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Curiosities about the Tagus River

The River Tagus is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula.

View of Lisbon from the Tagus River during a nautical experience

The River Tagus played a crucial role in the formation and development of the first peoples in the region we know today as Lisbon. As such, its geostrategic importance has shaped the course of history and influenced human occupation along the riverbanks. After all, it was the existence of the River Tagus that led to the city being born here. For the ships that came from the Mediterranean to the countries further north in Europe, the natural bay of the Tagus estuary provided the first safe haven they found.

The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors are just a few examples of the peoples who recognized the strategic importance of the Tagus River. As a result, each left their mark on the region, contributing to the rich cultural tapestry that characterizes the area around Lisbon.

In this article, we’ll explore various facts about the Tagus River in Portugal, its curiosities and the importance it has played over the centuries.

The origin and course of the Tagus River

It rises in the Albarracim mountains, in the region of Aragon, Spain, at an altitude of 1,593 meters. The Tagus, in Latin Tagus, is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula.

The river crosses Spanish Extremadura before entering Portuguese territory. In other words, along its course, it passes through various Spanish towns and cities, such as Toledo, Aranjuez and Talavera de la Reina. In Portugal, the River Tagus passes through Abrantes, Santarém, Vila Franca de Xira, Lisbon and many other cities.

The course of the River Tagus in Portugal is marked by stunning landscapes, valleys and even islands. The most famous is the island of Almourol Castle. This medieval fortification has become one of the most beautiful symbols. Built in the 12th century, Almourol Castle served as a military fortification and today is a historic landmark, attracting tourists from all over.

Aerial view of Almourol Castle
Aerial view of Almourol Castle

In addition, the river is of significant ecological importance, sheltering a variety of species such as the Flamingo, the Wild Goose, the Marrequinha, the Black-breasted Sandpiper, the Partridge, the Bustard and the Milherango (Limosa limosa).

The Tagus estuary and the departure of the Naus and Caravelas

The Tagus estuary – the largest estuary in Europe – is a protected area in a nature reserve, covering around 15,000 hectares. The Tagus estuary also played a crucial role in the great Portuguese Discoveries. It was from Lisbon that the ships and caravels that led the great Portuguese maritime adventures set sail.

In the 15th century, Portugal was at the height of its Age of Discovery. Under the command of great navigators such as Vasco da Gama, Fernão de Magalhães and Pedro Alvares Cabral, Portuguese ships set sail from the Tagus estuary towards new sea routes, treasures and knowledge. These expeditions were undeniably responsible for the beginning of globalization.

The Tagus River and its curiosities

Approximately 1,100 kilometers long, the Tagus River has many stories to tell. It holds a number of curiosities that add a special touch to its history. Here are some of them:

The gold of the Tagus

According to some legends and historical accounts, the Tagus River was a source of gold. It is said that King Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, paid a tenza to the pope using the gold taken from the Tagus. In addition, Kings Dinis and João III had their scepters made with gold from the river’s sands. Although this wealth is no longer found today, the story of the Tagus gold adds a magical element to its history.

The wave of the 1755 earthquake

On November 1, 1755, a devastating earthquake hit the lower part of Lisbon and other areas along the Tagus River. The wave generated by the earthquake – reported to be around 15 meters high – rose over the river and flooded the city, causing unprecedented destruction. The floods were followed by fires, disease and famine. This tragic event left a deep mark on the history and memory of the Portuguese people.

The bridges that cross the Tagus

Over the years, two bridges have been built across the River Tagus in Lisbon. The 25 de Abril Bridge, inaugurated in 1966, and the Vasco da Gama Bridge, inaugurated in 1998. The 25 de Abril Bridge, one of the largest suspension bridges in Europe, connects Lisbon to Almada, while the Vasco da Gama Bridge links Lisbon to Alcochete, Moita and Montijo. These bridges are important structures and facilitate mobility in the region.

The legend of your name

According to Silius Italicus, the river was originally called Tago – the name of an Iberian king who was cruelly murdered by Asdrubal (a Carthaginian general). This king of great beauty and courage was nailed to a cross in plain sight.

A boat tour on the Tagus River

One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty and history of the Tagus River is to take a boat trip. Navigate the waters of the river, observe the breathtaking landscapes and learn about its curiosities. It’s an unforgettable experience!

People during a boat tour on the Tagus River in Lisbon
Enjoying a peaceful boat tour along the River Tagus

The River Tagus is much more than a watercourse. It is a symbol of Portugal’s history, a protagonist of the great Discoveries and, above all, a natural treasure. Its waters witnessed the departure of the ships and caravels that changed the course of history. Its curiosities and legends certainly add a special touch to its history.

A boat tour on the Tagus River is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in this history, contemplate the natural beauty and learn a little more about Portugal’s past.

One thing is certain: this experience will be unforgettable and full of good memories.

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Chicas ensayando una coreografía en el agua

How about embarking on this adventure and discovering the secrets that the Tagus River holds?

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