Salinas de Rio Maior are located at a 30 minute drive from the fishing town of Nazaré in Portugal. As the name suggests, a Salina consists in a series of organized and controlled surfaces where a certain amount of salty water is allowed to dry outdoors until it naturally transforms in pure crystals of salt.
Salinas de Rio Maior
tell a story that initiated more than eight centuries ago. A story of salt extraction with the highest quality, where nowadays “70 Esgoteiros” (70 water compartments) still operate flawlessly pretty much like they did 800 years ago.
The legend goes by that a goat shepherd lean down to drink from a water spring to soon realize that the water tasted like he never experienced before. By telling his story at the village, a group of men came to conceive that this water is 7 times saltier than the ocean water and that it could be after all a good opportunity for business.
Pure Salt Extraction
The following centuries, allowed these 27.000 m2 of controlled water compartments being gradually built and exploited by local entrepreneurs that extracted this pure salt with the highest quality every year, during the hot months only, make it a rare product with high value for the commerce routes back then.
The daily tasks and hard physical work at the Salinas usually called for heavy alcohol drinking, therefore several taverns were always open in the premises.
Being this salt a very important exchange currency, men salaries were paid in salt which originated the term Salário [Salary] a designation that’s still in use to most of the modern societies.
When To Visit?
Salinas da Fonte da Bica as they are also known, can be visited all-year-round, yet only during the Summer months one can really get in contact with how the process of naturally extract salt takes place. These tasks are performed daily by elder locals that still keep the tradition alive.
What To Expect?
The wooden houses, taverns and support structures passed on through many generations and can still nowadays be admired as they were initially built back in the day.
Salarium Restaurant with a “salty shop” attached offers regional products and delicious traditional food for a fair rate with gorgeous views. It is ideal to have lunch with the family.
Visiting Salinas de Rio Maior is best in Spring/Summer during the week days. It can be a really good surprise for families willing to learn more about the Portuguese heritage. If the weather is threatening with rain, it does not worth the trip because everything will be outdoors except the restaurants and local commerce.