Holidays in the eastern Algarve at the border of Portugal with Spain: hiking & biking tours, golf courses, boat trips on the river Guadiana, excursion to the salt marshes Sapal de Castro Marim, sightseeing, …
- District: Faro > Municipality: Castro Marim > Parish:
- Population: 2.200
- Distances: Faro Airport 66 km, Lisbon Airport 323 km
- Tourist Info: Posto de Turismo de Castro Marim
Castro Marim is a village (vila) and municipality (concelho) in the district of Faro (Algarve), situated on the Guadiana river, the border with Spain. The castle overlooking the village is the landmark of Castro Marim, and can be seen from far away.
Castro Marim location and access
Getting to Castro Marim
Castro Marim is situated in the eastern Algarve (Sotavento) at the border with Spain north of Vila Real de Santo António. The village is surrounded by salt marshes, the so called Sapal de Castro Marim, separating it from the nearby Rio Guadiana.
Castro Marim can be accessed from the A22 motorway (exit 18) and the national road EN122, leading from Vila Real de Santo António in a northerly direction. The motorway bridge Ponte Internacional do Guadiana, crossing the river Guadiana north of the village, is the only bridge to Spain in the entire Algarve. It connects the A22 with the A49 motorway on the Spanish side that goes to Seville.
The one lane railway Linha do Algarve from Lagos ends a few km away in Vila Real de Santo António. The next bus stops of EVA Transportes are in Altura in the municipality of Castro Marim and in Vila Real d.S.A.
Sports and leisure in Castro Marim
Activities in and around Castro Marim
The name of the village is derived from the Moorish castle that was later extended by the KnightsTemplar and their successors. Every year in August it is the venue for a medieval market with knight sports such as jousting, travelling artists, various spectacles and music typical from those times. The archaeological museum is also worth a visit. From the walls and battlements visitors can enjoy spectacular views to the village below, to the fortress Forte de São Sebastião located on top of a hill opposite the castle and to the natural reserve Sapal de Castro Marim near the river Guadiana.
The protected salt marshes around Castro Marim, where sea salt (sal tradicional) is harvested with traditional techniques, are a refuge for many species of birds. Especially during the spring and in the autumn this fascinating habitat is very interesting to stroll around.
The multimedia centre Casa do Sal, opened in 2014, offers masses of information about sea salt and the biodiversity of salt marshes. Virtual and real tours around the natural reserve are available as well as exhibitions demonstrating the link between the “White Gold” of the region to arts and culture, sports and music. There is also a shop where you can buy regional products and an interactive playground for kids.
The nearest golf courses are those of the Castro Marim Golf & Country Club and of the Quinta do Vale resort. On the Spanish border of the river Guadiana you will find the 27hole Costa Esuri golf course and Isla Canela.
Long and flat sandy beaches stretch for several miles along the bay of Cadiz from the estuary mouth of the river Guadiana in a westerly direction to Monte Gordo, Altura and Manta Rota.
Shopping in Castro Marim
What to buy in and near Castro Marim
In the village you will find all you need for your day to day needs. Many goods however can actually be bought more cheaply in Spain due to lower prices generally combined with a lower level of VAT. A variety of markets, e.g. for furniture, electrical goods and tyres can be found in the commercial centre of Ayamonte on the opposite shore of the river, and also petrol is significantly cheaper.
Surroundings of Castro Marim
What to discover near Castro Marim
Castro Marim has no direct access to the river, because it is separated by salt marshes. Therefore the nearest harbour is in Vila Real de Santo António, located on the promenade. At the quay you can embark for a boat tour upriver or take the ferry to Ayamonte on the Spanish shore – the only direct connection between the two cities.
The hilly and peaceful landscape north of Castro Marim is an ideal area for hiking, especially outside the hot summer season. Several trails offer fantastic views to the valley of the river Guadiana. Two large water reservoirs are located there, Barragem de Odeleite and Barragem de Beliche, which help to a large extent to maintain the water supply of the region.
History of Castro Marim
Early settlements in Castro Marim date back to the Bronze Age
The archaeological museum of the castle displays findings from early settlements during the Bronze Age, followed by Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. The oldest parts of the walls of the castle date back to the 7th Century B.C.
Named „Baesurii“ by the Romans, the village of Castro Marim was the final point of a Roman road leading to the north along the river Guadiana to Beja and Mertola.
The Visigoths and the Moors also used the place as an important base, taking advantage of the strategic position on the estuary of the Guadiana. Whether the foundations of the inner castle (Castelo Velho) are of Moorish origin has not been determined yet.
After the reconquest from the Moors in 1242 by the order of the knights of Santiago under their leader D. Paio Peres Correia, a town charter was awarded to Castro Marim in 1277. At that time the inner castle was rebuilt. When the order of Knights Templar was eliminated and forbidden in France and Spain, their Portuguese successor, the Military Order of Christ (Ordem de Cavalaria de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo) had its headquarter in Castro Marim, until it was moved to Tomar.
When the castle was heavily damaged by the earth quake of 1755, a new fortress had to be constructed to protect the region against Spain, Forte de São Sebastião de Castro Marim, is located on a hill opposite the old castle.
In 1910 the castle was classified as National Monument (Monumento Nacional) and during the following decades restored step by step.
Municipality of Castro Marim
The municipality (concelho) is divided into 4 parishes (freguesias): Altura on the coast of the Atlantic, Azinhal and Odeleite in the interior and the parish of Castro Marim. In 2011 the municipality had almost 7 thousand inhabitants, the same number as ten years ago.