The Guadiana River The Guadiana River, Eastern Algarve, Portugal


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The Guadiana river is the eastern boundary of the Algarve. It is also the border between Portugal and Spain, from the mouth of the river at Vila Real de Santo António up as far as Pomerão in the Baixo Alentejo. The river is tidal all this way and as far north as Mértola. The river valley is a very different world to the Eastern Algarvian coast: hidden away, silent, sparsley populated, and ever more remote the farther north you travel. On a driving tour, the old road takes you along the river bank, via the village of Foz de Odeleite, up to the town of Alcoutim.  This route also takes you past the small new 'River Museum' at Guerreiros do Rio and the Roman villa at Montinho das Laranjeiras. Alternatively, boat tours will take you up the river from Vila Real to either Foz de Odeleite or right up to Alcoutim - nice if you don't mind being 'packaged' for a day.

The river valley has a very long history of human settlement, with remains from Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Phoenician, Roman, Visigothic and Moorish settlement all still in evidence. It was the river's rôle as a transport route for minerals mined in the interior that lead to this continuous settlement, a rôle lasting for 5000 years and into the mid twentieth century. Evidence of this trade can still be seen: from the twentieth century in the docks at Pomerão; from the Arabic period (7-12 century) at Cerro das Relíquais; from Roman and Bronze age remains at Cortes Pereira and Cova dos Mouros. In the Christian period from the 13 century, the river has been a focal point of conflict between Portugal and Castille (Spain), the best evidence of which can be seen at the river valley towns of Alcoutim and Castro Marim.

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