilt region of Portugal.
Whether it’s discovering historic towns and villages; walking/hiking, mountain biking or bird watching in the Natural Park; exploring ancient castles, Roman remains or Megalithic monuments; wine tasting or swimming; this area has it all. Or if you simply want to sit back and relax from your usual day-to-day routine, Quinta da Vila Maria offers a calm and restful atmosphere under a warm, blue sky.
For ideas on what to see and do read on…..