Castro Marim – the #1 guide (2020)
Castro Marim is a beautiful village in the eastern Algarve, near the Guadiana river, which separates Portugal from Spain. The village is situated between two hilltops. On top of these hilltops you can find the castle of Castro Marim and the fort of São Sebastião. These buildings show the historical significance of the town. This historic town has relatively few tourists, but is very much worth visiting for a day trip. There is a lot to see in Castro Marim and the surrounding area. Discover what to do and see in Castro Marim.
Watch the highlights of Castro Marim in HD
If you are curious to see the highlights of Castro Marim and its surroundings, watch the short video below.
What to see
Castle of Castro Marim
The castle of Castro Marim is one of the most important castles in the Algarve (together with the castle of Silves). It was originally built in the 13th and 14th century. The castle is situated on a hilltop. Historically this location was very important, because it was possible to see beyond the Spanish border.
It is a bit of a climb to reach the castle, but well worth it. However, the cobbled and uneven pathways inside the castle make it hard for anyone with mobility problems to visit. The castle itself is shaped in an irregular quadrangle. It has four turrets at the corners of the walls. The remains of the castle are enough to get an idea of what it would have been like back in the days. In the castle of Castro Marim you can also find a small museum.
There is a small entrance fee (€ 1,10) to enter the castle. However, the castle sometimes lacks a bit of tourist information. Still, the view alone makes the castle worth visiting. From the castle you have an amazing view over the surrounding area, the town, the fort of São Sebastião, the salt marshes, the Guadiana river and the bridge connecting Portugal and Spain.
Fort of São Sebastião
The Fort of São Sebastião is located on the southern hill across the castle. Construction of the fort was ordered by king D. João IV in 1641, which was at the start of the Portuguese Restoration War with Spain. The fort basically made Castro Marim the most important military base of the Algarve. Nowadays the fort is still very well preserved and is classified as a national monument. From the fort you have a great view over the surrounding area. However, the fort itself is normally closed to the public. It is only open during certain cultural events. For example, visitors are permitted in the fort during the Medieval Festival. This festival is held every year in August.
If you would like to see more of the fort, check out the video below.
Main church (Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires)
In the centre of Castro Marim, not too far from the castle, you will see a striking church building. This is the main church of Castro Marim, also known as Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires. The church was originally built in the 16th century, on top of a chapel. However, the earthquake of 1755 destroyed the building. Afterwards, it was restored in the 18th and 19th century. The restoration finished in 1834. The most unique feature of the church is its bell tower. Inside the church you can find beautiful statues: the statue of archangel Gabriel (16 century), the statue of Santa Luzia (18th century) and a statue of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação e dos Mártires (16th century). The church is well worth visiting.
Ravelin of Santo António
To the east of Castro Marim you can find a military fortification from the 17th century, called Ravelin of Santo António (in Portuguese: Revelim de Santo António). It was built by king D. João IV during the Portuguese Restoration War with Spain (1640-1668). From this place you have a beautiful view over the Guadiana river and the surrounding area.
Here you can find a small chapel, called the Capela de Santo António (chapel of St. Anthony). The chapel contains several paintings from the life of St. Anthony.
You can also find a traditional windmill (moinho do vento) here, as well as an interpretation centre, where you can find information about the municipality of Castro Marim. The complex has a beautiful garden with a small fountain as well.
Sapal Nature Reserve & salt marshes
Near the mouth of the Guadiana River, near Castro Marim, you can find the Sapal Nature Reserve. This was actually the first nature reserve in Portugal. The Sapal Nature Reserve is a popular place for hiking and biking. You can also see many different plants and animals in the nature reserve. It is also perfect for birdwatching. You can see many aquatic birds and you can even see flamingos in the Sapal Nature Reserve, who come here to feed.
The nature reserve has many salt marshes, also called salinas. The area is known for producing great amounts of salt. Visiting the salt fields gives you the opportunity to see how salt is made.
The salt pans surrounding Castro Marim also give you the opportunity to float in a salt pool. There is an outdoor wellness centre called Spa Salino, run by the company Água-Mãe. Here you can enjoy a natural and outdoor spa. Swim and relax in the salt pools or have a mud bath. The minerals in the water combined with the surrounding nature are said to be good for your skin. In between floating in salt pools you can relax on one of the sunbeds they have. When you visit Spa Salino, make sure to bring swimwear and a towel. You don’t need to book in advance. Great place for visiting a few hours.
From Castro Marim you can drive to the Spanish village of Ayamonte in only 15 minutes. Just cross the bridge that connects Portugal with Spain. Make sure to visit Plaza de la Laguna, which is a big square in the centre with lots restaurants surrounding it. This is a great place to enjoy the local atmosphere.
There are some great beaches not too far from Castro Marim. All of these beaches have white sand and transparent water. The water temperature in this part of the Algarve is usually higher than in the western part of the Algarve. You can visit any of the following beaches nearby: Praia de Monte Gordo, Praia Verde, Praia de Alagoa or Praia do Cabeço.
Every year you can enjoy a medieval festival in Castro Marim. The medieval festival is held every year in the last week of August and lasts for a couple of days. During the festival, Castro Marim transforms into a medieval village.
There is music, food, entertainment and medieval games. You can also enjoy various medieval shows, battle re-enactments and a handicraft fair. Basically it lets you experience Castro Marim as it was during the medieval era. It is a great event to enjoy with the whole family. A ticket to enter the festival costs € 3.
For some people, playing golf is a big reason to visit Castro Marim. The Castro Marim Golf & Country Club is a great golf resort with several 9-hole golf courses (the Guadiana, the Atlantic and the Grouse). All of these golf courses are quite beautiful and full of wildlife, including birds and rabbits. The Grouse is the newest of the three golf courses: it opened in 2008. It has relatively fewer trees than the other two courses.
Another golf resort near Castro Marim is Quinta do Vale, which features an 18-hole championship course designed by Seve Ballesteros. This is quite a difficult course, with lots of water hazards, but well worth playing.
Since Castro Marim is a small town, there are only a handful of restaurants. Our favourite one is A Tasca Medieval. This small restaurant has great food and good service. Also the Portuguese wine is very good. Great value for money.
If you want more options, you can always go to Vila Real de Santo António, which is not too far away.
If you wish to stay in a hotel near Castro Marim, we recommend any of the following options.
- Castro Marim Golfe and Country Club. This four star resort has amazing villas that have all the ingredients to make your stay truly wonderful. All villas come with a private kitchen and all bathrooms have a spa bath. Some of these villas even have a private swimming pool. Part of the resort are three 9-hole golf courses, which makes this resort ideal if you also would like to play golf.
- Monte do Malhão. This hotel in the countryside surrounding Castro Marim provides suites with a garden view. All rooms are modern and well equipped. Great service as well. Highly rated.
- Guest House Sabores da Beira. This bed & breakfast offers basic accommodation for not too much money. Beds are comfortable and the rooms are clean. The location in the countryside makes it ideal for hiking and biking nearby.
After the busy summer season of last year, we recommend to book your hotel now, as it will probably sell out. Below you can find a map with the location of hotels in Castro Marim. By changing the date of your holiday, the map will show you the current prices.
If you truly want to discover the eastern Algarve, the best way to do that is with an excursion. A guide can tell you much more about the background, traditions and culture of the area. If you are interested in learning more about the eastern Algarve, we recommend any of the following tours.
Castro Marim – general information
Castro Marim is a very old town. There is evidence of a Stone Age settlement in Castro Marim, which means that people have been living here since 5000 BC. The town was founded even before the Roman Empire. During the Roman era, Castro Marim was known as Aesuris. Despite its historical significance, it is a small town. Currently, it has about 7000 inhabitants.
Castro Marim is a charming small town with cobbled streets and whitewashed houses. When you walk around the town, you might notice the architecture of the houses. This is the typical architecture of the Algarve.
The municipality of Castro Marim is administratively divided into 4 civil parishes:
- Castro Marim