To see the truth of things we look to the eyes, this is certainly true of Olhos de Água, a name that translates as the “eyes of the water”. By looking a little deeper into these eyes we discover what makes this fishing village so unique.
With its secluded coves, tucked away seafood restaurants and brightly painted fishing boats, Olhos de Água feels like a remembrance of the Algarve’s oldest traditions. But it is also home to an unusual natural phenomenon that led to an important role in our maritime history.
On the beach at low tide, you can see bubbling water across the beach caused by freshwater springs pumping out from beneath the sand. What makes this even more remarkable is that this continues under the waves, creating pockets of fresh water in the sea.
These are the “eyes of water” that give Olhos de Água its name. There are over a hundred of them and, being particularly nutrient rich, they attract a lot of fish and, in turn, a lot of fishermen. The bubbling waters seem almost magical and have inspired the imagination of visitors to these shores for hundreds of years.
As these springs provide clean drinking water, Genoese, Venetian, and Sicilian sailors that explored the Algarve coastline for tuna and whale in the 13th to 15th centuries would seek out these springs to supply their crew with water for long voyages home, with many believing them to be a boon from Poseidon himself.
Springs like these are quite rare, and today are still sought out for their holistic health benefits. They remain a crucial part of the local ecosystem, and are one of the main reasons Olhos de Água retains a successful fishing industry.
To see something of such natural beauty is one thing, but at Olhos de Água when we look out to sea we also see something that has bought good fortune to the fishermen and their guests. We see a watchful eye as its people pass on their heritage to a new generation.