Although Stonehenge is probably the most famous of the world’s megalithic structures, Portugal is home to several megalithic sites that are older, free to visit, less crowded, and allow visitors to walk through the grounds. We visited two of these sites, both in close proximity to each other, just outside of Evora.
Monolithic and megalithic definition
- Monolith: a single large stone block
- Megalith: a large stone used to construct a monument or structure, either alone or with other stones without mortar.
- Dolmen: a prehistoric tomb
- Cromlech: a prehistoric circle of standing stones often surrounding a mound or dolmen.
- Menhir: a tall stone standing upright, either alone or in a group.
Almendres Cromlech (a Megalithic Site in Portugal)
The larger of the two Portugal megalithic sites we visited is Almendres Cromlech (Cromeleque dos Almendres). Here, 93 huge remaining stones form two concentric rings. They were strategically placed here from 4000-5000BC making them about 2000 years older than Stonehenge.
Visiting here is quite surreal. To our surprise, there are no fences. As a result, we are free to stand amongst nearly 100 monoliths. Unlike many of the crowded European venues we visited, we were alone here.
The true purpose of these stone circles is unknown. However, around 3000 BC many of the stones were moved. It is believed this was to better align with the stars, moon, and sun.
Almendres Menhir (a Monolithic Site in Portugal)
Nearby, we visited Almendres Menhir, a single monolith that stands four metres (13 feet) tall. Although about a kilometre away, it aligns with Almendres Cromlech on the winter solstice sunrise.
Getting to these megalithic sites
Unfortunately, there is no public transportation to these intriguing stone formations in Portugal. The two options for getting there are either to drive yourself or take a tour from Evora or Lisbon.
Driving to these Portugal megaliths
Located about 18km east of Evora, both megalithic monuments are easy to find following the signage. There is no physical address but driving directions from Evora are simple.
Directions from Evora to the megalithic sites: 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.
Renting a car in Portugal
If you are going to drive yourself, you will need a car. Renting a car in Portugal is easy. Our best recommendation is to rent a car for the day. Depending on how many people you have in your group, it may be less expensive than a tour, but you will miss out on the added value of information provided by your guide.
We have been using Rentalcars.com successfully around the world. As a conglomerator, they offer up the full gambit of car types including competitive pricing from a local establishment. Best of all, their customer service is in English, should there be any problems.
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You will drive past cork trees
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 the Cork Museum in Spain.
Megalithic tours from Evora
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If you don’t want to rent a car, a tour is your best option to see these Evora monoliths. We believe these are the best options:
Evora: 4-Hour Forest E-Bike Tour to Almendres Cromlech: This is the perfect tour for energetic visitors who like to explore the megalithic sites slowly. Riding mountain e-bikes, the tour loops for about 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Evora to Almendres Cromlech. You will pass through rural villages and even cycle through fields with grazing cattle. Please note: this tour requires a certain level of fitness and mobility. Check the tour for details.
Check prices and availability for this e-bike tour from Evora
Cork Forest and Megalithic Temples around Evora: A private tour that is perfect for people who want a deeper understanding of the geography, culture, and history of the region. This tour visits an interpretive centre, Almendres Cromlech, two dolmen, and explores the cork forest.
Check prices for the cork forest & megalithic temples tour from Evora
Megalithic tours from Lisbon
Évora and Megaliths Full-Day Tour from Lisbon: Packing a lot into a day, this highly-rated tour is ideal for Lisbon-based travellers who want to discover Evora and the megaliths, but have limited time. Starting and ending at your Lisbon hotel, you will visit both the Almendres Cromlech and a megalithic dolmen. Plus, in Evora, you will see the Roman Temple of Diana, the cathedral, and the chapel of bones.
Check price and reviews for this tour from Lisbon
Evora Megalithic Private Tour from Lisbon: This is the perfect tour for those fascinated by the megalithic sites, but have limited time. The private tour is loaded with archaeological and historical information. You will visit four megalithic /archaeological sites and have a walking tour through the key sites of Evora. Note: The final price is per tour, not per person.
Check price for this private megalithic tour from Lisbon
More on these megaliths in Portugal
- Almendres Cromlech is the Iberian Peninsula’s largest megalithic monument, as well as being one of the world’s oldest.
- Both Almendres Menhir and Almendres Cromlech are always open and free to visit.
- Although built in the early and mid neolithic periods, Almendres Cromlech wasn’t discovered again until 1964.
- There are more than 10 megalithic sites in Evora district. They were built here as it is where Portugal’s most important rivers (Tagus, Sado, and Guadian) converge.
Where to Stay in Evora
While there are many Evora hotels to choose from, we opted to stay at a former renaissance palace called Hotel Solar de Monfalim. Centrally located, we could walk everywhere, but it was the details in the old building that captivated us.
Check out the photos and prices of Hotel Solar de Monfalim (a former palace)
Read Next: 30 free things to do in Evora Portugal
Megalithic Sites Around the World
The oldest megalithic sites discovered to date 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).
From the Neolithic period, the oldest megalithic sites are Atlit Yam in Israel (7000BC), followed by 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.
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