Linked to a nautical past by the navigator Vasco da Gama, (born in the town in 1468), Sines exudes a sense of history that is tied with the sea and the period of exploration known as the Discoveries.
Vasco da Gama left Lisbon on 8th July 1497 with three naus under his command, his mission to reach India by sea. As he rounded the coast of Africa, he caught sight of the dreaded Cape of Good Hope on 18th November. The cyclonic winds pushed back the fragile naus, but after a seven-day struggle against the storm he finally headed north along the coast of Africa, eventually dropping anchor off Calicut on 20th May 1498. Of the 150 men who had set off with Gama from the beaches of Belém, little more than 50 returned to Portugal. But the sea route to India had been discovered and the high seas were Portuguese. Vasco da Gama was to undertake two more voyages to India, and on the third he met his death, on Christmas Day 1524.
In the historical centre of Sines you can take a short tour based on the ‘Gama monuments’. The son of a local nobleman, Estevão da Gama was born in the castle that overlooks the town. Begin your visit here and look across the ocean that Vasco da Gama conquered. Admire the Igreja Matriz (parish church) where he was baptised and the chapel of Nossa Senhora das Salas, patron saint of fishermen, to whom the navigator was especially devoted.
As you admire the panoramic view from the fishing harbour over the splendid beach, remember that the fishermen leave from here every day to go to work. You will have many opportunities to sample good fish and come into contact with these locals, who have the sea in their souls. It is no wonder that every year a ‘World Music’ festival takes place at Sines Castle. There is nothing more appropriate for a town that gave the world one of its greatest discoverers.