Estuário do Tejo Nature Reserve (4.192 ha), on the largest Portuguese wetland, Tagus River estuary, includes estuary waters, mud flats, salt lakes, agricultural fields, water meadows and moorlands - and maritime and stone pine areas. On the shores, at the whim of the ever turning tide, stretches the marshland, a great primary production area, rich in polychaetes, molluscs and crustaceans, maternity to several marine fish species, such as the case of the flounder and the sea bass and a transition area between the marine and river environment for migrating fish like the Lamprey, Twait shad and the Eel.
It is, however, the aquatic bird fauna that grants the Tagus Estuary an European relevance since the numbers of wintering species can reach 120.000 individuals. 10.000 anatidae and 50.000 waders winter in this Protected Area, with highlight for the pied avocet which can represent up to 25% of the wintering population in Europe. Significant presence of many other species, namely the Flamingo, the Greylag Goose, and the Sanderling.
Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas, I.P. (ICNF, I.P.)
Estuaries and coastal lagoons
Lisbon and Tagus Valley
Vila Franca de Xira
Identification and Access
Access coming from:
- Vila Franca de Xira, heading towards Porto Alto by the N10, 600 meters after you cross de Vila Franca de Xira bridge, turn right on the "Cabo" indication, and go through the meadowlands for 8900 meters while following the "EVOA" indications - Exiting Lisbon towards Alcochete via Vasco da Gama bridge, follow the Alcochete/Porto Alto exit indications - IC3. In the IC3 exit to Alcochete N119, and follow the Alcochete/Nature Reserve/ Sítio das Hortas signs. Continue through the N119, 600 meter after you pass Freeport, turn right at the sign for "Sítio das Hortas", going through another 1100m stretch of road until the environmental entertainment centre and Sítio da Horta picnic park.
In Alcochete you can go to the Headquarters/Interpretation Centre of the RNET, in the Combatentes da Grande Guerra Street.
At Olhos da Praia - Pancas road (Benavente), from an altitude of only 11 m, you have the mosaic of diversity: the permanent water plain; the low tide area between tides; the marshland; the salt plain; the agricultural fields; the areas of hedges; and the plantations. If you want to see the estuary birds watch the tides.
To observe the fauna (in general) leave early in the morning or a bit before dusk. Bring binoculars and a camera, if you have them. During the Spring and Summer months, the nesting period, you can observe - the Black-winged stilt, plovers, ducks, little terns, collared pratincoles, etc... During this season it is crucial to maintain a high level of tranquillity when you come visit. Always pay attention to the weather forecast and avoid performing activities in days of rain, thunderstorm or fog. Avoid going out by yourself, but, if you do, inform an acquaintance or a local entity of your departure and return. Use simple and comfortable clothes. Make outerwear, food, water, sunscreen and/or a raincoat available. You can also carry a cellphone. Take precautions and use insect repellent. Take special precautions when walking in moist areas, to avoid falling, and do not act in a way that might endanger yourself or others.
In case of an accident contact the emergency service 112.
Supports in place
The Nature Reserve has directional and informative signs.
Statutes of Conservation
PTCON0009 Estuário do Tejo (Tagus Estuary)
PTZPE0010 Estuário do Tejo (Tagus Estuary)
RAMSAR Site - Estuário do Tejo - List of Wetlands of International Importance
Visit the town of Alcochete, situated in the estuary of the Tagus on the banks of designated 'Mar da Palha' sea of straw, keeping its old core well preserved, with the main points of interest the riverfront, the Church 'Matriz' and the Church of 'Misericórdia'. (Learn more).
Samora Correia 'Matriz' church:dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, has important altars of gilt, tile panels and murals. (Learn more).
Very close to Alcochete you can take a guided tour of the Samouco salt flats, which is an important place of rest and breeding for the birds of the Tagus estuary. Numerous species of waterfowl.
Among the riverside routes of Vila Franca de Xira, you may choose the Urban Park of Póvoa de Santa Iria, which includes recreational areas, a museum nucleus and other infrastructures, having has backdrop the Tagus estuary. ((To know more)To know more)
What you can do
1. Visit EVOA and leran more about the estuary, the birds and flowers
2. Make a night out to hear the pious of nocturnal birds of prey and the song of nightingales.
3. Along the wetlands listen to the frogs symphony.
4. In Easter, attend the Feast “Círios e Alcochete” with pilgrimage to Nossa Senhora da Atalaia (Our Lady of Atalaia).
5. In May or June, takes place a Pilgrimage to Nossa Senhora de Alcamé (Our Lady of Alcamé) with the charismatic blessing of cattle and fields.
1. Go to Fundação das Salinas do Samouco and see the work in the salterns.
2. Enjoy the Colete Encarnado (Red Waistcoat) Feasts, in Vila Franca de Xira, Sardinha Assada e da Amizade (Grilled sardines and Friendship) in Benavente and the Barrete Verde (Green Berets) and Salinas in Alcochete.
3. Ask permission to the land owners and watch the cork extraction from cork oaks and make spectacular photographs, especially when the sun is low.
1. Viisit EVOA and take time to watch the cattle sorting process involving health care, priming and other traditional procedures of livestock management.
2. Ask permit to land owners (and only if you have it), see how the fields gain a particular dynamic with the rice harvest involving large numbers of workers.
3. Watch the interesting process of mechanized harvesting of the grapes.
1. In Winter time, the Reserve has the highest waders’ concentration in Portugal. Taking advantage of some of the structures prepared to receive the visitor, do birdwatching.
2. In winter, with the beginning of the rice campaign, the agricultural landscape is transformed, with several shades of green in a patchwork of plowed fields and planting which seem to form a "sea of green" and constitutes a good opportunity to photograph.
3. The estuary is filled with birds, so go to the EVOA or the Sítio das Hortas (Alcochete) and, taking into account the tides, see the huge amount of birds that spend the winter there.
Best Season: All year long