Salinas do Grelha is a saltpan sited in the coast of Olhão, in the heart of Ria Formosa, where traditional sea salt and flor de sal are produced. In addition to the store where we can buy their products, to improve the experience of visitors, Salinas do Grelha offers guided visits in which we can learn about salt and its traditional way of production.
However, I would say that the main attraction of the Salinas do Grelha is the "Dead Sea". The Dead Sea is a lake of about 2000m2 where visitors can bathe - which can have several health benefits, such as muscle relaxation and blood pressure activation.
Centuries-old family wisdom
During my guided visit with Wallace Silva, he explained that Salinas do Grelha are the result of an adaptation to the times. The place where salt is produced nowadays was initially used for flour milling and so we still see on this site an old 18th-century Tidal Mill, which was used for flour milling by the same family for generations.
However, it was in the 20's of the last century that this family decided to change their occupation and switch to sea salt production, as flour milling was no longer profitable when mechanisation became a reality. Even though it is not being used, the mill is in good condition and it is still an important symbol of the evolution of times.
After being closed for some years, the descendants of this family decided to take the salt works and reopen them, bringing with them a new concept, combining the production of salt with tourist activity that helps to value traditional salt that has a higher price than industrial salt, being necessary to explain the difference to consumers.
"In industrial salt we can't get the salt clean. When the collection is done with machines, there has to be a process of cleaning and purification of the salt because it comes dirty and in these processes the salt will lose all the minerals. Contrary to this, salt collected by traditional means comes out perfect, it is a job that requires a lot of expertise," said Wallace Silva.
"When refined salt goes to the industry it is very dirty, so it is bleached," he added. “If people knew this they would prefer the traditional salt”, that's why they do the guided tours, to explain to people the benefits of traditional salt.
Additionally, our salt is less salty. Industrial salt becomes saltier because it has more sodium chloride. Besides, our traditional salt has about 80 minerals which are very good for health, such as magnesium, iodine, and potassium. We need these minerals", he said.
Two types of salt are produced in Salinas do Grelha: sea salt and flor de sal. The flor de sal, is a very rare type of traditional sea salt that forms on the surface of the salt pans.
According to their website, “Its crystals form very quickly and therefore have a different crystal structure from coarse sea salt. They are thinner, more fragile and their mineralogical composition is slightly different. The flor de sal appears only on days with particular weather conditions and is harvested from the surface of the water with a handmade tool called “rodo-coador”.
“The crystals must be scooped from the surface the very same day to keep them from falling overnight. This ensures that their purity and unique characteristics, that are so appreciated by the world's best chefs, are retained intact”.
When it comes to cooking, I find sea salt easier to cook with. Sea salt can be cooked with anything. Flor de sal requires a little more adaptation in my opinion, but it seems to have many benefits as well.
This is not the same as the Israel Dead Sea, but it is a good small recreation of it. Here you’ll be able to have a lovely experience on a salty lake that can be nice both for the medical properties and for the fun.
What started out as personal use has now become a tourist attraction. "The Dead Sea was first just for personal use, then they started giving tours to clients from the Czech Republic (the owner's wife is from the Czech Republic) and then in 2018 it opened to the general public.
"It's good for the skin because it's a water rich in salts and minerals. In addition, salt is a good thermal conductor, so the water will always be between 25 and 35 degrees, allowing the pores of the skin to open to receive the salts."
This lake has a darker colour, which Wallace justifies with the high levels of iron in the water. Although it is a fantastic experience, it is only advisable to stay in the water for 5 to 10 minutes.
Apart from the bath, which in itself is an unforgettable experience, we can combine the bath with mud (clay taken from mud) on the skin. This can be a great exfoliator and leaves the skin very soft.
Another experience that I found lovely, are the night baths that take place in the summer months after 7pm until 11pm with lighting and outdoor music. To enjoy such an experience on your summer evenings, prior booking is required.
If you would like to visit the salt pan, a guided visit will take about one hour, then if you want to you can have a bath and get the mud. By the end of you visit, you can go to the store and buy anything if you wish.
For further information, please visit their website at https://en.salinasdogrelha.pt/ or call (+351) 967 753 496.
Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252