“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.”
Marvao is a Portuguese fortress town only 13 kilometers from the Spanish border and is set in the mountains with a 360 degree panorama. with the castle built on a sheer cliff face. The village, with around 120 older inhabitants, is perched at 2,800 feet high and is laid out in several long rows of white-washed stone houses terraced into the hill.
Although, there is believed to have been Roman settlements in the Marvao area previously, the area as we know it today is the result of Ibn Maruan, who took settlement in the area during a rebellion against Cordoba. Maruan commenced the construction of the castle due to it’s exceptional location and it has been continually expanded over the last 1000 years.
It was King Dom Afonso Henriques who took the castle from the Moors and included it as part of the new kingdom of Portugal. It continued to be a stronghold for many centuries to stop Spanish invasion. During the 14th century King Dom Dinis further fortified the town by reinforcing the castle and providing fortification around the town.
After parking our car we wandered up through the few streets in Marvao admiring the whitewashed houses, although sadly some are now abandoned, before reaching the garden at the base of the castle, opposite the Santa Maria Church.
Once you pay your entrance fee you are free to wander around the castle walls, climb the towers and enjoy the breathtaking view. Keep in mind that if you are there in winter like us, the wind can be quite strong and chilly, but definitely worth it.
Surrounding Marvao and the area of Alentejo are both olive and cork oak trees. Portugal provides about 50% of the world’s cork supply. Cork can only be harvested when the tree reaches 25 years old and even then it is only harvested once every 9 years, but on the positive side these trees can live as long as 200 years. On average a cork tree can produce up to 200 kg of cork and this makes approximately 25 000 corks for wine, per harvest. When the cork is stripped from a tree it is painted and marked with the year number, for example 2018 would be marked with an ‘8’. I have to say the combination of cork and olive trees as well as sheep, cows and goats makes for a very scenic surroundings.
Tourist Information for Marvao Castle:
Opening Hours: Daily – 10am to 5pm
Entrance Fees: Local residents: Free │ Normal Ticket – € 1.50 │ Children up to 12 years old – Free │ Young card holders, student card, 65 card and pensioner – 50% discount │ Organized groups, with prior appointment, of 20 or more people – 30% discount