Castro Marim Castro Marim, Eastern Algarve, Portugal

If you love castles and nature, you'll love Castro Marim...

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Not many small towns have a castle to boast of; Castro Marim has two. Both sit on the top of hills, giving them a commanding view over the lands to the north, the salt marshes and Vila Real de Santo António to the south, and the Guardiana river and Spain to the east. The older castle - the 'castelo' - is more intact and visitor friendly. The younger castle - the Fortaleza de São Sebastião - is more ruined and more romantic. Great viewing and picnic spots outside the main summer heat.

Bird watchers can see bee eaters and hoopoes around the fortaleza, and avocet, stork and a wealth of other wading birds close-by in the wetland nature reserve. The reserve covers 2000 hectares, mainly marsh land, and includes extensive salt works. There are three signed walks that can be followed in the reserve - for which the tourist office has brochures. The reserve also has an oddly enormous visitor centre overlooking the river, which, when open, has permanent exhibitions about the reserve, plus other facilities.

For four days each year, Castro Marim takes a leap back into the past for its Medieval Days festival. Enter the castle and you enter another, older world, with neither brand name nor advertising in site. A really different experience. Great fun.


There is evidence of a settlement at Castro Marim dating back to neolithic times (5000 BC), and of later Phoenician and Roman occupation.  The town may have been fortified in the Moorish period, but the existing castle dates from the 13th century.  The town was fortified following the Portuguese conquest in 1242, the inner castle being the oldest part. The outer castle wall was added later under King Dinis, when, for a brief period, the town became the headquarters of the Order of Christ - established in 1318 to replace the Order of the Knights Templar. The town at this time grew firstly within the castle walls, before stretching outside into the surrounding areas. Originally, Castro Marim may have been a tidal island and was connected to the sea by the waters of the Guardiana River. It was also connected by a Roman road to Alcoutim, Mértola, Beja and Lisbon. From the 15th century onwards, the town declined in importance.  However, during the Wars of Restoration in the 17th century, the town was further fortified with ramparts and the new fort was built - a polygonal design reflecting the latest technology of artillery warfare. The many ruined structures in the fort and inside the castle date from the great earthquake of 1755, which devastated the town. The silting of the Guardiana river gradually cut Castro Marim off from the sea and its traditional industries of fishing, fish salting and boat building. Another traditional industry - salt making - survives to this day and can be seen at close hand on a walking tour of the nature reserve.

Facility Comment
tourist office YES - very helpful
bus station YES
post office YES
cash machine (ATM) YES
food market YES - small one
Facility Comment
health centre YES
chemist / pharmacy YES
museum YES - in castle
castle YES - 2

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