In 2003, a group of talented sculptors from different countries around the world came together in Pêra to create the first major sand sculpture event held in Portugal.
Today, Sand City it is the largest park of its kind in the world, and a major attraction in the Algarve, delighting visitors of all ages. It features the Land of Dreams, inspired by the world’s history and art, as well as symbols of Portuguese culture, such as the Torre de Belém in Lisbon, and personalities lke Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Pessoa.
Occupying an area of six hectares, the park is the work of more than 60 sculptors who explore sand sculpting techniques, replicating famous sites and scenes, and whimsical and amazing celebrities. From some 55,000 of sand, they produce exceptional works that stand out for their sheer magnitude.
The theme park’s invitation to travel ‘around the world in sand’, takes visitors on a journey across the continents to delight in and learn about the traditions, nature, history, art, culture, gastronomy, cinema, sports and music, of each. This is a trip like no other, and there’s a fair amount of humour to it – expect to see Pope Francis riding a Vespa, Queen Elizabeth II having tea beside Big Ben, Belgian friars producing beer, Gulliver on his travels, the Eiffel Tower, African Serengeti… and it is all in one place.
The sand sculptures have an amazing amount of detail and reach incredible heights, some of them tower up to an atonishing 12 meters. The newcomer to the park cannot help but assume that concrete or another material has been added to the sand to allow it to hold its shape. But that is not the case; the scuptors mix normal sand with sand that is taken from the bottom of lakes and is more like clay and it is that cmbinatiob that gives their work its strength.
Across the years
Every year, there is a new theme. In 2004, the sculptors created the world of magic, building legends and children’s stories in the sand, and introducing Cinderella, Pinocchio, Snow White, witches, giants, and fairies to delighted children and adults alike.
In 2007, the Wonders of the World was the chosen subject, and it was then that many of the great monuments were carved out, including the two-meter-high Eiffel Tower, the Angkor Temples, Sydney Opera House, and the Empire State Building.
In 2008, a new section was added, dedicated to the best of the world of the Hollywood movie, showing some 60 large-scale scenes from films such as King Kong, Casablanca, Star Trek, Allien, ET, The Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park and the Indiana Jones saga, with famous Marvel characters like Spider-Man and Captain America.
A tribute to the Discoveries was the topic launched in 2009. Thirty-five tons of sand were dedicated to the great technical, scientific and cultural achievements, such Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, and inventions like the clock and the camera.
Many of the world’s finest andscapes, and animals in their habitats, were sculpted in 2010 under the heading A Living World, which featured the Himalayas, the Amazon rainforest, huge gorillas, lions, pandas, elephants, kangaroos, and penguins.
And the following year, almost all the animals of the animal world were captured in a single space, and taking a satirical look at human behavior and different aspects of our society. For example, the animals play music, dance, paint, read, walk, ride a motorcycle, eat and drink.
Then, in the 2012 Idols presentation, much-loved characters joined the exhibits, representing ancient gods and beliefs to contemporary icons of politics, religion and arts. The cast of stars included musicians, actors, and sports legends such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Charlie Chaplin.
Music was the theme of the new exhibition in 2013, dedicated to different styles, musicians and musical expressions. And the public loved the 70 new sand scenes of Ray Charles, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Queen, Bob Marley, Pavarotti, Mozart, and others.
2017 was the year of tribute to the arts that have made Sand City one of the most enriching cultural experiences in the Algarve since it was compiled several themes that had already been presented in previous exhibitions. There were represented from the ancient Greeks to the music, literature, architecture, sculpture, painting, theater and dance.
If you are looking for a very different experience in the Algarve, particularly a family outing, then Sand City is certainly a good choice.
There are workshops and demonstrations on the sculpting technique, video projections, a shop, a snack bar, a fish spa, and different cultural shows. By day, the Algarve sun shows up the meticulous detail of the sand sculptures; after dark indirect lighting creates a fantasy-like effect. All camera ready.
The theme park lasts for several months every year, from March to December. The exhibition opens at 10:00 and closes anywhere between 18:00 and 22:00, depending on the month. The entrance fee is €11.90 for an adult, €9.50 for seniors of 65+, €5.90 for children 6-12 years. A family ticket for two adults and two children is €29.90.
Sand City EN 125, Nº252A, Sítio dos, 8400-395 Lagoa
T: 282 071 260 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org / W: sandcity.pt
Words: Lívia Mokri