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The one brown tourist sign, pointing you in the direction of Sitio das Fontes, is easy to spot on the quiet Estrada Intermunicipal between Estômbar and Silves. It leads you onto a lane that winds down over a small bridge and past a ruin, but you’d be wrong to think that there’s not much beyond. As you turn left into The Parque Municipal das Fontes (the Municipal Park of the Springs) the picture changes completely.
The Parque sits on the left bank of the Arade River and covers around 180.000 m2. For those interested in nature and the natural environment, it’s an interesting ecosystem site, with many species of flora and fauna.
Originally created in 1989 as a picnic site, the Parque has since been developed to include a restored watermill, an old Nora (water well) a reconstructed Algarve house, an open-air amphitheatre, a children’s playground and a fitness trail. The marked trail takes you along the river bank and, for the more energetic walkers, provides various exercise instructions and apparatus along its route. For the less enthusiastic, it’s a pleasant stroll with educational sign boards at regular intervals.
The main attraction for many summer visitors is the natural swimming pool, with its constant flow of cool,crisp and remarkably clear spring water, that spills over and cascades down a rocky fall into the estuary; ideal for cooling off on those long hot days.
The Fontes is one of the few places in the Algarve where you won’t find a café or bar, but there are good BBQ facilities for public use and a large picnic space with bench tables and seating. There are also many grassed areas where you can relax.
A cultural centre
The site is an educational centre for children and very popular with locals, particularly the younger element. Assorted groups of people can be seen taking part in activities such as meditation, storytelling and making music. Many events are staged at the Parque too, including the annual cultural exchange weekend, Obrigado Portugal, as well as jazz festivals and theatre productions.
It’s surprising that the Parque isn’t teeming with people every day during the summer season. Maybe the locals have purposely kept it a secret. Well, we won’t tell if you don’t.
How to find the Parque Municipal das Fontes
From the A22: exit to Silves/Lagoa and follow the signs to Estômbar. Once in Estômbar, follow the signs to the elementary school and continue on that road until you pass a bridge. Shortly after which, you will see the brown tourist sign to Sitio das Fontes.
From Silves: Take the main road to Lagoa/Carvoeiro. Leave the main road at the exit for Silves Station (Estaçâo). At the first round about take the exit to Estômbar. After about three kilometres, you’ll see the brown tourist sign pointing right to Sitio das Fontes.