A breath of sea in the mountain range
Rio Maior is a Portuguese city belonging to the County of Santarém, with about 8 000 inhabitants. Situated in the centre of Portugal, 75 km away from Lisbon, 30 km from Santarém, Óbidos and 84 km and 20 km from Caldas da Rainha, with good access to both North and south. Rio Maior is called the city of Sport, because despite its small size it has vast and award-winning sports infrastructures.
The river Maior, which gives the name to the city, passes right near the center of the city, creating in its path places of incredible beauty and harmony. It is called Rio Maior (meaning “the biggest river”) because it is the largest of the three rivers that converge to the same riverbed and it flows to Tagus River.
Rio Maior belongs to the old province of Ribatejo and it is well known for its salt evaporation ponds. The North region is part of the Natural Park of Serras d´Aire e Candeeiros where the salt-pans are included.
Candeeiros is a limestone mountain region with many fissures in the rock, which enables the rain water to penetrate forming undercurrents. The water, already concentrated, goes back to a distribution basin, which stands by the well, and there continues to the pans. The oldest document referring to the Salinas dates back to 1177, but it is believed that salt was already explored in Pre-historic times.
The salt-pans can be found 3 km away from Rio Maior, in a valley at the bottom of Candeeiros Mountain. Surrounded by trees, vineyards and other cultivated lands are considered a natural wonder, once the sea is about 30 km.
The Salt Pans and its workers are a living museum where throughout the 8 centuries of history the methods of exploring the salt have little changed, which gives the place its peculiar character.
In 1979 the Cooperative Society of the Salt Producers of Rio Maior was created to improve productivity and marketing of the salt. This purely biological salt is exported to Germany because of its high quality and the absence of any additives or chemical treatments.