Almendres Cromlech Evora | Portugal Visitor
Almendres Cromlech (Cromeleque dos Almendres)
The Almendres Cromlech (Cromeleque dos Almendres) is an ancient stone circle close to Evora in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
The stone circle lies close to several other Neolithic sites including menhirs (standing stones or monoliths) and dolmen (tombs). Altogether there are 95 stones set in two circles.
In fact, the area has one of the highest concentrations of stone age monuments in Europe and is set in one of the oldest man-made ecosystems in the world.
The name “Almendres” comes from the site’s shape which resembles an almond or almendra in Portuguese.
The Almendres Cromlech is approximately 7,000 years old and predates Stonehenge in Britain by 2,000 years. The site was “rediscovered” in 1964 and subsequently excavated.
It consists of various structures including the stone circle (cromlech) and various standing stones (menhirs). The granite stones are aligned in an ellipse towards the equinoxes. The stones run down from the top of a hill towards the east.
The egg-shaped stones were moved to their present location using logs, ropes and wooden levers in an operation that would have taken several years. The ancient tribes would have searched for these unique stones in the surrounding area.
The stones stand among holm and cork oaks that would have been growing there in pre-historic times.
Various engravings mark the stones in the shape of faces, a shepherd’s crook (an early symbol of power) and possibly also constellations. These dimple-like shapes are known as covinhas (“cups”) in Portuguese.
Menhir dos Almendres
A standing stone 2 km away, the 4 meter high Menhir dos Almendres, is aligned with the sunrise of the summer solstice and provides another point of solar and lunar observation along with the cromlech.
Also in the area is the Zambujeiro Dolmen (Anta Grande do Zambujeiro) a tomb dating from 5,000 years ago. Archeologists believe that a leader was buried here along with pots, tools and weapons that would be needed in the afterlife. The tomb, buried under a man-made hill, resembles a womb and is thought to symbolize rebirth.
The ancient site is considered by experts to have been a gathering place on the equinoxes and solstices – times of ritual celebration connected with the age-old agricultural cycle of planting and harvesting.
People may have traded goods and livestock at these pre-historic gatherings – a very early market or town square in fact.
By car the stone circle is 17 km (about 30 minutes) west of Evora on the N114.
There are daily trains to Evora from Lisbon (2 hours, 30 mins) changing at Casa Branca as well as trains to Setubal Station in Setubal (2 hours, 15 mins), Faro (4 hours, 30 mins) and Lagos (5 hours) in the Algarve. The station (tel. 266 742 336) is south of the Jardim Publico.
Evora is around an hour and a half by car from Lisbon on the A2 and the A6 highways. From Elvas or Spain (Badajoz), take the A6/E90.
The bus station in Evora (tel. 266 769 410) is just off Avenida de Sao Sebastiao.
Fairly frequent buses a day make the 2 hour plus journey to Lisbon.
There are also bus connections to Elvas (90 minutes), Portalegre (90 minutes), Beja (90 minutes) and Faro (5 hours). Buses from Evora also connect to the small town of Reguengos de Monsaraz in 35 minutes, from where there are other buses to the picturesque, walled village of Monsaraz or it is 20 minutes by car.
Places to stay in Evora include the luxury Convento do Espinheiro, located in a restored 15th-century convent and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Other recommended places to stay include the five-star M’AR De AR Aqueduto, housed in a 16th century palace and the four star Vitoria Stone Hotel with pool. The reliable and friendly Hotel Dom Fernando is just south of the historic centre.
See here for a full listing of accommodation in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
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