You may associate white-washed walls with Greece, but there’s a town in Portugal that will give the most scenic Santorini views a run for its money.
Monsaraz––a medieval village along the Spanish border in southeastern Portugal––is a true trip back in time. While the ample parking around the outside of the castle walls is far from original, the car-free street structures of Monsaraz are much like they would have been in medieval times.
Aside from the beautiful views––the vista from the top of the castle over the Alqueva dam is not to missed––the history of Monsaraz is something to research before making the trip. The fortress dates back before 1167, but it was this year that the first change of ownership happened, when Geraldo Sem Pavo claimed the area from the Muslims. After that, the Moors claimed the fortress as its own before the Portuguese reclaimed it in 1232 and donated the site to the Templars. Today, you can physically spot the marks made by the Templars along the fortress walls.
The surrounding castle wall stills stands and may seem intimidating as you ride up, but the interior is far from unwelcoming. The arches, turrets, towers, and walls are original, all added at different times throughout the town’s long life, making it a truly unique physical timeline of the region’s history.
If there’s one thing you do in Monsaraz, do not miss dusk. The sunset is a true occasion in Monsaraz, with the rainbow of light reflecting off of the white walls of the town’s homes.
As with any other beautiful town, there is plenty of wonderful food and wine to be had in Monsaraz. The town is located in the Alentejo region, which covers the south-central and southern regions of the country. The area is known for its red wine, and more recently, superb table wine. Pair it with a regional bread stew, and you won’t want to leave. In short, if you leave Monsaraz without trying it this combination, you’re not doing it right.