WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN PORTUGAL
Anyone wishing to know more about Portugal, its origins and the important role that it played in the history of the world will find an excellent source of information in the various national monuments that UNESCO has classified as World Heritage.
Porto, situated close to the mouth of the River Douro, is one of the oldest cities in europe. Its Historical Centre still contains important testimonies to the early days of Portuguese nationhood.
Upstream, nestled in the valley of one of the tributaries of the River Douro is an open-air prehistoric art gallery composed of the Rock Engravings of the Côa Valley. The journey there takes you through the breathtaking landscapes of the Douro valley, along whose banks grow the grapes used to produce another of the world's great heritages, Port wine.
To the south, in the small town of Batalha not far from Lisbon, stands the Mosteiro de Santa maria da Vitória, a major Gothic work linked to the consolidation of the Portuguese kingdom. Along the way, cities such as Aveiro, Coimbra or Leiria are well worth a visit. A short detour will take you to the sea and a coastline of long sandy beaches and dunes.
A mere I2 km from the monastery of Batalha is the Mosteiro de Alcobaca, founded in the time of D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, who gave it to the Cistercians, a strict religious order, whose austere wav of life can still be sensed there today. Roughly 60 km inland from here, the city of Tomar is dominated by the Convento de Cristo and the Castelo Templario, both of which bear witness to the history of the Order of the Knights Templar. Their assets were transferred to the Order of Christ in the thirteenth century, which later on was to play such a major role in the Portuguese maritime discoveries.
Lisbon, the capital that is bathed in sunlight, offers you the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and the Torre de Belem, both symbolically situated by the banks of the River Tagus and testifying to the great enterprising spirit of the Portuguese during the period of the Discoveries. In the city's surrounding area, visitors wending their way through the verdant cultural landscape of the Serra de Sintra are constantly surprised by its remarkable houses and romantic palaces. On the other side of the bridge over the River Tagus, the road takes you across the wide open spaces of the Alentejo plains to the city of Evora, where many thousands of years of history have been preserved inside its strong walls.
To complete your tour, a two-hour flight is all that separates the Portuguese mainland from the archipelago of the Azores. Here, in a landscape of unparalleled natural beauty is Angra do Heroísmo, another world heritage site on the island of Terceira. Angra is a city that was largely inspired by the Renaissance and its equal distance between the old continent and the new world has turned it into a natural meeting point for the great civilisations of Africa, Asia, America and Europe.
Text provided by the Portuguese Tourist Office
Pictures taken by Antonio Sacchetti, Francisco Machado, Francisco Silva, Joao Paulo, Jose Manuel, Rui Morais de Sousa,
Jorge Barros e Francisco Matias/Augusto Cabrita/Carlos P. Monteiro (ANF)