Walking tour based in S. Domingo’s Mines
Our tour to the S. Domingos Mine offers us a slice of history, a technicolour setting in a luxury historical hotel 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.
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.
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.
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.
Our tour will travel through stunning areas of the Alentejo region, stopping to take in some of the sites, as well as experiencing the wine and food that makes this place even more special.