For being a relatively small town, Evora has some pretty cool things to see. One of its more outstanding feature attractions is the Agua de Prata Aqueduct, or “Aqueduct of Silver Water”.
Although it appears to be Roman, it’s actually a little more modern. King João III commissioned the aqueduct to bring fresh water into the city. It took 6 years to build, between 1531 and 1537 AD. Evora was a boomtown at the time, but because of its elevated location it lacked the amount of ground water needed for its residents. So they built the aqueduct – 18 km long in total – to bring water from the Ribeira do Divor.
Interestingly, its designer was Francisco de Arruda, a military architect and also the designer of the Tower of Belem in Lisbon. The aqueduct is one of the most impressive architectural feats from the 16th Century in all of Portugal. Although the design and construction began easily enough at the river side, things got increasingly more complicated as the arches stretched closer to the town. At their tallest point, the arches reach a height of 26 meters!
Within the Evora city walls, there are a lot of interesting bits and bobs to discover relating to the aqueduct. For example, this Renaissance Water Box:
Some sections of the aqueduct have been filled in with houses and commercial buildings within the arches. It’s pretty cool how they incorporated them together actually. It creates some pretty distinctive architecture. Here you can see where an arch sits snugly between buildings, creating a short tunnel for cars.
One evening, my husband and I decided to walk the length of the aqueduct. Or at least, go as far as it would take us.
Now, this is where online descriptions of the aqueduct confuse and frustrate visitors. I read several descriptions saying that you can “walk along the aqueduct”. This was misinterpreted by many to mean that you can physically walk along the top of the aqueduct. So, if you read comments on TripAdvisor or other review sites, you’ll read a few remarks from some pretty unhappy people because they couldn’t figure out how to climb to the top of the aqueduct to walk along its length.
So, can you climb the aqueduct and walk along the top? Simply put: No.
In fact, you can’t even really walk alongside it all the way. The Convento da Cartuxa owns a section of the land the aqueduct sits on, and it’s cordoned off within their own walls. However, you can start the aqueduct walk on Rua do Cano, inside the Evora city walls.
Turning left on Rua do Muro, you walk outside the city walls and past the ring road onto R114-4. This is where the aqueduct is at its tallest. A stone wall separates the aqueduct from the sidewalk. But you can still follow it (at a bit of a distance) until it crosses the highway. There are some lovely architectural details to take note of at this juncture! The covered niches house modern images of Saint Bruno and Saint Bento, patron saints of two nearby monasteries.
Once you cross the highway there is a path through the fields. This is where the walk gets a little more rugged, going past farmer’s fields and a lovely residential neighborhood. As you can see, the arches are starting to get lower as we go!
Can you imagine having this view while feeding the cows? It’s a very relaxing walk and not very taxing. Most of the ground is flat, though you have to watch out for rocks and high/low spots here and there. But it’s a well-worn trail and easy to follow. Needless to say, you have a pretty distinctive landmark to keep an eye out for. If you lose sight of it you’ve gone off the path.
As the sun started to set in the distance, it occurred to us to turn back and take the same walk again the next day. But, we decided to go a little bit further. We wanted to see just how far we could get before it got too dark. After all, we did have a path to follow back.
It was a good thing we continued on, because we were already close to the end of where the aqueduct disappears into the ground, signalling the end of our walk. You can walk further of course. But once the aqueduct itself dropped out of view we decided to turn back, for fear of getting lost in the dark!
However, we did take notice of something interesting on the walk back:
We assumed this was an old water fountain? They didn’t have any interpretive signs, but the design seemed to suggest this:
If anyone can confirm/deny its use, that would be greatly appreciated!
Evora Nature Trails offer great opportunities to see the aqueduct and other sites around Evora. You can walk or bike the trails. The nature trail starts on the R114-4 road Évora-Arraiolos.