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