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Odemira, Portugal

Peaceful Odemira is the largest municipality in the country, bordered in the north by Sines, Santiago do Cacém and in the south by Aljezur, Monchique and Silves.

The town thrives next to one of the best preserved rivers in Europe (the Mira river) where otters live. It rises near the Serra do Caldeirão and is a road from the Alentejo interior (once rich in metals) to the sea – a favourable environment for prehistoric settlements.

40 km from the village, the Necropolis of Pardieiro (São Martinho das Amoreiras) was uncovered – graves dating back some 2 500 years, from where gold beads and an iron knife were discovered.

In the early 8th century, Muslim forces conquered the region: Ode comes from Arabic (وَادِي – wadí) meaning river and Mira is seen as pre-Celtic origin – it means water. However, it may originate from the word Emir (أمير – amir), meaning Leader or Prince – the current rulers of Kuwait and Qatar still use the title Emir.

With the Christian reconquest, the powerful order of Santiago occupies the territory on behalf of Portugal (13th century) and 100 years later the lord of Odemira (Manuel Pessanha) becomes the 1st admiral in Portugal.

He led the newly Portuguese fleet in an attack on Ceuta (1341), a lively nest of pirates until it was taken by Portugal (1415). The 1st Count of Odemira (Sancho de Noronha) was captain-general in Ceuta.

Town of Odemira

The village resides 20 km from the coast; in a valley through which the river passes, crossed by a metal bridge (early 20th century) with plains on both sides. The Praça da Republican marks the centre, where the Town Hall (18th century) is located. As you navigate the narrow streets, you will see many ornate houses with wrought iron balconies.

  • Coordinates: 37.596301, -8.641883

If, from the centre, you choose the narrow Rua Serpa Pinto (homage to the explorer of the African continent), you will see the Church of Santa Maria (16th century).

In the past, it was part of a Franciscan convent, where King Dom Sebastião attended mass. A few metres away is the Church of Salvador (14th century) – the façade you see is from the 18th century.

  • Coordinates: 37.596937, -8.642185

100 metres away, unveil the Igreja da Misericórdia (16th century), with a beautiful portal in the Mannerist style, a movement that emerged around 1520 in Italy. Close by, there’s the Praça Sousa Prado square and the 19th-century fountain.

Castelo Viewpoint

  • Coordinates: 37.597486, -8.643900

The historic area of Odemira, higher up, is a quiet residential area. In the toponymy, there is mention of a castle, but it no longer exists – find a marker that identifies the old entrance. The Castelo Viewpoint is 150 metres from the Praça Sousa Prado square, on the hill where the library of Odemira lives, an area with a privileged view over the river Mira and the town.

Fonte Férrea Garden

  • Coordinates: 37.600176, -8.641091

To the northeast, a quiet half-kilometre walk away, soon the Jardim da Fonte Férrea appears, with the aforementioned iron water fountain from which expands the green space.

It is pleasant, and composed of areas of lofty trees and plant nurseries. Here you have the Fonte Férrea restaurant: good food, generous portions, with attentive staff.

River Mira’s riverside garden

  • Coordinates: 37.596738, -8.643763

On the right bank of the river Mira discover the River Mira Riverside Garden – charming leisure space with various panels that educate us about the local fauna and flora.

On the river front stands a modern footbridge that leads to the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade – the festivities in honour of Nossa Senhora da Piedade take place at the beginning of September.

  • Coordinates: 37.596221, -8.646778

Her worship is among the oldest traditions on the Iberian Peninsula – it is known that King Alfonso X of León and Castile, nicknamed the Wise, wrote a composition (13th century) in her honour.

Interestingly, Afonso X considered himself King of the Algarve, but ended up signing a treaty in which he ceded this title to Dom Dinis, nephew of Afonso X and son of Dom Afonso III (Portugal). In any case, Dom Dinis’ father was already using the title King of the Algarve.

Windmill of Odemira

  • Coordinates: 37.595007, -8.634950

1 km away, on the Cerro dos Moinhos, is one of the ex-libris of the town: the Moinho de Vento de Odemira (Odemira Windmill), which operates according to tradition.

It has a beautiful view of the surroundings. The windmill is an innovation that dates back to the 1st century – the vertical shaft was first used in Eastern Persia (now Iran).

  • Coordinates: 37.600130, -8.620964

A 5-minute drive away, along the N263, comes a good accommodation option, Quinta Do Chocalhinho: 5 rural houses in a pleasant property with privileged views, swimming pool and tennis court – with good breakfast.

Parque das Águas

  • Coordinates: 37.585025, -8.661

To the south (5 minutes) comes the Parque das Á guas in Boavista dos Pinheiros: picnic area with pine trees, willows, small lake, bathrooms and enormous serenity. It was the target of a series of interventions that allowed the requalification of planted areas and the renaturalization of the water lines.

Pego da Pias

  • Coordinates: 37.644227, -8.618745

A 20-minute drive north has a magical spot, one of energy and bonanza. Pego das Pias is always a pleasant place, but difficult to access from where you dive off the rocks into the waters of the Ribeira do Torgal.

The name comes from the circular cavities in the rock caused by whirlpools at a time when the water level was higher. It is a magical spot. Don’t forget the sun cream.

Hermitage of Senhora das Neves

  • Coordinates: 37.741771, -8.549985

30 km north of the town of Odemira and already close to Colos, you reach the domains of the Ermida da Senhora das Ne ves from where you are rewarded by a magnificent landscape.

There are no plains to lose sight of, on the contrary, they are hills, ravines. In the past, there was a “monte” (small agricultural and livestock exploitation) in each hill.

Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção (Colos)

  • Coordinates: 37.735399, -8.457697

Twenty minutes from the hermitage, unveil the Church of Nossa Senhora da Ass unção (16th century) in the centre of colos.

Gothic in style, it was erected at the behest of the order of Santiago, replacing an older temple. In 1499, Colos receives a charter and becomes a town by order of King Dom Manuel I – as a young man he passed through here.

At the age of 26, he was sent on horseback to Alvor by order of the then King Dom João II, who was feeling particularly ill. He as a monarch loved by the people, but the nobles feared his temperament.

The splendid wife of King João II, Dona Leonor, had a special relationship with her husband – they were already close as teenagers. However, the couple lost two sons, Dom João II killed his cousin and older brother (for plotting against the kingdom) – such things leave their mark.

The queen sends a messenger to intercept her younger brother, Don Manuel, who reaches him in Colos. The message is simple: don’t go to Alvor, stay with me in Alcácer do Sal. The young man complied with his sister’s decision, and in Alcácer do Sal he received the news that Dom João II had died.

The late king leaves instructions in his will, but we will never know what he wanted to say to the heir to the throne – state secrets are not written in public documents.

Dona Maria Bridge

  • Coordinates: 37.510190, -8.467848

To the south of the village of Odemira, 40 minutes along the N266 and N123, you reach the parish of Santa Clara-a-Velha, from where you come across the 2-arched Dona Maria Bridge that crosses the river Mira.

It was built in the 18th century based on the Roman model, and operated until the 19th century. Its surroundings are of great beauty, close to the Santa Clara dam.

Santa Clara Dam

  • Coordinates: 37.516199, -8.444009

The magnificent Santa Clara Dam, once the largest dam in Portugal, fed by the river mira which carries the water to Vila Nova de Milfontes. The top of the dam stands 135 metres above sea level.

It is one of the most enchanting places in the Alentejo, it looks like a wide lagoon of immense serenity. On one of its shores is the Praia Fluvial de Santa Clara with a floating platform.

You can navigate the calm waters in a traditional boat, enjoying a refreshing drink. Just a few kilometres away is the Santa Clara Country Hotel this 4-star hotel has a small children’s playground, a swimming pool and stunning views over the Santa Clara reservoir – and the rooms are spacious.

  • Coordinates: 37.511575, -8.439184

Beaches on the Odemira Coast

The Odemira coastal strip is part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, and in Odemira there is over 50 km of coastline rich in wild and urban beaches.

Amália Beach

  • Coordinates: 37.481852, -8.794364

Half an hour from Odemira, heading southwest along the N120, discover the charming Praia da Amália, in an almost wild state. The beach became popular because the unforgettable singer Amália had a villa on the cliff top.

The beach is not easily accessible, but it is a nice walk to the sand. Nearby you will find the locality Brejão, with a supermarket, ATMs and some restaurants.

Carvalhal beach

  • Coordinates: 37.500366, -8.790650

3km north of Praia da Amália, is the popular Praia do Carvalhal beach, where the stream flows, attracting the attention of the little ones. Easy to reach, this is a fine sandy beach with rough seas – watched in the summer. With parking facilities.

Zambujeira do Mar Beach

  • Coordinates: 37.522283, -8.786016

Zambujeira do Mar is a small town, 10 km from Carvalhal Beach, which culminates in a viewpoint with extensive views. The Sudoeste summer festival takes place in early August a few kilometres away at Herdade da Casa Branca.

The beach is lovely, watched over in summer, with parking and good bathing support infrastructure. Along the Zambujeira coast you discover vibrant, almost wild beaches.

  • Coordinates: 37.524321, -8.785588

Behind the beach, don’t miss the opportunity to savour the gastronomic delights of Marisqueira Costa Alentejana (rua João Pedro da Costa 15) – seafood and fresh fish well-prepared and accompanied by a good wine list.

Cabo Sardão

  • Coordinates: 37.598619, -8.815999

Continuing north 25 minutes along CM1124, you come across Cape Sardão the greatest west coast prominence in the region, from where stands the solitary Lighthouse (1915) surrounded by powerful waves crashing into the cliffs.

Around it there are several walks to test your photographic skills. Investigate the location of the storks that nest beneath the cliffs – something that only happens on the Costa Vicentina.

Almograve Beach

  • Coordinates: 37.653079, -8.800624

10 km to the north is the famous Almograve beach of fine sands, with interesting rock formations that highlight its uniqueness. Of considerable size, sheltered, with parking.

Town of Milfontes

  • Coordinates: 37.725651, -8.780509

Vila Nova de Milfontes is 10 km from the beach of Almograve. It is a charming land, next to the mouth of the river Mira. In the past it attracted the lust of pirates. Nowadays it is popular with tourists.

It was the scene of the first direct flight between Portugal and Macau (1924). One of the pilots, Brito Pais, was born in the parish of Colos. The other, Sarmento de Beires, fought actively against the military dictatorship and the New State.

Milfontes is crossed by Rota dos Pescadores Trail of the Vicentine Route (an initiative that promotes trails along the Vicentine Coast). To the north of Milfontes, the trail follows the coast towards Porto Covo. South of Milfontes, it goes to Almograve passing Zambujeira do Mar.

Farol Beach

  • Coordinates: 37.718825, -8.790252

The vast Farol Beach is bordered on one side by the river aim where the water is calmer – be careful of the current, especially on the ocean front. It is guarded, with a notoriously insufficient car park in summer.

  • Coordinates: 37.719573, -8.790853

At the foot of the beach, unveils the cosy Choupana restaurant – an excellent option for enjoying dishes, of good portions, while experiencing the attractive sunset.

Franquia Beach

  • Coordinates: 37.722099, -8.787754

A few metres away, along the Marginal Avenue, is the fine sandy Franquia Beach at the foot of the Mira River. It is easily accessible, with lifeguards, parking and a good bathing infrastructure.

In recent years, Stand Up Paddle has become popular on the stunning Mira river – you can rent equipment at SUPAlentejo.

  • Coordinates: 37.723275, -8.786989

Just behind the beach you will find Cerca da Vitória 3, flats with a swimming pool and magnificent views. The modern flats are spacious and equipped with everything you need.

  • Coordinates: 37.723759, -8.783985

Along the waterfront there is another accommodation alternative: Hotel HS Milfontes Beach, 3 stars, with large rooms, swimming pool and friendly service. The breakfast is very good.

St Clement’s Fort

  • Coordinates: 37.722564, -8.783014

At the foot of Franquia Beach, a 16th century fort stands out(St Clement’s Fort) – run by the order of St James who responded, with cannon shells, to the impudence of Maghrebian pirates and corsairs. Now renovated, it is a friendly presence and, on a clear day, offers a beautiful panorama.

Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça
  • Coordinates: 37.723504, -8.781860

In the centre of the village discover another 16th century building, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça – what you see has little of the original temple, it has been subject to repairs and extensions over the centuries. Under the church door, you can see a small insignia – it is from the Order of Santiago, responsible for the defence of the region.

  • Coordinates: 37.724443, -8.783483

A few metres away, on Rua dos Aviadores 34, you discover Tasca do Celso, already a reference. The restaurant pampers its clients with exquisite fresh fish dishes or tasty meat – with an excellent wine list.

Furnas Beach

  • Coordinates: 37.716368, -8.786484

On the other side of the estuary you have Furnas Beach. In summer there is a ferry service that takes you from the village to the other shore. You can choose to swim on the more serene river side, or the emotive ocean side – easily accessible, with parking and a restaurant at the foot of the dunes.

Porto das Barcas

  • Coordinates: 37.737362, -8.798085

3 km from Milfontes, to the north, you can see the colourful quay of Porto das Barcas at the foot of a wild sandy beach with various rock formations; a small reminder of the fishing past of the Vincentian coast before it was discovered by tourism.

  • Coordinates: 39.230018, -9.340813

At the end of the road you discover the charming Porto das Barcas restaurant, from where you can enjoy various gastronomic specialities inspired by the local coast, where the fresh fish comes from.

Malhão Beach

  • Coordinates: 37.784303, -8.801521

20 minutes away (north by the CM1072), between Vila Nova de Milfontes and Porto Covo, discover the stunning Malhão Beach, bordered by high cliffs. In its midst stands out several rock formations.

Its waves are very appreciated, and surfers come from all over the country to enjoy them. Nearby there is a campsite, Orbitur Sitava Milfontes – with supermarket, tennis court and swimming pool.

  • Coordinates: 37.801867, -8.775644

A few kilometres north at Ribeira das Azenha, there is the family restaurant Amândio, which is extremely friendly and has a good variety of grilled fish and meat accompanied by salads.

What to visit near Odemira

To the north you have Porto Covo (40 minutes), Sines and Santiago do Cacém (1 hour) via the N120. To the south is the village of Aljezur – 40 minutes by N120, passing the charming beach of Odeceixe, Praia da Bordeira and Monte Clérigo. Further south, an hour and a half along the N120, is Cape St. Vincent in Sagres, the most southwesterly point of mainland Europe.