Nestling on the outskirts of Estômbar, only 10km from Carvoeiro, is the lovely public park and nature reserve, Sítio das Fontes. It is situated along the River Arade and has a number of different habitats ranging from scrubland to marsh and salt marsh. Along with this is a variety of flora and fauna that can be found in these habitats, in particular a large variety of birds and waterfowl, although on the day I visited, either it was my lack of observation skills or the birds were keeping away, but I didn’t spot anything unusual. This part of the River Arade is very pretty and is particularly attractive at sunset.
Sítio das Fontes means ‘place of the springs’ and the clear, clean water of the springs has created an area that is perfect for swimming in. On a hot summer’s day local families come to the park to have picnics in the large picnic area, which is set out with picnic tables and barbecues. In the past the area had a tidal water mill and there are still vestiges of this past, including a weir and a water tank with its distinctive metal wheel, which was used in the past to irrigate local fields and orchards. The former mill house is still standing and the whole scene is very photogenic.
The park is often used for cultural events and overlooking the river there is a small amphitheatre which is put to good use in June when the annual Lagoa Jazz Festival takes place. In the nearby Interpretation Centre various exhibitions are held. Unfortunately the day I went (26th December) it was closed and I was unable to see the ‘Algarvios’ exhibition by one of my favourite local photographers, Vitor Pina.
The Sítio das Fontes Municipal Park is accessible and easy to walk around, being on the flat and having a dirt path all the way round (to walk around the whole park takes about 45 minutes). As a result it is very popular with dog walkers and joggers. It is a great place to exercise and the local council have even gone as far as to install exercise stations at intervals throughout the park.
Very little has been written about this park in tourist literature and therefore very few tourists even know of its existence. Maybe the locals prefer it this way! Sítio das Fontes is a perfect place to relax and be at one with nature, but don’t tell everyone!
Sítio das Fontes Municipal Park is 2km north of Estômbar. Public buses and trains stop on the EN125 in Estômbar, but there is no public transport to the park. There is a car park at the entrance to the park.
Opening hours: 15th April-15th October 7.30am-8.30pm; 16th October-14th April 7.30am-6.30pm.