This is going to be a two-part post — Sines — Ancient and Modern. I am breaking all the rules and giving you the modern first! I’m doing this mainly because when I visited Sines with this idea in mind, the old town was totally blocked off for renovations.

Sines has been used as a port since Roman times and as such has a long and varied history similar to most towns of importance in Portugal. Like Beja it enjoyed visits from the Visigoths and the Moors.

Sines is famous for being the birthplace of Vasco de Gama. His father was civil governor in the 1460s.

Sines is now being invaded by a different conqueror thanks to its natural deep water port — heavy industry.

On arriving from the South, you are greeted by the EDP power station which is run on a high percentage of wood pellets.  Portugal has a problem with one of its type of pine trees – pinus pinaster/ Maritime Pine — they have a disease which means they all have to be chopped down. These diseased trees are converted into wood pellets and then used to fuel the power stations.

These three huge docking cranes are evidence of the developing deep water shipping facilities in Sines. This terminal deals with huge container ships which can often be seen queuing out in the bay in a similar manner to aeroplanes in a circling pattern at airports.

As well as acting as a deep water container port, Sines can also accept oil tankers which have led to the development of refineries for Repsol, Galp and other petroleum companies. Along with refineries come miles and miles of piping. These are quite magnificent in their own right and form an intriguing facet of modern architecture.

Last, but not least for today, is the housing that has been built to house all the new workers. Unlike the small historic traditional buildings of yesteryear — these new blocks tower over their neighbours below.

I hope to bring you ancient Sines soon.


  1. Outstanding article, Nicola! Love the colors and the sun you get in Portugal!

    How does one close off access to the ancient part of the city? Are people living there? Is it only a museum town? Are they modernizing the old city or preserving it?

    I especially love how the diseased trees are recycled into power. So smart!

  2. Most of the old town is cobbled streets and is accessed by driving along the bay in the town and driving up a rather steep precarious road. This is all being modernised. Nobody lives on that stretch and the businesses – restaurants are closed down. The older part of the city are also having their cobbled streets repaired/replaced so it is pedestrian access only for the most part at the moment. It is a living museum in parts – the castle get used as a concert venue in the summer – when Sines hosts the famous “Music of the World” Festival. I would say conserve.restore/clean – they have cleared a whole lot of “urban mess and ugliness” , repointed and cleaned walls and replanted gardens as well as mending the roads.

    I have a post in the works about the trees – a friend of ours owns the pellet plant – hopefuly he will let me photograph the interior.

    1. I can’t wait to read about your ancient report.

      A story on the pellet plant would be super neat. I’d love to see the process and learn how many pellets it takes to make enough power to charge up a town!

      1. Ancient needs time to go in one end and photograph – then wind our ay back up to the other end and a walk through – and of course some time to call in and get fresh prawns to eat when we get home!

        1. Have a whole energy post in the pipe line – covering solar, wind,hydro and pellets – might o pellets in a forestry post as an alternative angle and link the two . I need to talk nicely to some people to get access to the pellet plant.

  3. That is rather clever to recycle the trees! Love the vivid imagery. Thanks!

  4. I have to give the Portuguese state its due when it comes to green initiatives – that is one area they are very forward thinking on.

    1. It’s exciting stuff to have such close access to powerful people in power! I hope they will see the value of being celebrated online with us here!

      1. Yes – ancient will be on its own terms.

        The Portuguese are a little slow to engage in full use of the internet. They have basic listings but nothing much more. I am sure he will be fine with it – the trouble is he is a busy man – finding a time window will be the most difficult I suspect !

  5. I keep scrolling back up to look at the docking cranes. Their construction is elaborate but in all their towering glory, they still have a kind of minimalist style. Love the sight of them against the pale sky.

    How long have they been renovating ancient Sines?

    1. That is one of the reasos I wanted to photograph them – a lot of people do not like them , but I find they and the pipes have a beauty all of their own.

      I really want to photograph the industrial areas at night – they look amazing.

      Old town Sine has been closed for about 9 months – they closed it after the last festival – it should be open to all in time for the next one.

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