A lesser-known jewel of Portugal, the eagle’s nest, Marvao Castle is dominating the hights offering some stunning views above the surrounding mountainous terrain
‘‘From Marvão one can see the entire land… It is understandable that from this place, high up in the keep at Marvão Castle, visitors may respectfully murmur, ‘How great is the world.’’
‘1000 Places to see Before You Die‘. – José Saramago
Away from the ocean but not very far from the border with Spain, placed on a lonely crag of Serra de Sao Mamede lies the beautiful fortified village of Marvao. Maybe I should have added “Once upon a time“ too to the introduction because the story of Marvao starts at the beginnings of times. It was its strategic location that transformed this lonely peak into an eagle’s nests. It went from a watchtower during Roman era to a fortified Castle in the 8th century while under Arab occupation. The place is absolutely beautiful and it gets under your skin the moment you are getting closer to it. Now, after travelling around Portugal I can say about Marvao that is one of the most fascinating places I have seen in Portugal
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I did not know anything Marvao beforehand so I had no idea what to expect. So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw it on top of the mountain when I was approaching it while coming from the Spanish border. The plan was, that since I had a very intense day, visited Trujillo and Caceres on the way here, I should do the check in and visit the village next morning. The moment I saw it though, I told myself “Hell no!!! I am going now to see it!!!!“
The sun was preparing to set and I had such a long day but I was there. Walking on the ramparts around the village. I was so happy… I was back to Portugal and the first thing that I a seeing is this charming and picturesque walled village. My eyes were scrutinising the horizons following the sun to the west.I knew that if I walk in that direction I will reach the ocean. I was missing the ocean but what I was seeing was making me forget about it.
Crossing Extremadura to come here, also visiting the Trujillo and Caceres helped me to grasp better the history of Marvao. The humans were present in the region since Paleolithic also the menhirs and dolmens that are dotting Extremadura are present here in the area as well. Humans were attracted by these hights not only because of not very accessible steep slopes but also because it gives a good place to overlook the entire region. Being up there I had the same feeling I had when I walked on the sacred rock In Gran Canaria, Roque Bentaiga. The vastity and spectacularness of nature are overwhelming and is not hard to imagine what might have been in the mind of the Palaeolithic man seeing all this.
In the 8th century a Moorish knight, Ibn Marwan, refuged here and he was the one that made of Marvao what it is today. He reinforced the walls and built the castle. The village developed little by little within the confinement of the walls and walking on its streets nowadays is pure delight. I am even thinking one day to return and watch a sunrise and a sunset. this not impossible because a Pousada hotel is present there and houses that can be rented.
There are so many things that can be said about the history of Marvao but the pre-roman part I find it most fascinating. I think that this deep connection with the past is making Marvao a tad mysterious I might say.
I walked on its street after the sun was down and I returned the next day too to see the streets filled with sunlight. Its peacefulness transported me in the past for a while. In the sunlight, the white houses looked so bright and the yellow leaves seemed to be made out of gold. I was in a fairytale and I liked it too much to just leave. But I had to. I am a traveller and I just entered Portugal, there are so many places to see, to discover…
To visit the village and walk on the walls is free of charge. To visit the castle it will cost 2 euros and it is worth it.
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