Monsaraz Portugal is one of the most beautiful villages we’ve visited in the country, even all of Europe, and we felt it is worthy of our first photo essay.

 

Image of an alleyway in Monsaraz, portugal, looking out over the plain below

One of the narrow travessas, or alleyways, of Monsaraz

 

It’s a tiny village, essentially two long streets with alleyways in between, and a pathway along some of the fortified walls.

 

Image of Monsaraz, Portugal from the Castle Walls

Monsaraz from the Castle Walls

 

It occupies a dramatic site of strategic importance, occupying a hill with commanding views to the Alqueva lakes system and Spanish border to the east and the vast Alentejo plain to the west.

 

Image of the skyline of Monsaraz, Portugal

The terracotta and white skyline of Monsaraz

 

Monsaraz has been fought over several times in its history, having been under the control of the Moors, the Knights Templar, the Kingdom of Portugal and even the disgruntled, unpaid Earl of Cambridge and his band of mercenaries at one point.

Image of Monsaraz Castle, Alentejo, Portugal

Monsaraz Castle at dusk

 

The 13th century castle sits at the southern end of the village, is free to enter and has outstanding views over the village, the surrounding countryside and the Alqueva lakes.

 

Image of sunrise over the Barragem da Alqueva lakes from Monsaraz, Portugal

Sunrise over the Barragem da Alqueva lakes from Monsaraz

 

Most of the village was built between the 13th and 18th centuries, though the area has been inhabited for several millennia, as some prehistoric remains, including the Cromleque de Xerez, attest.

 

Image of the empty streets of Monsaraz, Portugal at dusk

The streets of Monsaraz at dusk

 

We visited in early spring, and had the village almost to ourselves. We walked the streets at dusk and then before dawn the following morning. It was still quiet the following lunchtime, and it felt slightly disconcerting that nobody else was around to savour this amazing place.

 

Black and white image of Monsaraz, Alentejo, Portugal

Monsaraz in monochrome

 

It’s an extraordinarily beautiful village, with most of the buildings whitewashed to reflect the intense dry summer heat.

 

Image of church detail in Monsaraz

Church detail in Monsaraz

 

Apart from the Castle and scenery, the village has several medieval churches to explore.

 

Image of pillory outside the Misericordia church in Monsaraz

The pillory outside the Igreja da Misericordia

Image of Traditional ceramic plates at art shop in Monsaraz Portugal

Traditional ceramic plates at art shop in Monsaraz

There are also several craft and souvenir shops, specialising in traditional Portuguese arts and crafts, from gorgeous ceramic plates and bowls to these exquisite children’s painted folk art chairs.

 

Image of traditional Children's folk art chairs for sale in Monsaraz, Portugal

Children’s folk art chairs for sale in Monsaraz

David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.  His images are frequently used throughout the world by tourism bodies such as Visit Britain and Visit Wales.