15 places to see and what to do on Lake Alqueva in Extremadura

Miraflores Castle in the surroundings of Lake Alqueva

Did you know Estremadura Is the community with more inland coast? Indeed, a third of Spain's dammed water is in this region.

And the best example is the Alqueva Lake, the largest artificial lake of Western Europe with more than 1,200 km of shore, which in some sections acts as a natural border between Spain Y Portugal.

He Alqueva Lake takes its name from the locality where the reservoir is built on the Guadiana river, at Under Alentejo.

From the dam inside Portugal, to the tail almost in Badajozalready in Estremadura, they are more than 80 km away with a maximum depth of 150 meters.

On the one hand, the lake was built for human consumption, tourist uses and generating electricity, but also to raise the irrigation of a large part of the Alentejo, which is a very fertile area of ​​cultivation.

In this natural Mediterranean environment full of large holm oaks where they eat acorns Iberian pigs, several artificial beach with blue flag and with accessibility on the side of Portugal have been created.

It is an area that is in full development, but where they try to keep the natural landscape intact.

Rincon de Monsaraz next to Lake Alqueva in Portugal

Within Europe, Monfragüe in Extremadura it is one of the two mecca of the ornithology, next to Doñana national park.

Thanks to the proximity of these two natural reserves, it is very common to see a large number of birds in their migratory processes around Alqueva.

What to see in Lake Alqueva and surroundings

The whole environment of Alqueva Lake It has been border area for years, so it is very common to find castles and fortresses defensive, which makes the area have many tourist attractions.

Olivenza

Olivenza It is a city of 12,000 inhabitants, including several towns and villages that depend on it.

Rincon de Olivenza next to Lake Alqueva in Extremadura

It is the most important and most populated population center in the entire environment of the Alqueva reservoir.

Of Templar origin, Olivenza it is the last region that became part of the spanish administration and a very peculiar city given that oliventinos They can have dual nationality, Spanish and Portuguese.

You could say that it is a region where you can feel very intensely the transnationality between both countries, with very clear examples such as the indications of their streets, which are written in both languages, Spanish and Portuguese.

Olivenza It is one of the great tourist attractions that the region has with its walls, its watchtowerwhite houses or their Manueline tiles so characteristic of Portuguese culture that they are also present here.

It is the only Spanish area where you can find this type of tiles so characteristic of the Portuguese culture, and that we all associate with cities such as Port Y Lisbon.

Rincon de Olivenza next to Lake Alqueva in Extremadura

Villarreal

Villarreal it is a village of Olivenza, historically of fishermen, who has always been closely linked to Guadiana river.

In fact formerly it did not belong to Olivenza but to the neighboring town of Juromenha which is located just across the river, in Portugal.

To point out that in the Marine orVillarreal pier there is also a highly recommended restaurant, especially for dinner and watch the sunset on the banks of the Alqueva Lake overlooking the castle and the aforementioned Portuguese town of Juromenha.

It is very interesting because on one side of the lake you are in Spain and on the other you are Portugal.

There you can do nautical activities, such as a Boat tour or kayak, in an environment with enormous landscape value.

Miraflores Castle in the surroundings of Lake Alqueva

Miraflores Castle in Alconchel

The castle of the Extremadura town of Alconchel is in the Miraflores hill which presides over the town.

This fortress is built in several phases, with three concentric defensive rings that adapt to the inclination of the terrain.

Its origin is from the Arab era, in the ninth century, from an initial one tower of tribute of wood.

In the twelfth century it became a stone, becoming a watchtower from which, in 1230, a medieval medieval Christian wall was built by the Templars.

To finish the fortification, in the 17th century the Main Square.

Monsaraz next to Lake Alqueva in Portugal

Historically the population used to take refuge here when it was besieged by enemy armies, especially by Lusitania or for the pillows, but in the War of Independence They ended up giving up because they ran out of food.

Since then the castle was abandoned, and already in the twentieth century the watchtower was rebuilt for tourist use from the original foundations and walls.

The charm that this castle has is that it is built on the rock, hence it is a so-called rock castle.

Like many of these medieval fortifications, the Miraflores Castle It also has its ghost. which has its origin in the legend of the Zaragutia Blackberry.

It is supposed to be a ghost of a Christian forced to marry by force in 1174 with a sultan, who died in the galleries of the castle and the legend says that she wanders these walls at dusk.

Rincon de Monsaraz next to Lake Alqueva in Portugal

Monsaraz

There are towns that by themselves justify a trip to the region of Alqueva Lake, and without a doubt Monsaraz is one of them, that next to Olivenza They are the two most important enclaves of it.

It is a walled medieval village that rises on top of a hill, and that, without a doubt, is one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal.

It is a small town of white houses full of history and currently serves as the perfect viewpoint over the Alqueva Lake.

The castle was originally built, to which several defensive walls would be added since, I remind you, it is located in a border area where there were battles for many centuries.

Rincon de Monsaraz next to Lake Alqueva in Portugal

In MonsarazIn addition to the castle and the wall, there are four churches, somewhat surprising given the small terrain on which it is built, but showing the historical power enjoyed by this small Portuguese town.

Monsaraz It is one of the parishes of the town hall of the region of Reguengos de Monsaraz, which was where the political power was between 1272 and 1850.

Until the end of the 19th century it was one of the most important, imposing and best preserved castles south of the Tagus river.

It was founded by Alfonso III behind the Reconquest, after going through Arab hands several times.

In fact they have been found in several excavations Arab graves that are oriented towards Mecca.

Rincon de Monsaraz next to Lake Alqueva in Portugal

The Monsaraz wall It has five medieval stone doors, Gothic and Romanesque, of which only four were known until recently, but a few years ago archeology students discovered the fifth door that today still has no name.

There are two other important points to visit in Monsaraz, the fresco of two-sided judge and the House of the Inquisition, which is a tribute to the Jewish presence in the town.

We must not forget that, according to the writings, several were burned at the stake monsarences accused of heresy.

Juronmeha

This ancient village of Alentejo Portuguese already existed in Roman times, and was an important military stronghold on the west bank of the Guadiana river.

Juronmeha It is a small town with bastioned walls that served as a fortress to defend the border area from attacks and invasions.

Views of Lake Alqueva from Monsaraz in Alentejo of Portugal

At the top of the town there is a ruined castle that can be reached both from the Portuguese side, and from the Spanish side, although in this case you have to do it on the boat that leaves from the aforementioned village of Villarreal.

Sierra of Alor

He Olivenza's surroundings It also has some interesting natural places.

Specifically, the Sierra of Alor It presents a great landscape interest, and above all a great botanical wealth.

Every year is a focus of attraction for people who come to know the famous Rose of Alexandria, a very difficult flower to find elsewhere, and of which there is a great abundance here, as well as orchids.

Every month of April is a reference in Estremadura go to see her Rose of Alexandria in the Sierra of Alor, same as him cherry blossom in the Jerte Valley.

Landscape of pasture of Extremadura near Alqueva Lake

Also the Alqueva Lake is surrounded by a real natural paradise of pasture, of Mediterranean forest within a contour with sets of great monumental, ethnographic, historical and artistic value.

Ajuda Bridge

He Ajuda bridge it is a monumental corner of the 16th century that was designed by Francisco de Arruda, which is the same architect of the Lisbon Belém Tower.

In recent times a new bridge was built next to the historic bridge that was dynamited in the 18th century.

He Ajuda bridge communicated the city of Olivenza with Elvas before being destroyed.

Despite being in ruins, it is a spectacular bridge because of its dimensions, because it was a prodigy of the time, especially the central arch that was one of the greatest of its time.

Ajuda Bridge on the Guadiana River between Spain and Portugal

Aldeida da Luz

As in many areas, when a reservoir is built there are villages that are submerged under water, and in the Alqueva Lake It wasn't going to be less.

But in the case of the people of Aldeida da Luz they wanted not to lose the essence of the town, and after an agreement with the neighbors, they rebuilt it almost as it was in its origin, in an area that would not flood.

The idea was for older people to identify with their new people.

In this way the streets were reproduced with the typical chimneys alenteyanas, in addition to moving the graves to incorporate them into the new town.

In this way it gives the feeling that it is a town with history and personality, and with that they managed to cushion the trauma that expropriations produce among the inhabitants to bury the town under water.

Guadiana River between Spain and Portugal

Badajoz

The city ​​of Badajoz It is very close to this natural region of Alqueva Lake.

On the banks of Guadiana river and very close to the border with Portugal, this walled city is famous for its carnival, one of the most colorful and lively in the country.

It is a perfect point to use from base camp to stay, since it has a wide range of hotels and restaurants, and is halfway to many of the points of interest around theAlqueva Lake.

Elvas

Another alternative is right on the other side of the border, in the also walled Elvas, declared city World Heritage by Unesco due to its large network of defensive fortifications.

Door of the old Alcazaba of Elvas in Alentejo Portugal

People say that Elvas it is the key that gave access to both sides, so that if the city fell, the border would be broken.

I anticipate that in a trip to the region of Alqueva Lake it is worth including a walk through the historic center of Elva.

What to do on Lake Alqueva

This natural site unique so well preserved, gives rise to a multitude of activities in which to know the environment and there are some great.

Alqueva astronomical observatory

Within continental Europe, Extremadura is one of the best regions for the stellar observation.

Alqueva astronomical observatory in Portugal

There is a growing fondness of people traveling to corners of the world with little light pollution to see the stars.

Estremadura It has a favorable situation for such observation since there are many days without clouds, very low air pollution and, above all, very low light pollution.

In fact, many villages have undertaken a joint project to improve energy efficiency by replacing current lighting with other lighting systems LED that do not point to the sky, but to the ground.

And the best way to enjoy this clean sky is visit the Alqueva Observatory.

They offer a very interesting activity that consists of seeing the moon, stars and galaxies with their own telescopes.

Alqueva astronomical observatory in Portugal

After a brief very interesting explanation about the universe, its formation and what we can observe from the earth, you leave to an outside area that you have conditioned to see one of the cleanest skies in Europe.

As a curiosity, in the time of bird migration you can see the silhouette of the birds flying while watching the moon.

Unique experience one hundred percent recommended.

Brave bull safari in Extremadura

If there is an activity that unique and special in this environment is to travel the Extremadura pastures between Fighting bulls.

Bullfighting safari in the area of ​​Lake Alqueva in Extremadura

The sensation of seeing the bulls in freedom at a very short distance is something that is not easily forgotten.

It is an excursion in the style of the African safaris in which the plains are crossed in search of lions, rhinos or elephants ... but in this case they are brave bulls and in Extremadura.

For those of us who are not used to seeing this majestic animal so close, it is a highly recommended activity.

The visit is made in private farms, so it is mandatory to do it with a guide that takes you in its all terrain and that knows the animal perfectly so that the activity is safe.

It is absolutely forbidden to do it on your own.

Bullfighting safari in the area of ​​Lake Alqueva in Extremadura

Here we leave you information in case you want to sign up for a bullfighting safari in Extremadura.

Iberian Ham Culture of Extremadura

Other activity very interesting is to know the whole process around the culture ofIberian Ham in Extremadura, from how the Iberian pigs in the pastures, until the moment of eating it.

Is a excursion where you start knowing and visiting the famous Extremadura pastures where pigs live in freedom while feeding on acorns.

Do you know how you have to be a pig to be named Iberian pig?

Iberian ham from Extremadura

There they will explain the characteristics that the pig must gather to be able to put the label of Iberian, and everything related to the culture of this animal in the region.

It is very interesting experience because there is a whole world behind one of the most emblematic products of the country.

In addition, the dryers where the hams rest and ripen are visited, something that is usually difficult to see, and of course, you learn how to cut the Iberian ham, which you end up tasting.

Berrea or bird safari

There are two safaris that are very special experiences, to such an extent that they can only be done at a specific time, the Bellow and the sighting of migratory birds.

Iberian pigs in the pasture of Extremadura in Lago Alqueva

These are two times of the year when the entire area is filled with visitors to see this unique natural event.

One is the Bellow, which is the name given to the sound that male deer make during the mating season; the other is the bird watching taking advantage of the migratory steps.

You should also know thatEstremadura It is an area where some of the largest bird species of the year live Iberian Peninsula.

Balloon or plane flight on Lake Alqueva

The best way to see the impressive surroundings of the Alqueva Lake It is one of the two options available in the area, balloon flight or in light aircraft.

Airplane excursion through the Alqueva Lake region

In our case we were going to do the balloon flight, but the weather conditions did not allow us, so we changed our options and made the plane flight.

We made this special experience from an airfield near Badajoz, so this city was our first view from the air.

We did a tour in which we flew overOlivenza, Juronmeha, Villareal and of course the huge Extremadura pastures.

Next time we will try again in a balloon, because we already know that it is not always possible and we are left with the desire.

How to get to Lake Alqueva

Video: El embalse más grande de Europa. Alqueva The largest reservoir of Europe. Alqueva (December 2019).