The Baixo Guadiana is the most eastern region of the Algarve, stretching along the lower course of the river Guadia, and including the three municipalities of Alcoutim, Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António. The river Guadiana is one of the three larger rivers on the Iberian Peninsula having its source in Spain and flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal. The area on the lower course of the river, the border of the Algarve with Spain, is still almost undiscovered as a holiday destination. It is only recently that several excellent golf resorts have been built on both shores of the Guadiana, offering ideal conditions for enjoyable golf holidays during spring and fall. The peaceful undulating landscape west of the river between Castro Marim and Alcoutim is also appealing for extended undisturbed hikes.
The river Guadiana on the border to Spain
The Guadiana is the most southern of the three main rivers (together with Tejo and Duro) flowing from Spain to Portugal. It rises near Ciudad Real in the region of Castile – La Mancha and empties after 742 km near Vila Real d.S.A. and Ayamonte into the Gulf of Cadiz. The Romans called the river Anas, later transformed by the Arabs to Uádi Ana ( arab. Wadi for river).
Situated by the mouth of the River Guadiana, the Sapal de Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Nature Reserve is one of the most important wetland areas in Portugal. It is formed by salty marshes with their special brackish waters, salt-pans and creeks, and is home to a diverse range of plants and animals.
The artificial lakes of Beliche and Odeleite are large storage reservoirs maintaining the water supply to the region even during the long, hot summers.
The major localities on the Guadiana
The most important cities and villages on the Guadiana
The municipality Vila Real de Santo António is situated on the estuary mouth of the river Guadiana. The city is famous for its grid system of streets, a result of its reconstruction, which took only 5 months, following the catastrophic earthquake in 1755. Opposite Vila Real de Santo António the village of Ayamonte is situated on the Spanish shore, the only way across is by ferry boat.
Castro Marim is located a few miles to the north of Vila Real d.S.A. Its impressive castle bears witness to the heavy fighting that used to take place in olden times between Spain and Portugal. The bridge north of Castro Marim, connecting the A22 motorway in the Algarve with the Spanish A49 to Seville, is the only bridge in the Algarve connecting the two countries. Its impressive steel construction is visible from afar.
The most north-eastern municipality of the Algarve is Alcoutim, located on the river Guadiana opposite Sanlúcar de Guadiana. Castles and fortresses on both sides of the river bear witness to the past centuries of war between Spain and Portugal.
Sports & Leisure
Sports and Leisure on the Rio Guadiana
Since the beginning of this century, on both sides of the lower course of the river Guadiana, several golf courses of various levels of proficiency have been constructed. They are incorporated into golf and holiday resorts. There are more new courses in the planning stages.
The peaceful and sparsely populated hilly countryside on the western shore of the river is ideal territory for extensive hikes, offering great views to the Guadiana.
In Vila Real de Santo António boat tours are offered up river, which can be combined with jeep safaris to explore the region.
The river Guadiana is navigable for 68 km beyond Alcoutim until the historical town of Mértola in the neighbouring Alentejo. The natural park Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana surrounding Mértola is both of ecological and archaeological interest.
Crossing the motor way bridge north of Castro Marim within 45 minutes you will reach Huelva in Spain. Seville with its fantastic monuments and architecture is only one and a half hours away. On the Spanish side the motorway is toll free.
Travelling in the Guadiana region
All year round in the surrounding areas of Castro Marim and Spanish Ayamonte, there are excellent value golf packages available. Alcoutim with its youth hostel overlooking the river Guadiana is a perfect starting point for hiking and trekking tours.