Ok so Elvas, Portugal is not the largest fortification, but due to it being extensively fortified over the centuries it now has the largest bulwarked dry-ditch system in the world. While Elvas contains remains dating back to the 10th century, its fortifications began when Portugal regained independence in 1640.
This border town was vital to the existence of Portugal and was sieged by the Spanish in 1659, 1711, and 1801 plus the French took it in 1808. Due to this fortification system that is still intact Elvas has been named a World Heritage Site.
When we visited we were amazed that not only are the ditches still there, but the city walls are completely intact and we could drive through the city gates parking on one of the seven bastions. I was amazed at the completeness of the fortifications, including a fort on either side of the walled city (Santa Luzia and Nossa Senhora da Graça), and loved exploring the walls and ditches. I found out that one of the original gates had a hermitage build on top of it.
The main reason I wanted to come here is to see the fortification, but it is a medieval town and has other historical sites like the cathedral (early 16th century), Fernandine Tower (13th century), and a four-tiered aqueduct (started in the early 15th century). Make sure you check out tomorrow’s POTD for a cool photo of the aquaduct.
While it does not take long to explore this small town, it was refreshing to see few tourists. This gave the town a relaxed and down to earth feel to it. Elvas is a bit out of the way, but I recommend it to everyone…..especially military history fans!