Alcoutim is a small rural town in the south-east of Portugal. It is the smallest municipality in Portugal, located along the banks of the River Guadiana, which creates a natural border between Portugal and Spain.

We headed off for a day trip from the central Algarve in Lagoa, this journey takes about 90 minutes in a car – however the scenery as we travelled to our destination is some of the best I have ever seen.

Credits: TPN;

While on your travels, you will encounter hills, plateaus and wonderful green pastures full of wildflowers and wildlife. As a tourist, I was able to see the unseen and mostly unspoken point of view of a Portuguese person who has lived there for whole life.

From miles away, you can see a castle in the distance that flies a Spanish flag – showing you how far away you are from the border. As we got closer, we saw a medieval castle (Castle of Alcoutim) which was built in the 13th century – which overlooks the Guadiana River – which separates Portugal and Spain.

Credits: TPN; Author: Mark Hanbidge;

Rich history

The roots of the Alcoutim area go back to the megalithic culture around 4000 BC. From about 2500 BC to the time of the Roman Empire, the deposits of copper and iron attracted people to the area to establish mines. The ore was melted locally and then shipped down the River Guadiana.

Alcoutim is located at the confluence of the river where it becomes tidal, so people wanting to ship their goods had to wait here, until conditions allowed them to sail down the river. Because of this, structures to support and defend this business where needed. Due to its strategic position on the boundaries of the Guadiana River and the neighbouring kingdom of Castile, King Dinis gave it a Charter and granted it the Military Order of Santiago. The castle overlooking the river was built in the 14th Century to defend the border against the Kingdom of Castile. To enable it for artillery use it had to be modified in the 17th Century.

There are many boats on the water, mostly on the ‘Spanish side of the river’. However, the views are magnificent – it was so picture-esque like something you would see on a calendar. The river also hosts a biennial festival showcasing a man-made bridge that connects Portugal and Spain across the river for two days only, paying homage to its “smuggling” history in the past between the town of Alcoutim on the Portuguese banks and Sanlucar de Guadiana on the Spanish side.

I also took the time to walk around the town centre, there were many churches, a library, restaurants, shops and nice monument – which documents the Portuguese Colonial War. After a wander around the historical town, taking in the sites, we took the opportunity to enjoy some refreshment in one of the local snack bars and had some food at Beira Rio Cafeteria, where I had a really nice meal.

Credits: TPN; Author: Mark Hanbidge;

Overall, I really urge anybody that has time to do some exploring in the Algarve – please go to the little town of Alcoutim. The people made me feel welcome, and just for the views alone – it is worth going.


Hello reader, I'm Ben. I love to write and talk about sports and I am, unfortunately, hopeless at golf. Thanks for reading! 

Ben Lynch