Alcoutim town is one of the Algarve’s inland hidden gems, located along the Guadina River adjacent to the village of Sanlúcar de Guadiana in Spain. The town is not very large,with a population of just under 3000 (2021) so well worth taking the parking spaces that are Clearly marked along the roadside. There is also parking right on the riverfront but these spaces are soon filled in the summer months. The town has much to offer and steeped in history for those who are looking for adventure. The 13th century castle open to the public, offers spectacular views from the crenellation walls looking across the river to the Spanish town of Sanlucar de Guadiana, with its large white fort sitting on top of the hillside. Castle entrance fee is around €2.50 ideal for young families as safety rails have been put in place on the parapet wall.
Many narrow cobbled streets are formed from stones taken from the riverbed adding charm to the feel of the place, Alcoutim has retained many of the old walls dating from the 17th century when the town was a garrison having 4 churches/chapels and an early customs house. In the main square with a modern look; new granite cobbles make up the road that leads to the waterfront, where the road and parking area are laid with rock slate local to the area, as far as the slipway for launching boats. There you will also find public toilets the waterfront with weeping willow trees offer shelter with stone benches to sit and take in the view with the varies boats that come and moor for a week or two. Moorings are based on a first come basis with charges doubling after the first weeks stay. On the left side of the waterfront are beautiful public gardens and benches along with exercise seesaws, wheels and bikes that are a fixed feature of the gardens.
Along the front is also a company who offer river boat trips and kayak, cycle hire and minibus excursions to Spain. Those who are looking for a more daring adventure can zip wire from Spain across to Alcoutim Portugal. Launched in 2013 one of the first zip line rides to travel between two countries, cost is around €15 which includes the boat ferry crossing, an age restriction of minimum 14 years old to use the ride. Heading back into town you come across marble statues depicting people along with colorful bougainvillea’s climbing the church walls. Alcoutim has a small tourist office, banks, and pharmacy, plenty of small shops as well as handmade traditional crafts and ceramics.
There are plenty of bars/cafes, restaurants to sit and enjoy the views of the boats sailing by with the backdrop of the San Carlos castle and the silhouette of the stone work of the Church of La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de las Flores (Church of Our Lady of Flowers) with its 3 bells.
Alcoutim is flanked by two rivers one is the main Rio Guadiane and the other is Riberira de Cadavias this smaller river divided Alcoutim now joined by two bridges over the other side is a day centre used by the elderly residents and large school, further along is an arts centre with different displays further is a private kayak training centre, the road is a dead end and at one time had the Hotel Guadiana River that has since closed down. Alcoutim holds a 5 day music festival in September.
In 2023 saw the return of the Contraband festival, held in the last week of March, this is an old festival held every year between Alcoutim and the Spanish town of Sanlucar de Guardiana. The festival dates back to the time of smuggling in the 18th & 19th Century across the Guadiana River which separates Portugal and Spain. Some years the festival erects a floating bridge which temporally joins the two countries allow access via a floating foot bridge
Those wishing to visit by public transport it is possible by bus from the town of Vila Real St Antonio which is around 35 minutes-
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