The charming medieval village of Marvão stands out among the other settlements in this area of the Alentejo. It is one of only a handful of remaining towns nestling entirely within its ancient defensive walls. The village is commandingly perched atop a 862 metre (2,800ft) high quartzite looking out over the plains of the Serra de São Mamede and to the Spanish border only a few kilometres away.
Of course the views over the undulating countryside below are spectacular and this is one of the reasons this little town of less than a thousand people is firmly on the tourist map. It also helps that it was mentioned in New York Times bestselling book, "1000 Places to see Before you Die".
The village itself is well worth the ascent; a higgledy-piggledy maze of narrow cobbled streets lined with whitewashed cottages. All the houses have red terracotta roofs and bare granite surrounds to the doors and windows, many also have ornate iron balconies.
As you walk up the winding streets you will catch glimpses of the plains stretching out below. It seems all roads lead upwards and whichever way you walk you will inevitably end up at the medieval castle.
One has a feeling of stepping back in time here, so well-preserved are the buildings, and the castle. Built in the 13th century by Dom Dinis, retains it original keep, huge cistern and some cannons still pointing towards Spain. It was at this time that the town walls were constructed too, creating a virtually impregnable stronghold.
Ancient as this castle is there were several iterations before the current stronghold, going back thousands of years. Perhaps the earliest Castle of Marvão was that constructed by the man who gave his name to the village in the 8th century, Ibn Marwan. This Moorish duke and his descendents held Marvão until 1166 when it fell into Christian hands during the Reconquests.
Before even the Moors came it is believed the location was the site of a Roman watchtower. There were certainly Romans in this area as the ruins at nearby Cidade Romana de Ammaia testify with its remnants of bath houses, temple and forum.
Aside from the village itself Marvão does have a few sights and things to do such as the town museum which is housed in the former church of Santa Maria. Retaining the church altar, the museum mainly focuses on local archaeology - of which there is plenty.The villages other church is the 15th century Igreja Matriz.