Chief town: SantarémLocation and TopographyTaken in the narrowest sense, the Ribatejo ("bank of the Tagus") region, roughly corresponding to the present district of Santarém, comprises only the alluvial basin of the lower Tagus valley, in the east of the province of Estremadura.
This is a highly fertile area of some 600sq.km/230sq.mi which is still sinking as a result of tectonic movements. The historical province of Ribatejo, however, with its capital at Santarém, also includes the fertile upland regions to the north and south and the plateau to the east all relics of the Tertiary and Quaternary tableland through which the Tagus has carved its course.Population and AgricultureThe drier upland region to the north is densely populated and intensively farmed, mainly by smallholdings practising mixed farming (wheat, olives, citrus fruits, figs). The area to the south, on the other hand, is sparsely populated. Here the large estates and the increasing custom of singlecrop farming (wheat, olives, corkoaks) show the same agricultural structure as in the Alentejo region to the south.The water meadows, which form a strip some 50km/30mi wide along the Tagus and which are flooded every spring (January-April), provide ideal conditions for growing grain and rice.Here, too, is the grazing land, often rather acidic, for the traditional horse and cattle rearing. Most of Portugal's fighting bulls come from Ribatejo, especially from around Vila Franca de Xira.
Tomar is charmingly situated just north of the lower Tagus on its tributary, the Nabao, in the fertile Ribatejo landscape of central Portugal, and is very popular with tourists on account of its mighty convent castle of the Knights of Christ.TownscapeThe little Rio Nabao divides this attractive small town into a west end and an east end, with the old center around the Praça da República west of the river and a lovely park on a sandbank in the river.A winding road leads past the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceiçao up to the castle of the Knights of Christ, above the west of the town.
The Order of the Knights of Christ was founded in the 14th C but the buildings at the complex date to between the 12th and 17th C. Among the many highlights is the Knights of Christ Church.
Torres Novas is an industrial town 25km/15.5mi southwest of Tomar. The ruins of its 14th century castle, and its Misericórdia church, with a fine Renaissance doorway, are worth seeing.