For thousands of years, humankind has been fascinated with the stars in the night sky and our Neolithic ancestors built strange stone structures to reflect their vision of the ancient world. The Almendres Cromlech near the town of Évora, Portugal is thought to be the oldest stone circle in Europe, even older than Stonehenge. Find out all about the history of these sacred stones and how you can visit them.
Almendres Cromlech facts
A cromlech, also known as a dolmen, refers to a stone structure consisting of two upright rocks supporting a horizontal one. The Portuguese terms is “anta”. They are common in Wales and other parts of Europe where ancient civilisations lived and were probably built for spiritual and ceremonial reasons, though no one is really sure. The Almendres Cromlech are so named because the stones are the shape of almonds (almendres, in Portuguese), although they are technically less like dolmens and closer to menhirs, free standing monolithic stones. The Portuguese name for the site is Cromeleque dos Almendres.
The Almendres Cromlech were not built all at once, but arranged and rearranged over a period of about 3000 years. Loosely arranged in two sets of concentric circles, the earliest stones in the smaller circles to the east were placed around 6000 BCE, while the larger rings to the west were added to the site in around 5000 BCE, during the New Stone Age. The evidence shows they were redistributed in about 3000 BCE to be more in line with the sun, moon and stars, suggesting some mystical, cosmic purpose behind their construction.
In total, there are 95 stones in the Almendres Cromlech and they were only discovered in 1966.
Almendres Cromlech map
This image shows the progression of the stones as archaeologists have discovered they were at various times, from the early-mid Neolithic age (top left), the mid Neolithic (top right), the late Neolithic (bottom left) and how they are now (bottom right).
Almendres Cromlech location and visitor information
This megalithic site is located west of the town of Évora, which is in southern, inland Portugal. There are no public transport links from Évora to Almendres Cromlech, so you’ll have to go by car. Take the N114 to Montemor-o-Novo and take the turning for Nossa Sra. De Guadalupe. It’s about 10 miles and takes just under half an hour.
It’s absolutely free and open to the public and the elements 24 hours a day, so it’s a great place to go for a picnic, but you’re asked to please respect the stones and their history and not undertake any damaging or dangerous behaviour while you’re there.
There are other megalithic sites that you can visit in the area, including the Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro and the Castelo de Giraldo. There are several companies that offer Évora megaliths guided tours in English, so you can see all the stone circles near Évora and have them explained to you by an expert.
- Where: Cromeleque dos Almendres, Évora, Portugal
- Price: free
- Opening hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Website: www.visitevora.net