Things to do in Castro Marim - 1-day itinerary

Castro Marim is a charming town in southern Algarve known for its water dams, sandy beaches and natural salt pans.

The first settlements here date back to the Neolithic period, when the town was much closer to the sea. For centuries, Castro Marim prospered as a port, welcoming trading ships from the neighbouring towns of Alcoutim and Mértola. Like most towns in the Algarve, tourism has since become the main industry.

Below is a list of the best things to do in Castro Marim, including historical sites, beaches and day trip suggestions.

Day 1

Morning: Odeleite

On your way to Castro Marim, it’s worth stopping by Odeleite. This tiny village is home to the infamous “River of the Blue Dragon”. The best place to capture it is from the Odeleite viewpoint, which you can reach from the village. Here you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Odeleite dam, the river and the mountains rising in the background. Seen from the air, the river has a dragon shape, which explains its nickname.

Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real de Santo António

Castro Marim is surrounded by a large nature reserve known as Reserva Natural do Sapal. The reserve stretches for over 2,000 hectares, covering an area of salt marshes, salt pans and dry areas of schist soils. It is the habitat of several birds, such as flamingos, storks and avocets and has a rich flora with more than 400 plant species. To learn more about the reserve, you can go to the visitors’ centre which provides suggestions for itineraries in the area.

Castelo de Castro Marim

The main landmark in Castro Marim is its hilltop castle. Erected around the 10th and 13th centuries, the castle was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar. From here, you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the town’s whitewashed houses, the surrounding natural salt pans and the Guadiana river dividing the border between Portugal and Spain. Inside is an Archaeological Museum featuring a series of artefacts from the Bronze Age to the Roman period and a tiny 14th-century church.

Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires

Just a few steps away is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires. This 18th-century church is set just opposite the castle and stands out thanks to its beautiful white dome.

Afternoon: Forte de São Sebastião

Perched on another hill is the Fort of São Sebastião, which offers a nice view of both the castle and the church. In the 17th century, the castle fell into disuse, and this new fortification was erected to defend the town from attacks.

Água Mãe Spa (Salina da Barquinha)

Among Castro Marim's salt pans is the Água Mãe spa. The brown water may not look inviting at first, but it’s filled with mineral-rich mud that will smooth your skin. Rest your head on a pillow and let yourself float whilst listening to the sound of the birds in the background. After washing off the mud, you can join a guided tour of the salt pans to learn more about the process of harvesting salt by hand and sample some at the end of the tour.

Praia Verde

From the salt pans, drive towards Praia Verde, one of the best beaches in Castro Marim. There are no cliffs around, only pine trees and a gorgeous backdrop of dunes, making it the perfect place to unwind. Other beaches worth visiting include Praia da Alagoa and Praia do Cabeço.

Day 1 - Castro Marim Tour Map

Day trips from Castro Marim

  • Vila Real de Santo António: A 10-minute drive south of Castro Marim is Vila Real de Santo António. The town feels like a tiny sample of Lisbon, thanks to its picturesque squares like Praça de Marquês de Pombal. You can enjoy a stroll along the riverside promenade or unwind at one of the local beaches.

  • Tavira: Head a few miles west to visit Tavira, a historic town full of incredible landmarks like a Roman bridge and a medieval castle. There is also a string of beaches nearby which you can access via a ferry.

  • Cacela Velha: Cacela Velha is a small village with whitewashed houses overlooking the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Take your time wandering through the narrow streets, visit the 16th-century Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção and relax on the town’s sandy beach.

  • Ayamonte (Spain): Cross the border into Spain and visit the town of Ayamonte, facing the Guadiana River. Explore the historic centre, home to a marina and several Baroque churches, then hop on a boat to Isla Canela for a swim in its paradisiacal beach.

Things to do with kids in Castro Marim

Castro Marim offers a few family-friendly attractions. For a trip back in time, visit the medieval castle and admire the artefacts on display at the archaeological museum. You can also take advantage of the natural surroundings, enjoying a hike along the Reserva Natural do Sapal, where you can spot a variety of bird species or head down to the coast for a swim in the sea.

Where to eat in Castro Marim

  • O Infante: Located near the coast of Castro Marim, this traditional restaurant serves delicious fresh seafood. Try the Mariscada à Infante, a seafood platter featuring shrimp, oysters, lobster, crab and many more delicious ingredients.

  • A Tasca Medieval: This family-run restaurant is only a few steps from the town’s castle. The menu includes a mix of fish and meat dishes, with a focus on Alentejo ingredients like black pork. Make sure to leave room for the homemade desserts.

  • Velho Cavalinho: This medieval-themed restaurant stands out with its rustic decor, including stone walls and dim lighting. Here you can sample a variety of tapas, such as cured tuna, prosciutto and pies paired with traditional mead. They also host several activities, including live music, banquets and a medieval fair.

Where to stay in Castro Marim

  • Castro Marim Golfe & Country Club (4 stars): Set within a golf resort, this hotel offers two-to-three-bedroom villas, some featuring a private pool. Facilities include three nine-hole golf courses, an outdoor pool, a gym and a restaurant.

  •   Octant Praia Verde (4 stars): This luxurious hotel sits in the middle of a pine forest overlooking Praia Verde. Most rooms offer ocean views. Amenities include direct access to the beach, a swimming pool and a restaurant that uses traditional cooking methods like a wood-fired oven.

  • Companhia das Culturas (3 stars): This rural property includes an organic farm offering regional ingredients like carob, oranges and figs. Guests can choose between rooms and apartments and enjoy a delicious breakfast with ingredients from the garden. There is also a library, swimming pool, and Turkish bath.

Fancy a vacation rental instead of a hotel? Here is our selection of the best vacation rentals in Castro Marim.

Best time to visit Castro Marim

The best time to visit Castro Marim is around spring or summer. The temperatures range between 25ºC and 30ºC, making it ideal for a swim on the surrounding beaches. It’s also the season of many local festivals, meaning the town will be a bit livelier. If you prefer a quieter atmosphere, you can also visit around autumn, when the temperature is slightly cooler. It’s a great time for birdwatching or hiking around the nature reserve.

Castro Marim Festivals

  • Festival do Caracol: In May, Castro Marim welcomes this snail festival at the Revelim de Santo António. For three days, thousands of visitors come together to sample snails from Portugal, Spain, France and Morocco.

  • Feira de Artesanato: Around July, the town hosts this handicrafts fair showcasing traditional crafts like basketry and lace-making. There are also vendors selling regional products such as honey and cured sausages.

  • Dias Medievais: Castro Marim comes alive in August with its medieval festival. Known as the “Medieval Days”, the festival is held on the last weekend of August and features street performances, traditional fencing and food stalls filled with local delicacies.

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