Circular Routes Stage
In the quiet village of Santa Clara-a-Velha, one can sense the purity of lifestyle of the Alentejo mystic. The dam in this region is named after the village, the great unexpected lake of the immense mountain range of the vast Odemira county. The stunning natural presence of water and the unobstructed views over mountainous Alentejo is a perfect tour for the whole family.
The route between Santa Clara and the dam is dominated by the dam and the stream that is named after the Mira River. The Santa Clara Dam was designed to benefit about 12,000 hectares of land, although it also is used for public consumption. Built by Second Republic, the dam is one of the largest in Europe.
The route along the river, downstream from the dam, includes riparian vegetation, acacia, shameplant, poplar, ash, willow, rushes and cattails. Watercress and pennyroyal, plants used in local cuisine, adorn the shallow sections of the river outside the flood season. The deepest backwaters are covered with water lilies. In the most fertile lands by the river, there are vegetable gardens and orchards of orange, fig and olive trees. This route is full of good habitats for the feeding and nesting of birds, particularly the Azure-winged magpie (locally called charneco).
The village of Santa Clara deserves a visit along your journey. It is almost obligatory to buy the unique local products, like the excellent local honey and the medronho brandy. At the entrance of the village, you should also make a stop at the Azinhal fountain, originally from 1892 and restored in 1995. It is a great place for picnics and the has fresh drinking water.
The Church of Santa Clara de Assis, dates back to the first half of the sixteenth century (although the gilt altars are from the 18th century). It is a Manueline religious building, baroque, vernacular, and typical of the Order of Santiago de Espada to which this building belonged.
A few hundred meters after leaving the village you will find the bridge D. Maria, completed around 1882. This bridge is located on an old Roman road that connected Arandis (Garvão) to Ossónoba (Faro) to Pax Julia (Beja), which is why it is also known as Roman bridge. Although not of this period, it would have been built on the site that contained another older structure, which was most likely Roman. The D. Maria bridge was closed to the traffic of vehicles at the end of the fourteenth century.
Where to start
At the entrance of the village, next to the tourism office.
Rules and Recommendations
Refreshments along the way
In the village of Santa Clara-a-Velha there is an ideal grocery store to stock up before the hike. Halfway the route, above the dam, you will find the Santa Clara Country Hotel.
You can combine this route with Discovering Totenique.
Take a refreshing swim in the Fluvial Beach of the Santa Clara Dam or up a bit further ahead, before the trail gets away from the dam. Take a picnic lunch by the spring at the end of the route, before returning to the village.
Before the Herdade do Azinhal, halfway down the dam to Santa Clara (over 1.3 km), the course has only one mark at the beginning and end of the section, in order to protect the interests of the landlord. The path is linear and clear to follow.
There are other routes in the area. Take note of the signage.