In a secluded valley in the Serra da Sao Mamede, Alto Alentejo, Portugal.

Marvao, Alentejo, Portugal a dramatic medieval hill-top village bordering Spain.

A view from the top of Marvao castle looking east into Spain

A view from the top of Marvao castle looking east into Spain

They call it the Eagles Nest.

Marvao is a spectacular medieval walled village perched at 900 metres on a rocky crag called the Serra de Marvao. The narrow cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses many with decorative doors and windows from the 15th century, wind their way up to one of the best preserved castles in Portugal dating from the 13th century.

The views from the castle are truly breathtaking looking out over wild rocky landscape towards Spain and the Serra da Estrela mountains in Portugal, which are often snow capped in winter. At dawn, in the evening or when the mists close in Marvao becomes almost eerie as it rises up to touch the sky. This is a very special place.

Perched on the top of a steep granite hill the fortress has been impregnable for centuries and Marvao's history (below) shows how hard it was to persuade inhabitants to stay.

Even today you won't see many residents or anyone else as you explore the granite cobbled streets. The atmosphere is evocative and you cannot help but feel you belong to the privileged few to have seen this place.

There is however one exceptional weekend when the loneliness of Marvao's streets is replaced with the excitement of crowds, quaffing good local rustic wine and singing traditional songs. That is the Marvao Chestnut Festival in November each year. Get a friend to drive you there!

Marvao is simply one of best places to visit in Portugal.

A brief history of Marvao

The tenth century

The first written reference of the existence of Marvao is in Arab Chronicles....

The Amaia Mountain, today known as Amaia de Ibn Maruãn is a high and invincible mountain, to the east of the city of Amaia-das-Ruínas, (located) on the River Sever.

1217 Dom Afonso II donates the neighbouring crown land.

I hereby give you Pedro the abbot and to the Convent of Alcobaça our crown land on the border of Marvao which is called Aramenha.

1226 The charter of Marvao.

King Sancho II, son of King D. Alfons and Queen D. Urraca gave to Marvao the Charter of Évora so that two thirds of its cavalrymen perform a rain and incursion every year and one third stay in the town.

The soldiers of Marvao are judged as men with extreme authority and noblemen of Portugal.

1264 The charter for the boundary of Marvao.

Although today we see Marvao as a hill-top village the boundary of the dominion of Marvao covered a huge area. The charter of King Sancho II says it takes in the middle of the river Tagus, to the mouth of Ocreza, following on to Amieira to the summit of Arez, to Alquesia, Cosinas, the River Sôr, Seda, the mouth of Alcaue, to Assumar, Montemor Castle, Campo Maior. Form there is runs to the mouth of the stream of Ouguela entering the Xévora up to Arronches, to Alegrete running along the rivers Sever to the River Tagus.

1271 Donation to infante Dom Afonso.

Dom Afonso, King of Portugal and the Algarve and Queen Dona Beatriz grant to their son infante Dom Afonso the castles and towns of Marvao, Portalegre and Arronches.

1300 Marvao and Portalegre are exchanged for Ourém and Sintra.

King Dom Dinis and Queen Dona Isabel gives to his brother Infante Dom Afonso the castles and towns of Ourém and Sintra in exchange for the castles and towns of Marvao and Portalegre.

Dom Dinis retained fishing rights upstream of the bridge of the River Sever.