Monte Gordo is the top beach resort on the far East Algarve Coast. You're only 3km from the Spanish border here. Fishing still survives, but it's mostly Algarve resort territory all the way at Monte Gordo, perfect for Algarve family beach holidays. Recent glamour resort additions include the new Montegordo Casino complex. For Tourist Information visit Monte Gordo Tourist Information Centre, Avenida Marginal, Monte Gordo, Algarve. Tel: 281 544 495.
Montegordo's beach is endless golden sands, with warm sheltered waters backed on by hotels and resort holiday shops, restaurants and bars. Montegordo beach is actually the biggest on the Algarve coast, and this combined with the particularly warm year round sea waters here pulls in the holiday crowds. It sits near the mouth of the River Guardiana, another factor warming the waters round these parts. There's golf aplenty in nearby Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo Antonio, plus day trips upto historic Alcoutim or down the Algarve coast to Tavira and more stunning beaches at Ilha de Tavira.
Like windsurfing? Head for Monte Gordo's fine sandy beach and warm waters. There's a choice of windsurfing companies lining the long beach at Monte Gordo. Fish restaurants are numerous here too - they line the beach (some right on the beach in timber cabins!). Monte Gordo Tourist information is available on Avenida Marginal, Tel: 281 544 495.
The busy seaside avenue which backs onto Monte Gordo's beach is lined with hotels, and Monte Gordo's nightlife is lively offering a mix of discos, folk dance evenings and the relatively new Monte Gordo casino.
As you move along the endless sands of Monte Gordo beach it takes on a wilder character to the east, evolving into sand dunes.
Glitzy shows, 217 slot machines, interactive feature games and American and French roulettes are just some of the features awaiting at Monte Gordo's casino - blackjack and poker are also available here. Check the weblink right for more details. The entrance is particularly stylish, designed as it is with deco facade. Monte Gordo Casino, 8901-908 Monte Gordo, Algarve, Portugal. Tel: 351 281 530 800.
Push west from Monte Gordo just on the border of Portugal and Spain, and discover pretty historic Vila Real De Santo Antonio. The Marques de Pombal (1699-1782) had a hand here in Santo Antonio's redesign after a huge tsunami triggered by the 1755 earthquake destroyed the town (ports like Lisbon and Santo Antonio were particularly vulnerable)- notice the rigid grid of streets, large main square and ordered design. Pombal didn't start work on Vila Real De Santo Antonio until 1774 - he'd been pretty busy redesiging the capital Lisbon which was also devastated by the earthquake. The grid system design instigated by the Marques de Pombal here took around 5 months.
There's much to attract in Santo Antonio, including a choice of restaurants and shops along the riverside. Take a boat trip over to Spain via the River Guadiana to contrasting more modern Ayamonte (you'll need a passport to do this!). Ayamonte has a choice of art galleries and museums.
In Vila Real De Santo Antonio visit the Museu Manuel Cabanas which displays work (in wood) by Antonio Aleixo, a local artist. (Muse Manuel Cabanas, Rua Dr Teofilo Braga 38, Vila Real De Santon Antonio, Algarve. Tel: 281 580 045. Open May to September, Mon-Fri, 4pm to Midnight, and from Oct-Apr, 10am to 1pm, 3pm to 7pm. Entrance is free!
For River cruises, including sunset Cruises on the River Guadiana (the second largest river in Europe!) checkout the Riosul River Cruises weblink right. They also offer safari jeep trips to ancient Moorish copper mines and more. Checkout too the birdwatching and walking tours offered by Lands Nature Tourism (weblink right) and Turismar, Tel: 281 956 634 for boat trips north to Alcoutim from the ferry pier at Vila Real.
Pushing inland from Monte Gordo you arrive at Castro Marim, famous for its two mammoth castles high up on hills, well one is officially a fortress. The original castle to the north of Castro Marim was built in 1319 and served as headquarters for the crusading Order of the Knights of Christ. It was an important centre this castle at Castro Marim, serving as a base from which the entire Christian reconquest of Portugal was planned. The Castle you see here today though dates from the 17th century. You can walk the entire perimeter of the castle, and inside visit the visitor centre for the Castro Marim Nature reserve, the Museu Arqueologico and the Igreja de Santiago - Henry the Navigator is thought to have prayed here. Castro Marim Castle comes alive during the Feira Medieval which spans three days at the end of August/beginning of September annually.
The Sao Sebastiao fortress on the other hill also dates from the 17th century. This was built as a defence for the entrance of the River Guadiana - Spain being just on the doorstep! You can zip across the border via the dramatic suspension bridge on the IP1 motorway from Portugal to Spain. Historic sites are not all Castro Marim has to offer. The Sapal de Castro Marim nature reserve is one of the oldest nature parks in Portugal and consists of wetland areas, specifically salty marshes, salt pans and creeks. Birds and other wildlife abound, including flamingos, storks, avocets, dunlins, redshanks and plovers. Other prevalent wildlife includes various species of fish, reptiles and mollusc and a diverse range of flora typical of tidal saltmarshes. Visit the headquarters of this nature reserve within Castro Marim castle and find out more.
Sapal de Castrol Marim Nature Reserve Administrative Office, Sapal de Venta Moinhos - Apartado 7, 8950-138 Castro Marim, Algarve, Portugal. Tel: 281 510 680. Check also with the Tourist Information office at Castro Marim, Prac 1 de Maio 2-4, Castro Marim, Algarve. Tel: 281 531 232. It's situated just below the castle, open Monday to Fridays from 9.30am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 5.30pm. The Nature Reserve's Office isn't easy to find, so check with the tourist info office for map and directions.
You can take a river boat cruise all the way from Vila Real de Santo Antonio upto Alcoutim along the River Guadiana. Alcoutim is well worth a daytrip from Monte Gordo, as there's much to see here. Alcoutim's castle offers superb views of the surrounding Serra da Caldeirao hills.
Other historic attractions within the town include Alcoutim's Roman remains, and there are ancient copper mines up here. Evidence of human presence dating back to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic period - that's around 4000BC, have been found in the Alcoutim area of Portugal. Ancient iron and manganese mines have also been discovered.
Alcoutim's castle, serving again as a defence from potential Castile invasion, dates from the 14th century, albeit with some tweeking in the 17th century. The current Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceico church dates from the 18th century, but a 16th century Manueline doorway remains.
Particularly exciting remains around Alcoutim however are those of an old Moorish setllement situated about 1km outside the town (move across the bridge at Cadavais creek) at Castelo Velho. These remains of a Moorish settlement sit on a hill overlooking the river - a good vantage point then. The ruins date back to the 8th and 9th century.