Castro Marim - Algarve - Portugal
Welcome to Castro Marim Uncovered! Your 2017 Castro Marim holiday guide!
Welcome to Castro Marim Uncovered! Your guide to 2017 holidays in Castro Marim in eastern Algarve, Portugal. For tourist information about Castro Marim, its accommodation, places to eat, nearby towns, things to do and in fact, all things Castro Marim Uncovered!
Castro Marim has, historically, been an important town because of its position near the banks of the Guadiana and its proximity to the coast. The remains of the first settlements in the area date from about 5000BC and it is thought likely that at this time the town was an island surrounded by shallow waters. For thousands of years it was a port that offered shelter to the ships that sailed the Guadiana collecting metals and other wares from Alcoutim and was also connected to Lisbon by a Roman road that ran parallel to the river.
It has also been important strategically in the defence of the Algarve. During the 14th century the soldiers of the 'Order of Christ,' who replaced the Knights Templar, had their headquarters in Castro Marim. At the time the border dispute with Castile was ongoing and the castle was very well positioned with views across the countryside in all directions and particularly across the Rio Guadiana. It fell into disuse when it was replaced by new fortifications in the 17th century - the fort of São Sebastião, on the opposite hill above the town.
The remains of the castle in Castro Marim, (which dates from 10th to 12th century), stand on one hill overlooking the town and the Fort of São Sebastião on the opposite hill, with the houses of the town in between. From the castle you can get a great view of the river, the salt pans (which are an important part of the economy of this area) and the sea in the distance.
Castro Marim is a town of typically Portuguese houses and quite wide streets and a lot of the area around is quite flat, making it ideal for bike rides or walks. It seems a very 'laid back' town...no hustle and bustle, just people going about their daily tasks and stopping to take an occasional break at one of the local cafés.
A large area of land (some 2000 hectares) between Castro Marim, Monte Gordo and Vila Real de Santo António is the 'Reserva Natural do Sapal' (the salt marsh nature reserve), which is home to some 153 species of birds, including storks, avocets, sandpipers and flocks of flamingos. There are also more than 400 plant species and various reptiles, amphibians and mammals. There is a visitors centre at Cerro da Rocha which can provide guides to itineraries.
It is still possible to see some of the traditional crafts such as lace making and basket weaving in this area of the Algarve. Castro Marim itself still has local craftswomen making fine lace work, whereas Altura and Furnazinhas are known for their goods created from esparto and palm - like coloured mats for the home. The men folk of Odeleite concentrate their time making baskets from the reeds growing on the river banks.
If you want to stay somewhere a little different, with wonderful countryside to explore, and relax into the Algarve way of life, then visit Castro Marim - you won't be disappointed!
Castro Marim is one of three municipalities that make up the 'Baixo Guadiana' region. Vila Real de Santo António, Castro Marim and Alcoutim, are the three Algarvean Sotavento (eastern Algarve) municipalities that have been collectively coined 'Baixo Guadiana'. Linked by the Guadiana River, these places, with a total area measuring 940km², have become recognised for their beautiful environment, where sun, sea, river and mountain coexist.
It makes Castro Marim an ideal base for exploring this area of the Sotavento - Vila Real is just a few kilometres to the south at the mouth of the river with both a river frontage and sea coast and the town of Alcoutim is about 40km to the north.
Vila Real is a town designed to a grid system by the Marquês de Pombal when the town was built in the second half of the 18th century and the central square bears his name. Ferries run from here to Ayamonte in Spain across the river, but these days the road bridge just to the north of Castro Marim is quicker. (If you have hired a car you will need to inform the rental company if you think you might want to visit Spain and it's worth mentioning that petrol is a lot cheaper 'over the border'!)
Going north towards Alcoutim the countryside starts to change from the flat landscape around Castro Marim to rounded green hills and there are some beautiful spots to stop at on the way - the area around the 'Foz de Odeleite' is one example. It is where the Odeleite stream meets the Guadiana river and it really is idyllic (often a vastly overrated word, but justified here!). You are unlikely to pass many cars on your travels and only an occasional spattering of houses - but you'll have to see for yourselves!
The municipality of Castro Marim actually extends to the south coast with the seaside resort of Altura and the beaches of Praia Verde and Cabeço sitting between Manta Rota and Monte Gordo - both of which fall into the municipality of Vila Real de Santo António.
Praia Verde has developed into quite a sizeable residential area above the long stretch of sandy beach, with a small arcade for shops and cafes and a restaurant with it's own swimming pool overlooking the beach.
On the Monte Gordo side of Praia Verde is the modern resort of Altura - an attractive town of low rise apartments and houses of which, at a guess, many are second homes / holiday lets. The beach is part of the long stretch of sand that runs from Manta Rota to Vila Real and the area would be ideal for family holidays.