Alcoutim – Highlights
Top attractions in Alcoutim:
• History and culture
• The river Guadiana
• Unspoiled nature
• Mountain villages and the original way of life
Alcoutim – General information
Alcoutim is a small town in the Algarve, with only around 3000 inhabitants. The town has the lowest population density in Portugal, with only 8 inhabitants per km2. The town is located on the Portuguese side of the Guadiana river, which separates Portugal from Spain. On the north, it borders the Portuguese province of Alentejo. The town has a rich history, full of wars with its Spanish rival city across the guadiana river, Sanlucar de Guadiana. Nowadays, the town get along well, and there is a frequent ferry service back and forth.
The environment near the town has a rich nature. It is quite green and well watered. It is quite different from the south coast of the Algarve, yet is only a 30 minutes drive away. This has attracted tourists with an interest in nature and culture to Alcoutim. Walking through the streets of Alcoutim with its small streets and a quiet atmosphere in a way feels like going back in time. You can experience the original way of life there. Alcoutim is economically completely dependent on agriculture and handicraft.
Handicraft is a tradition which is kept in the whole municipality of Alcoutim. Alcoutim and the surrounding small towns each have their own specialty:
• Pottery, blankets and rugs in Alcoutim.
• Black-smith’s works and puppets in Martim Longo.
• Woolen blankets and linen towels in Santa Justa and Tacões.
The food here is mostly fresh fish from the river, lamprey, fish stew ‘Caldeirada’, smoked ham and sausages.
Alcoutim – What to see
Alcoutim has preserved the traditional Algarvian architecture. The narrow streets are flanked by small white washed houses. The people are simple and very kind. There is a quiet and friendly atmosphere.
Moorish castle of Alcoutim
You can visit the Moorish castle in Alcoutim. The castle was built in the 14th century in order to defend the border. It was in this castle that Fernando I signed a peace treaty with Henry of Castille in the 14th century. In the castle, you will find a small museum. The museum outlines the violent history of Alcoutim and displays some archaeological artifacts that were found. A similar castle can by the way be found in Sanlucar de Guadiana, on the Spanish side of the Guadiana river.
Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição
The façade has an original Renaissance portal. The portal was built in the Manueline style in the beginning of the 16th century. The church was rebuilt later in the 17th century, but the portal remained. The church was dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Conceição. This is Portugal’s Patroness since the time of the Restoration war (17th century). It was believed that success in the war of the independence was achieved on her behalf. Inside the church there is a baroque altarpiece of gilt carved wood from the 18th century. The coat of arms over the altar is the one of king João IV. There are some columns with interesting capitels and in the Baptistery you can see a coloured low relief with the date 1593. The monstrance is from the 17th century and is embellished by an image of Nossa Senhora da Conceição.
Alcoutim – Secret tips
You can rent a boat in Alcoutim, so you can explore the peacefulness of the Guadiana river on your own. If you don’t feel like renting a boat yourself, there are boat cruises to Mértola (upstream) and Odeleite (downstream).
There is a beach near the Guadiana river, north west of Alcoutim. The beach is called Praia Fluvial do Pego Fundo. From here, you can take a swim in the Guadiana river.
Traveling to and around Alcoutim is best by car. The roads around the town are good. There is no train station in the town.
If you would like to have an adventurous, but peaceful day, we suggest that you do the following tour: Tavira – Cachopo – Martim Longo – Vaqueiros – Giões – Pereiro – Santa Marta – Cortes Pereiras – Alcoutim – Guerreiros do Rio – Foz de Odeleite – Castro Marim. This is a full day tour to enjoy the original beauty of the countryside and to discover the unspoiled Algarve, the traditional way of life and the kindness of the simple people. Beautiful landscapes and typical white washed architecture. It is the Algarve that tourists usually don’t see.
If you want to discover the southeastern part of Portugal and are interested in history and monuments, we recommend you the following tour: Castro Marim – Alcoutim – Mértola. It is probably one of the most interesting tours you can make in southern Portugal. You can visit castles, churches, ruins, archaeological excavations, as well as beautiful old villages. Enjoy the beauty of the Guadiana river and the mountain ranges.