Mourão, Alentejo – A Town on the Lakes in Rural Portugal


Mourao as seen from the castle walls.

Mourão as seen from the castle walls.

Mourão is situated in the Alentejo region of south-east Portugal, some 9km from the Spanish border. It was our first port of call upon arriving in Portugal and we found th little town and its surrounding area nothing short of breath-taking.

Mourão(pronounced Mowrew) lies on a plot of raised land amid a huge system of lakes; something you’re not immediately aware of as you pull into the little square next to the Jardim Publico (public garden) with its free wi-fi.

There are several bars beside the square, a handful of shops and the Church of San Francisco. The town has plenty of facilities and sights to keep your camera happy too, including an excellent 14th century castle that is now all but a ruin, the 18th century church beside it and on hot days you can take a plunge in the municipal swimming pool.

The 14th century castle at Mourão, Alentejo, Portugal.

The 14th century castle at Mourão, Alentejo, Portugal.

From the castle walls you can see for miles, out across the lakes which glint and sparkle in the sun, a playground for a wide variety of wild birds, insects and aquatic life, not to mention the many boats, kayaks and fishermen who frequent their shores. Further out, on the low peaks you can see neighbouring Monsaraz with its even more impressive castle walls which house the village and once protected it from Spanish invaders.

The 3,500 or so population of Mourão enjoy milder climes thanks to the lakes and the vegetation is rich and diverse. The locals are friendly once you prise them open with a little conversation and there is a sense of pride and community about the place, evident in the well tended gardens and houses. 

The band stand in Jardim Publico, Mourão, Alentejo, Portugal.

The band stand in Jardim Publico, Mourão, Alentejo, Portugal.

Jardim Publico is home to a bandstand type structure which contains a PA system and it’s clear that public events are commonplace. Young and old alike share the small town, an almost isolated yet self-sufficient habitat in the borderlands between two countries that have always been at odds.

It is not unusual to find border towns to be a mix of all kinds who trudge from one country to another and stay there, content to no longer be where they were. Mourão, with its cannons, castle and churches is not like that at all. It is a purely Portuguese town in the beautiful rural south east heart of a country with so much promise and history.

Take a look at our gallery of Mourão.

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