Monastic Triangle of World Heritage Sites in Portugal

Portugal has 14 cultural world heritage sites, of which I planned and visited 9 of them in a span of 6 days. I have this thing for Unesco World heritage sites. Therefore I always plan my itinerary so that the road trip is through these sites. Of the several day trips one particular day itinerary is most memorable to me. I covered 3 heritage sites in one single day.

Monastic Triangle of World Heritage Sites in Portugal

The Monastic Triangle has Monastery of Alcobaca, Monastery of Batalha and Convent of Christ in Tomar in its three corners. These 3 sites are centrally located in Portugal. You can approach them from Lisbon by road. Each one of them is grand and it is like a voyage through history of Portugal as you tour through these monasteries.

Monastery of Alcobaca

Travel distance from Lisbon to Alcobaca is 122km which can take 1 hour 30mins along Highway A8.

Alcobaca Church is famous because of the monastery. It is a beautiful medieval structure, the facade has designs like icing on a cake, only they looked old and worn out.  During 17th and 18th centuries the original Gothic facade was altered. The doorway and rose window exist from the time it was built. Interiors are even more impressive with many parts to tour. I just melted at the sight of gothic vaulted ceiling there.

Monastery of Alcobaca Portugal

Interiors of Monastery of Alcobaca

Explore some important parts like the cloisters, seven dormitories, a library, and a huge kitchen. The kitchen is most noteworthy here. And the gigantic tiled chimney in center too is impressive. Some of the cloister rooms are open to public. There is a story of a thin door on one wall: the monks apparently had to fit and pass through in order to gain access to the dining room. Don’t miss to see it and assess yourself may be!

Alcobaca Monastery is the burial place of many Portuguese kings and queens. Monks resided here from 1178AD and dedicated their lives to religious meditation, creating illuminated manuscripts. The ornate tombs of King Pedro and Ines, who became queen posthumously, are the most photographed objects inside the church. The tombs are built with their feet facing each other.

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Monastery of Batalha

Travel distance from Alcobaca to Monastery of Batalha is 22kms, which takes 24min via N8.

Batalha Monastery is a mix of 2 architectural styles: Gothic and Manueline. The construction went on for 2 centuries (1388 to 1533) by 15 architects and under the reign of several kings. Yet, the dream monastery couldn’t be completed.

Monastery of Batalha Portugal Triangle of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Portugal

Must see sights within Monastery of Batalha

Within the church and monastery there are several must see sights. The arch over the door is decorated with statues of twelve apostles. The stained glass window here is the largest in Portuguese Gothic architecture. There are a series of tombs in the Founder’s Chapel to the right of entrance. It contains the tombs of King Joao I and his Queen Phillipa, their stone effigies depict entwined hands.

There is one more couple tomb, that of D. Duarte and his wife Leonor, laying hand in hand in one of the chapels in the monastery. The Square Chapter house in the Royal Cloister is a beautiful place to walk through. It is the lace like work in limestone that holds your attention. They seem like snowflakes, only difference that they are of stone and large in size. This part of the tour takes up much of your time, and chances are you will want to linger on, not wanting to come out.

Tour time will be 2 hours and more till you are content.

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Convent of Christ, Tomar

Travel distance from Batalha is 45kms via IC9, which can take 45mins to drive approx.

The monastery of Tomar, also called the Convent of Christ is no less than a masterpiece! There are a total of 8 cloisters in Convento de Cristo. Must photograph sight is the famous chapter house window in west facade, made by Diogo de Arruda in 1510-1513. A detailed ‘halt and see tour can easily take 3 hours.

Triangle of World Heritage Sites in Portugal

UNESCO says…

Tomar got World Heritage Site status because:
“Originally designed as a monument symbolizing the Reconquest, the Convent of the Knights Templar of Tomar (transferred in 1344 to the Knights of the Order of Christ) came to symbolize just the opposite during the Manueline period – the opening up of Portugal to other civilizations.”

Summer opening hours: 1 June to 30 September, 9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. In winters it closes by 5.30 p.m.

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Road Trip along Alcobaca, Batalha and Tomar

You can start from Lisbon. Lisbon is capital of Portugal and well connected with rest of the world. Emirates have several flights connecting Lisbon to other major cities of the world. Start early in the morning so that by 9 you are at Monastery of Alcobaca. Though I did this tour in a day, one can always linger on a bit more and tour it covering the monasteries in 2 days.

  • Lisbon to Alcobaca – 1hour 30mins
  • Alcobaca Tour – 2 hours (9AM to 11AM)
  • Alcobaca to Batalha – 24mins
  • Batalha Tour – 2 hours (11.45AM to 1.45PM)
  • Batalha to Tomar – 45mins
  • Spare an hour for lunch
  • Tomar Tour – 2 hours (3.30PM to 5.30PM in winters)
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27 Responses to “Monastic Triangle of World Heritage Sites in Portugal

  • As you said, pictures of the interiors are awesome! The delicate details on the wall are amazingly beautiful! Nice photographs and the slide shows too!

  • Thanks for the detailed information of how to get from place to place by bus. I only saw Lisbon so far in Portugal and will definitely check out Alcobaca and Batalha on my next trip to Portugal!

  • You may want to visit right away looking at these awesome photos! Thanks for these!

  • What a fascinating read. I have read extensively on the history of the Knights Templars, but never knew of this site. Thanks for sharing!

  • All the monasteries you mentioned are imposing structures and have a unique story backing them. I liked the story of the Tomar, the most though the other ones are good too. May be I”m too spoilt for choice. However, I would love to read up more on all the monasteries or watch a documentary on them (if there are any). Thanks for triggering my mind through your post. 🙂

  • The Monasteries look really magnificent. UNESCO World Heritage sites have this special aura of charm which renders them so endearing. Portugal is one of the most fascinating countries that is steeped in a rich cultural heritage and history. Loved reading this post.

  • Amazing day must have been for you.. I can so relate… This was same for me going around Bukhara and Samarkand..

  • Wow, portugal has been on our list for so long but never managed to go there. Soon!! Love how you’ve described the places and your wonderful pics!

  • Wow, these heritage sites are marvelous. I am particularly taken with the Monastery of Batalha, the intricate carvings, the overall architectural design is impressive. And you’ve seen 9 out of 14 sites in only 6 days. That’s a feat I must say. Hopefully, I’d get to visit too. Would definitely make time for the Batalha.

  • The facade and interiors are equally designed and detailed. Such an amazing work of art. It is a perfect destination indeed. Would feed the mind and the senses!

  • These monasteries are really gorgeous, the architecture is so lovely. Are they still active places of worship or just historical sites now?

  • It’s crazy how much heritage sits they have in Portugal! I am inlove with the inside decoration of the monasteries especially with Monastery of Alcobaca. Would like to visit it one day.

  • Very informative post Indrani. And thanks for the details of planning a day trip from Lisbon to all 3 sites. The monastery of Tomar looks the most interesting to me. Will definitely put this on my list if and when i go to Portugal.

  • Some beautiful architecture. We have recently returned from Lisbon and loved Portugal. We would love to return and explore further afield. Highly recommended for those who haven’t yet visited

  • Magnificent buildings and sculptures, very nicely captured and narrated.

  • All of them look amazing. Nice captures.

  • Yogi Saraswat
    5 months ago

    Portugal has 14 cultural world heritage sites !! Amazing . I am not aware how many sites are in India ? But It will be very hectic to cover 3 sites in a day in India . But the interiors of the Church is very attractive . All the pictures in the folder are really very beautiful !!

  • Beautiful monasteries. Amazing captures 🙂

  • thanks to your post I get information about the monastery batalha in the famous portugal country with the football star. it turns out its place also has a meal of the Portuguese kings. wow thank you for the information

  • Overal, an interesting and informative post

  • All of the buldimgs are amazing. I do t even know which one to favour.. I think the best thing to do is visit all. There is so Mich to see and do in Portugal i must admit.

  • All of these sites look amazing, but the monastery of Tomar-wow!! Thanks for sharing this road trip itinerary. Sounds like a great way to see the monasteries, and I think I’d do it over a couple of days.

  • Monasterio dos Jeronimos in Belém is also a Unesco site, right? I also had all the Unesco sites on my wish list during my trips until I lost the count, lol. If I remember well, I read your detailed post about Alcobaca and it looked a very interesting monastery to see. I would like to visit that one

  • These monasteries look fascinating! Like you, I love exploring Heritage Sites. For some reason, I didn’t have a burning desire to visit Portugal and always thought Spain is a lot more exciting. After seeing more posts on Portugal like yours, I really re-evaluate and really give Portugal a try soon!

  • Sounds like a very interesting and doable road trip, and I do love exploring monasteries. The architecture is great, love your pictures!

  • I also have a thing for UNESCO World Heritage Sites! In Portugal, the Convent of Christ in Tomar certainly is a masterpiece. I would love to explore the 8 cloisters. This is definitely a road trip worth doing.

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