Nearly touching the Spanish border is Alcoutim, a small riverside town
in the Eastern Algarve. The town is surrounded by wooded hills and the
Guadiana river, which separates Portugal from Spain.
As you get
closer, you’ll notice the cluster of whitewashed houses scattered along
the valley. Alcoutim’s quiet streets feel miles away from the bustling
resort towns in the south. Among the attractions here are a castle, a
church, and a small river beach. If you travel a few miles out, you’ll
encounter Roman ruins and megalithic sites. Our itinerary below shows you the best things to do in Alcoutim, from the top landmarks to day trip suggestions.
Dating back to the 14th century, Alcoutim Castle was erected to protect
the border between Portugal and Spain. Inside is a small archaeological
museum where you can learn more about the history of the region and the
numerous battles that were fought here in the past. Standing at the top,
you can spot a similar castle on the Spanish side of the river
overlooking the village of Sanlúcar de Guadiana. It was in Alcoutim that
Dom Fernando I of Portugal and Don Henrique II of Castile signed a
peace treaty after years of conflicts between the two regions.
Continue your tour at the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição. The
original building is from the 16th century, but the main doorway is the
only thing that remains from that era. Most of what you see today is
from the 18th century, including the stunning Baroque features. These
include the gilded altar and the stone staircase leading to the atrium,
where you can enjoy incredible views of the surrounding countryside.
Spend the afternoon relaxing at the nearby river beach. Hidden
amidst the trees, the Praia Fluvial do Pego Fundo feels like a quiet
oasis compared to most beaches on the Algarve Coast. The water tends to
be slightly warmer here, which means you can come for a swim pretty much
any time of year. There are a few thatched umbrellas dotted around the
sand, but you can bring your own too. You’ll also find a volleyball
court, a bar and a picnic area.
From the beach, set off to explore the megalithic complex of Lavajo, near the village of Afonso Vicente. This complex includes two menhirs that date back to 3,500 / 2,800 BC, which have been interpreted as territory marks or sacred spaces. The tallest one is 3.14m and is among the biggest menhirs in Portugal. A third one is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Alcoutim, but is severely damaged.
Limite Zero: Adrenaline seekers will enjoy a ride on the Limite Zero.
This zip line connects the neighbouring town of Sanlúcar de Guadiana in
Spain to Alcoutim. The starting point is in Spain, so first, you’ll need
to get across the border. The easiest way to get there is to take the
10-minute ferry from Alcoutim.
Villa Romana do Montinho das Laranjeiras: About 10km south of Alcoutim
is a Roman settlement known as Montinho das Laranjeiras. The earliest
construction here is from the 1st century BC, but there is evidence of
it being occupied throughout the Visigoth and Islamic period.
Sanlúcar de Guadiana (Spain): Sanlúcar de Guadiana feels like a sister
town to Alcoutim, with its whitewashed houses and castle high above a
hill. While you can drive there, it’s much easier to reach it via boat.
Castro Marim: About 30-minute drive from
Alcoutim is this charming village known for its historical landmarks and
natural beauty. Visit the castle and explore the nearby marshland,
where you can learn more about salt production and observe various bird
Vila Real de Santo António: Drive all the way down the
east coast until you reach Vila Real de Santo António. The town has a
distinct architecture with beautiful squares lined with orange trees.
Take your time wandering through the historic centre, visit the Praça
Marquês de Pombal, and relax on the golden sands of nearby beaches like
Mértola: Head north to the Alentejo region to visit
the picturesque town of Mértola. It is full of historical landmarks,
including a medieval castle, a Paleochristian basilica and Islamic
ruins. Explore the town's numerous museums and enjoy the river views
from the castle walls. For a trip back in time, don’t miss the Islamic
festival held every two years around May. You can reach Mértola by car
Alcoutim offers a few family-friendly attractions. You can explore
the castle grounds and take in the views from the river or hop on a boat
to nearby towns like Mértola in the Alentejo or Sanlúcar de Guadiana
across the border. In summer, you can enjoy a swim at the Pego Fundo
beach and try activities such as kayaking or paddleboarding.
The gastronomy in Alcoutim is influenced by its location, between the
Alentejo and the Algarve. Restaurants here serve mainly fish from the
river, like lamprey and eel, but there are also dishes with lamb, wild
boar and black pork. For dessert, don’t miss the torta de alfarroba,
which combines regional ingredients like carob, honey and almond. Below
are some of the best places to eat in Alcoutim:
Taberna do Ramos:
Set on the outskirts of Alcoutim, this traditional restaurant used to be
one of those places where truck drivers would stop to eat. Now, with
better road connections, it has become a favourite among tourists
visiting Alcoutim. The specialities here are game dishes such as fried
rabbit, roasted wild boar and partridge.
O Soeiro: Located near
the riverfront, O Soeiro is a popular spot for a casual meal. The daily
dish includes local specialities like chickpea stew, but there is also a
variety of grilled fish and meat.
Pousada da Juventude de
Alcoutim (3 stars): If you’re on a budget, you can book a night at this
local hostel, complete with a shared kitchen, living room and a pool.
Choose between private rooms, dorms or an apartment.
Alcoutim has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters.
You can visit the town all year round and get a different experience.
Spring and autumn offer the ideal temperatures for a hike along the
river and the hills. Summer, on the other hand, tends to be quite dry,
with temperatures reaching up to 30ºC. This is the ideal season for a
swim or to catch one of the local festivals. The temperature drops
during winter, with an average of 10ºC to 18ºC. There are fewer crowds
then, and you’ll often have the streets to yourself.
Festival do Contrabando: On the last weekend of March, Alcoutim pays
homage to the region's history of smuggling along the Guadiana River.
The festival includes reenactments, cultural activities, music, and