sights uncovered
Travel with Tessa

Arraiolos – Portugal

Arraiolos cascades down a hillside dominated by a circular castle. In the spring, the surrounding landscape is a glorious patchwork of lush green grass and bright red wild poppies that turn their little faces toward the sparkling blue skies.


The village is famous for its handmade carpets. The tradition of carpet making in this picturesque Portuguese village can be traced back to the 15th century when King Emmanuel decreed that Muslims convert to Christianity or be expelled from Portugal. Muslim rug makers migrated from Lisbon to Southern Portugal and settled in Arraiolos, which had a history of being more religiously tolerant.

#2A.-Insert-After-ParagraphDying wool in the square.
#2B.-Place-NEXT-TO-2A.--TAGPreparing the yarn.
#2C.-place-NEXT-TO-2B.-TAG.Spinning the Yarn.

The village was known to have an active wool dying facility as early as the 13th century, similar to those in Fez-Morocco.
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of the dying pits beneath the town square.


The earliest rugs bore patterns influenced by Turkish and Persian art, while those woven in the 17th century were inspired by Oriental rugs and Portuguese ceramic-tile designs of that period.
Today, the tradition of carpet making is still passed down from generation to generation.


In 2013, the Arraiolos Carpet Interpretive Center was opened to the public. We spent over an hour in this informative museum that follows the history of the handmade rug industry in Arraiolos.


After visiting the little chapel on the first level, where glass flooring reveals proof of prior civilizations, we made our way upstairs.


We were greeted by a carpet weaver who proudly posed for me in front of several of her rugs, each of them a work of art and a labor of love that took her many months to complete. We watched as she settled into her chair, draped a rug in progress over her lap, and became engrossed in her art. Rug-making requires patience, minute attention to detail, and perfectionism. It’s particularly tough on the embroiderer’s eyes and shoulders. She happily accepted my offer of a shoulder massage.


The main square outside the center was alive this Sunday morning, with cyclists stopping for a late breakfast and locals enjoying the glorious spring sunshine while chatting to friends over a cup of coffee.

#8B.-Place-BELOW-#-8A.-TAG.The painting that dominates the square depicts the dying wells.

We strolled down the cobbled lanes lined by stores and galleries with white-washed facades and popped into the studios of several rug makers, all displaying work with intricate patterns and bold colors.


Arraiolos Castle, constructed during the reign of King Dinis in the 14th century, is a steep uphill walk that can also be reached by car. Built in a circular design, the castle is worth a visit for an expansive view of Arraiolos and its surroundings. The castle itself is not particularly impressive.

Onwards to Evora.