It is the theme of songs, serves as a backdrop for television and cinema, is the central piece of paintings and photographs, and an inspiration for many artists. It is also the unmistakable protagonist of the VASCO DA GAMA TOWER 360°. The river that composes the landscape of Lisbon has more to tell than you can imagine.
In Latin, it is called Tagus, and in the neighboring country where it originates, in the Albarracin mountain range, at 1593 meters above sea level, it is the largest river on the Iberian Peninsula, covering about one thousand kilometers until it flows into the Atlantic Ocean, near Lisbon – in São Julião da Barra, Oeiras, to be more precise. Along the way, still in Spain, it contributes to the ornamental beauty of the gardens of Aranjuez and its royal palace, then bathes the monumental city of Toledo. Further ahead, it serves as a border between the two countries until, at the mouth of the Sever River, it enters Portugal definitively, separating Beira Baixa from Alto Alentejo and then crossing Ribatejo and part of Estremadura. The Tejo is intimately linked to towns such as Vila Velha de Rodão, Amieira, Abrantes, Constância, Tancos, Barquinha, Chamusca, Santarém, Muge, Valada, Vila Franca de Xira, Alhandra, Alcochete, Montijo, Moita, Barreiro, Seixal, and Almada and even, at its mouth, Paço de Arcos and Oeiras.
Kilometers until the river flows into the Atlantic
Thousand hectares of the Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve
Thousand birds that the estuary receives
Today, there are several routes that can be taken to discover the Tejo in its different facets. If, for example, a story is told in the Santarém area, on the other side of the Vasco da Gama Bridge, the plot is different in Alcochete. This is also where the Estuário do Tejo Nature Reserve is located, with an area of 14 thousand hectares, extending to Vila Franca de Xira, classified as a protected area since 1976. At that time, it was highlighted that “the estuary of the Tejo plays a fundamental role from an ecological and economic point of view, as all the biological material dragged along the course of the river is concentrated there, making the estuary an extremely rich area in living beings and of fundamental importance in the settlement of the coastal area.” A role that continues today, with the estuary receiving more than 120 thousand birds, among which the mullet and flamingos stand out. In the heart of the Estuary is the Bird Visitation and Observation Center, which allows visitors to get to know and enjoy this unique heritage, with observatories in the lagoons, several camouflaged observation points, and an Interpretation Center.
If swimming in Lisbon is not recommended, there are still a few river beaches not too far away. And almost hidden treasures like the Castle of Almourol, an emblematic monument of the Reconquista, located on an islet in the middle of the Tejo River, in Vila Nova da Barquinha, in the district of Santarém. Access is only possible by boat, which is already a program in itself.
Just like in Lisbon, there are different river tours. Depending on the time of year, you may even be able to spot dolphins, as these animals have become habitués here – did you know that Lisbon is the only European capital where dolphins can be observed in the wild? And sightings are becoming increasingly common.