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Salt without Sea

Rio Major Salt Pans can be found within the municipality of Rio Maior in an area called Salinas. The trip, about 40 minutes from A dos Negros by car, is well worth it as the place, though small, is fascinating.  There are a couple of cafe’/bars in the area as well as the salt shops. 

The Salt Pans can be reached by traveling down to Rio Maior on the A-15 and then join the IC2 from Rio Maior traveling towards Chaos and Salinas is just outside Rio Major.

The Rio Maior Salt Pans are the only interior salt pans in Portugal.

The oldest document relating to the Rio Maior salt pans dates back to 1177.  Unlike other salt works such as Northwich in England, where the salt is dissolved by adding water & then pumping out the brine, this salt is dissolved in a naturally occurring underground rock salt mine by a natural undercurrent of rain water coming through the hills. This water, seven times saltier than sea water, is fed to a well in the centre of the salt pans. From here is distributed to the salt pans where it evaporates from the warmth of the sun.

Each litre of water holds about 220g of salt. 

The salt is then harvested manually and put to dry by the cooperative workers. The area employs about 10- 20 people throughout the year.

The cooperative wooden houses where the salt was ground or bagged for sale are still in place and salt in several forms can be purchased. 

The wooden “Salt houses”, made from olive wood, have a lovely Silvery bleached colouring, caused no doubt by the high salt levels around. The doors use a fascinating design of wooden lock, to avoid corrosion from the salt, no two of which are the same.  These locks can be purchased in the shops at Salina.

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