From the flatlands to the Aire and Candeeiros mountains
An itinerary that becomes a journey through time and ends near Rio Maior, enabling to watch an ancestral activity, more typical of coastal than inland areas.Start this tour in Cartaxo, exiting toward the northwest, to find out, after 7 km, near Vila Nova de São Pedro, the ruins of an important prehistoric hill fort, Castro de Vila Nova de São Pedro. After crossing the village, with its decayed windmills, there is the hill fort, situated in a strategic spot, dominating a vast geographical area where the vineyards, geometrically designed in the valleys and hills, dominate the agricultural landscape. In this historical itinerary, then you enter a village that, in the eighteenth century was promoted by a project of Queen Mary I's stewardship, Diogo de Pina Manique (1733-1805), to build a village with neoclassical buildings, which would be the county seat. Although the project remained unfinished, the existing village illustrates the magnificence of the work primarily conceived. In the huge Manique do Intendente circular Plaza, you can see the pillory, and, at one of the tops, the emblazoned City Hall. Close to this, a church was built, flanked by two bodies of an unfinished palace. The path proceeds amidst small vineyards, via Arrouquelas (with its church and ancient source) and Assentiz (Moorish fountain, chapel and the manor of the fifth Viscount of Assentiz) until Almoster. Symbolically retreating to the Middle Ages, visit the Convent of Santa Maria de Almoster, founded in 1289. It is a beautiful gothic architectural jewelry in Ribatejo, evidencing its decay and having lost some wings.
Again in rural areas, go through mixed landscapes in the valley of Rio Maior, towards the city of the same name. The route crosses Marmeleira, with its church and bullring, which is a nice urban complex of the nineteenth century, the observatory and the Paul da Marmeleira. In Azambujeira you can see the pillory, the City Hall and the museum. In São João da Ribeira, there is a Moorish tower, medieval steles, as well as an ethnographic museum at Quinta do Seabra. Already in Ribeira de São João, there is another museum, of rural nature. In Rio Maior, a city who benefited from great developments in recent times, in 1992 were found traces of Roman presence in these parts: a rustic Roman villa with mosaics of good quality and a statue of a nymph, dated of the first century.
Also famous for its sponge cake, Rio Maior becomes the capital of salt in summer. There is no sea, but there is salt. In Fonte da Bica, at a 3 km distance, on the road leading from Rio Maior to Alcobertas, in the foothills of the Candeeiros mountains, these salt evaporation pools are a rarity in Europe. Here you find an amazing landscape: the extraction of salt, not at the seaside but inland. You can also see a traditional working place, which includes the houses, the industrial area with its community well, and some 400 parcels, made of stone or cement, divided by 80 families. An extensive mining of salt, which exists in depth, is crossed by an underground stream that feeds a well, which causes the water extracted from it to be salted. Driven by gullies to the parcels, the water is exposed to the sun and wind to evaporate, thus resulting the salt.
Standing at the gates of the Natural Park of Aire and Candeeiros mountains, go to Alcobertas to visit the Church of St. Maria Madalena, where one of the side chapels reused a dolmen. It is a good starting point for the discovery of this natural park, where you can visit another "relic": the caves of Santo António, with its magnificent halls of stalagmites and stalactites.