The British Heritage in the Alentejo Walking Holidays

Small Group Walking

Duration: 8 Days / 7 Nights

Grade: Moderate (4/8)

Our tour to the S. Domingos Mine offers us a slice of history, a technicolour setting and a variety of activities from walking, ghost town photography, and star gazing in a light unpolluted environment. It is specially designed for lovers of good food and wine and amateur geologists.

This a tour designed to experience almost a time travel, and to enjoy stunning sights. Focused on areas where geology meets industrial archaeology, the walks are different every day, and designed to showcase the contrasting landscape and wildlife of the region.

  • Groups accepted with a minimum of 6 pax
  • The amazing Portuguese gastronomy and wines
  • Dedicated driver and tour leader to make sure everything runs smoothly

Groups accepted with a minimum of 6 pax.

 

The Mine

The beautiful São Domingos Mine is a deserted open-pit mine in the Alentejo once explored by Mason and Barry, a British company, which created in the middle of this deserted land a small village.

Because of the minerals in the soil, the rivers and shallow lakes showcase all the colours of the rainbow, from sandy reds and yellows, to grape and aubergine purples, and sage greens. The dark black water shines with a hint of copper under the vast Alentejan sky.

This site is one of the volcanogenic massive sulphide ore deposits in the Iberian Pyrite Belt, which extends from southern Portugal into Spain.

Guadiana Vallley Natural Park Protected Area

Guadiana Vallley Natural Park winding rivers of gold and silver

In 1854 Mason and Barry began to extract copper, sulphur and pyrite and transporting it to England and beyond, until 1966. At times, during the 107 years that the mine at São Domingos was active, it was one of Europe´s biggest in terms of output and numbers employed and, at its peak, 16,000 people were associated with the mine.

In the mining village the company built a church, a school, a theatre, the first electricity station in the province and the first telephone exchange. There is also an English cemetery, where mine managers and their families, many from Cornwall, are buried.

Since closure the mine has attracted tourists. The old mining company headquarters has been converted into a luxury hotel, where we’ll be lodged for this tour.

The Location

Poppies Guadiana Valley

Poppies Guadiana Valley

Mina de São Domingos is 180 kilometres south-east of Lisbon, close to the Spanish frontier, where the vast rolling countryside has a wonderful “Wild West” feel to it.
Situated on the edge of the “Parque Natural do Vale de Guadiana” protected area, and indeed to some extent within it, the countryside keeps on surprising visitors with its wealth of rare species of birds (e.g. kingfishers, hoopoes, kites, eagles and the very elusive great buster).

The lakes teem with fish and are so clean that even turtles take to them. The valley of the Guadiana is an area of natural beauty as yet scarcely frequented at all, comparable with the Moselle in the way it unfolds.

The landscape has a breath-taking grandeur, its horizons seeming always to be infinite and, in spring the abundance of colourful wild flowers dazzle the eyes.

This a tour designed to experience almost a time travel, and to enjoy stunning sights. Focused on areas where geology meets industrial archaeology, the walks are different every day, and designed to showcase the contrasting landscape and wildlife of the region.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival at Faro Airport

Transfer to Mina de S. Domingos

Guadiana walking tour

Igreja Minas São Domingos

Day 2 – Mina de São Domingos

What’s left of the mine is reminiscent of a moonscape that would not be out of place on any sci fi film set. The skeleton of what used to be one of the most important mineral exploration sites in the Iberian Peninsula, it has been abandoned to the curiosity of random lone travelers and storks. Sinister and enigmatic, the place is also fascinating for being the silent keeper of the stories – often dramatic – of the thousands of men who used to chisel out tons of ore.

Guadiana Vallley

Guadiana Vallley

Day 3 – Moreanes

A walk through the rolling countryside visiting several villages en route.

Sheeps looking for a shadow - Guadiana Valley

Sheeps looking for a shadow – Guadiana Valley

Day 4 – Tapada Grande

Seven dams were built to provide water for the processing the ores and the Tapada Pequena and Tapada Grande are still there today. The government ordered trees to be planted to mask the massive engine houses and other mine buildings and the company first planted pines. This species did not survive the poisonous atmosphere, and Mason and Barry substituted the eucalyptus which are still greatly in evidence today.
The management staff and their families had exclusive use of one of the islands in the centre of theTapada Grande. The Câmara has created a lakeside beach on the Tapada Grande and in the summer the shallow, warm water, creamy sand and lakeside bar attract many seeking relief for the inclement sun of Alentejo.

Mines Sao Domingos

Mines Sao Domingos

Day 5 – Mertola

Spectacularly set on a rocky spur, high above the peaceful Rio Guadiana, the cobbled streets of medieval Mértola are a delightful place to roam. A small but imposing castle stands high, overlooking the jumble of dazzlingly white houses and a picturesque church that was once a mosque. Many traces of Islamic occupation are still intact, so much so that Mértola is considered a vila museu (open-air museum).

Mertola, Museum Village

Mertola, Museum Village

Day 6 – Pomarão

In 1862 an 11-mile (18 km) railway, of three foot-six inch gauge, was opened connecting the mine to Pomarão from where ore was exported, mostly to England, by ship. The small village of Pomarão was destroyed in a disastrous flood on 6–8 December 1876, and subsequently rebuilt. Today is a picturesque stop, just near the Spanish border, where time goes by as gently as the landscape.

Mertola river beach

Mertola river beach

Day 7 – Montes Altos

A walk in the rolling hills to the east of the village towards Chanza River, appreciating the serene beauty of the Alentejo landscape, and the diversity of flora and fauna.

Poppies Guadiana Valley

Poppies Guadiana Valley

Day 8 – Departure

At convenient time transfer to the Airport.

What's included

Accommodation

  • 7 nights in a twin standard room for two pax
  • Shared ensuite room with a travelling companion of the same sex
  • Single supplement available with a surcharge
  • Extra nights available on request

Meals

  • 7 buffet breakfasts at the Hotel
  • 7 Dinners with drinks included

Transport

  • Meet & Greet Airport Transfer to the hotel on the first day – group transfer
  • Transfer from the hotel to the Airport on last day – group transfer
  • All transports to walks and activities (as outlined) with dedicated driver and vehicle
  • Additional transfers available on request at an extra cost

Tour Leaders

  • Dedicated English speaking local tour leader
    The tour leader will assist and guide the group throughout the holidays, handle all the arrangements and other needs that might arise, making sure that you don’t have to worry about planning your days and you can enjoy your holiday
    Each evening, your tour leader will discuss the details and program for the following day

Walks and Activities

  • Walks according to program

Exclusions

Any services not listed as included

  • Flights to and from Portugal
  • Meals, tips/gratuities, baggage or personal insurance (except as outlined)
  • Admission fees to castles & attractions or events (except as outlined)
  • Personal expenses
  • Supplements
  • Guide services inside monuments

Insurance

You must be adequately insured to join our Guided walking tours and Self-Guided walking tours holidays. We do not insist that you insure with us but we require that you are adequately insured for the nature of your holiday.

BeCool Travel has partnered with WorldNomads.com to keep you travelling safely. WorldNomads.com Travel Insurance is designed for independent and adventurous travellers, with coverage for overseas medical expenses, cancellation, baggage, and other expenses.

Please consult our Travel Insurance page, where you’ll be able to get more detailed info about insurance requirements and an immediate quote for your trip.