Vila Real de Santo António

Town on the border with Spain

River and ocean

Enjoy walking on the bank of the river looking on Spain on the other side.

Vila Real is the most southwestern town of Portugal. From one side of it is the ocean, from another is a wide river, which makes a natural border with Spain.

I find very amusing to take a ferry or boat to the “other side” and go to Spain to the town Ayamonte which one can see walking on the river bank. Towns on the sides of the river are similar and different at the same time, it was very interesting for me to check the difference of towns which are so close to each other, but parts of different countries.

Also on the car one can cross the border with a bridge nearby. And I would say sights from the bridge are very spectacular, so watch around while driving.

How to get to Vila Real de S.A.?
  • Train goes from Faro or even straight from Lagos. Check the schedule here.
  • Bus. Check Eva Bus company for busses around Algarve. There are also companies like Alsa and Rede Expressos, which going further, for example to Seville or Lisbon. 

square layout of the city

Orange trees surround the square

Town of Vila Real is all in typical Algarve white little houses, have a church in the center, calm and atmospheric. Numerous cafes give the opportunity to relax in Portuguese way, and if you’ll be near the central square you can enjoy nearby orange trees, which brighten the atmosphere around.

Town was totally destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake (year of 1755), also known as the Great Lisbon earthquake (in combination with subsequent fires and a tsunami). Rebuild town has square structure and doesn’t have old narrow streets, which are normally found in Portuguese settlements.

 Here is official website of municipality.

LOCAL BEACH AND SURROUNDINGS

Walking to the beach of Vila Real is another joy. One should go to the south end of the town, which is quite near the center and after walk a trail through a kind of beautiful park with big strong trees. Its actually a nature reserve which lays all the way to a neighbouring village. This 20-minute trail once gave such a relaxing moment, that I still can’t forget that feeling. Also, it’s good for sports, people around running and cycling.

Reserve named “Mata Nacional das Dunas de Vila Real de Santo António”. Translates as The National Forest of the Coastal Dunes of Vila Real de Santo António.

Natural reserve assumes a protective role in this region, functioning as a means of fixing the dune system, controlling sea winds and sheltering wild fauna. The fauna and flora, combined with the fresh environment of this place are an attractive invitation for hiking or sports. Annually, athletes use the forest to carry out their internships for Olympic or international competitions. Next to the village of Monte Gordo there is a picnic area where you can relax in the shade of the tame pines.

Beach itself is decent, clean and really long. Technically it doesn’t end, going to the neighbouring village.

On the very east of the beach, there is a long jetty (an artificial long, narrow structure that protects a coastline). Its build from stone and concrete in place where river goes into the ocean. Very nice to walk.

Beach itself is decent, clean and really long. Technically it doesn’t end, going to the neighbouring village.

On the very east of the beach, there is a long jetty (an artificial long, narrow structure that protects a coastline). Its build from stone and concrete in place where river goes into the ocean. Very nice to walk.

to go around:

Marsh Natural Reserve & etc

Full name is Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Marsh Natural Reserve. In Portuguese -Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real de Santo António.

Even from the window of the train we saw flamingos. Nature reserve locates in river floodplains and estuaries of the river Guadiana. Nice for bird watching. One can observe big birds as Black-winged stilt, white stork, summer bird Flamingo, winter curlew-billed curlew Limosa and the common hawkYou can check the map of the reserve here and its website.

Natural reserve territory covers Fort of Saint Sebastian (Forte de São Sebastião), which located at the entrance of Castro Marim village. In the village also advised to visit its Castle (Castelo de Castro Marim). The village itself is very authentic, not touristy, nice to have a coffee and listen to silence.

Fort locates 5 minutes away on the car from Vila Real de S.A., its only 3,5 km. We walked this way by foot, looking on the beautiful nature around. Unfortunately, there is only one road, which is along the car road, which makes the walk uncomfortable. There is a bus which goes through the train station São Bartolomeu to Castro Marim.

We also would like to recommend you half-day trip Alcoutim, the village, also, on the border along the river Guadiana, but more north, kind of remote special place. It also has on the opposite side of the river – Spanish village, which even close here, then in Vila Real de S.A. Nature on the way to Alcoutim is different, as there are hills and big artificial and natural ponds on the way.