Stonehenge is probably the most famous of the world’s megalithic sites, yet Portugal is home to several megalithic sites that are older, free to visit, less crowded, and still allow visitors to walk through the grounds. We visited two of these sites, both in close proximity to each other, located just outside of Evora, Portugal.
[Megalithic Sites: large stones that have been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or with other stones.]
The larger of the two megalithic sites we visited is Almendres Cromlech. A circle of 93 huge stones that were strategically placed here from 4000-5000BC making them about 2000 years older than Stonehenge. Visiting here is quite surreal. There are no fences and we are free to stand amongst nearly 100 monoliths and even touch them. Unlike many of the crowded European places we visited, we were alone here. Standing amongst these giants, wondering why they exist.
Nearby we visited Almendres Menhir, a single monolith that stands 4 meters tall.
Prior to visiting these sites, we had been impressed that Newgrange, outside of Dublin Ireland was 400 years older than Stonehenge. These are not the world’s only ancient megalithic sites. The oldest discovered so far are from the Mesolithic period: Göbekli Tepe in Turkey (9500BC); an unnamed monolith found under the water in the Strait of Sicily (9350BC); and, Quinta da Queimada Menhir in western Algarve, Portugal (9100BC).
The oldest Neolithic megalithic sites are Atlit Yam in Israel (7000BC), followed Almendres Cromlech. Additional countries where megalithic sites older than Stonehenge have been discovered include Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Wales.
As we drove out to the site, we saw cork trees. To us, this was new and exciting. We later learned more about them at a Cork Museum in Spain.
Practical Information and Tips:
- Both Almendres Menhir and Almendres Cromlech are always open and both are free to visit.
- Located about 18km east of Evora, they are easy to find following the signage. There is no physical address but driving directions from Evora are simple. Head east for about 8-10 km on N114. Then, turning left onto CM1075 you will head Southeast until you arrive. The second road makes many twists and turns. Click here for more detailed driving directions.
- There is no public transportation to these sites, so the best option is to rent a car even if you arrived via train. Check Prices and find the Eurail Pass that is right for you.
- If you prefer a guided tour, both Viator and Isango offers tours to Evora (many from Lisbon) that include these sites.
- If you are headed to Portugal, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Lonely Planet Portugal Travel.
- Check prices for Evora hotels at Booking.com.
We visited Evora as we traveled through Spain in 2012 between two home exchange houses – the first in Catalunya, the second in Galicia. It was part of our 250-day overseas adventure. The key stops in Spain were Saragosa, Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Seville, and Vigo. In Portugal, we visited Evora, Sintra, Obidos, and Alcobaca.
Where have you seen megalithic sites?
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