Founded in 1214 by the grand-master of the military Order of Avis, according to legend the castle of the town was built in secret during the night, so that the Moors in the neighbourhood wouldn't be alerted, and by morning the half built walls were hidden with branches.
The castle is now in ruins but the enormous monastery equally founded by the Order of Avis, although abandoned and much damaged, is still the most important monument.
The graceful Medieval town, with narrow and winding streets and small houses exhibiting a typical front chimney, still preserves some of its ancient features but has inevitably grown and the new quarters are much less characteristic. It is worth visiting the Mother Church and the pillory.
Near Avis, the tiny town of Benavila marks the transition between the flatlands of Ribatejo and the moors and parched plains of the South and is surrounded by fertile lands. Here, fields of wheat and corn grow next to fresh vegetable plots, vineyards, orchards and cork and holm oaks.
To the south of the town of Avis, the big lake of the Maranhão Dam offers outdoor activities such as water sports and angling.