The 65 km long Great Route of the Guadiana (GR15) connects Alcoutim to Vila Real de Santo António. The trail goes through the Algarve’s rolling hills, as well as parts of the Barrocal and coastline areas. It moves through the Baixo Guadiana territory, crossing some of its villages and ancient paths. This great route can be completed through a network of 19 small-route trails, with distances between 3 km and 15 km.
The “Guadiana Trails” encompass about 135 km and allow you to visit the whole region in detail.
This GR’s cultural landscape is very interesting, due to the region's traditional activities. These activities are heavily linked to the Guadiana itself, namely its navigation and small-scale fishing. This route crosses sixteen locations, some of them with a strong connection to the river. That is the case, for example, of the river ports of Vila Real de Santo António and Alcoutim, the saltpans of Castro Marim or the various fishing villages along the river, such as Foz de Odeleite and Guerreiros do Rio, where the River Museum is located. The Castle of Alcoutim stands out as a prime example of the region’s historical heritage. It was a strategic place to support navigation, since it was here that the boats had to wait for the low tide before they could go down the river. There’s also the Castle of Castro Marim, important for the defence of the territory, which was once the first headquarters of the Order of Christ.
The landscape is generally characterised by large areas of cistus and carob trees and stone pine plantations. In the villages of the valleys near the Guadiana and its main tributaries there are small vegetable gardens with traditional crops, such as dryland orchards of fig, almond and carob trees. You can also witness or experience activities such as the production of honey, aromatic and medicinal plants, cattle raising and various forms of nature tourism.
The Guadiana River is rich in fish communities. It is the bay with the highest diversity of fish in all of Portugal. And since the tide reaches up to Mértola, fish typical of marine and estuarine habitats reach even the inner zones of the river. The streams that flow into the Guadiana, besides being home to a high quantity of fish (including some endemic species), function as ecological corridors to a great variety of species, such as the otter. In a not-so-distant future, maybe even the Iberian Lynx will get to return to these valleys.
Municipalities: Vila Real de Santo António, Castro Marim and Alcoutim
Location: Baixo Guadiana territory in the Algarve
Type of Trail: walking and cycling trail. Linear
Distance: 65 km
Average duration: 3 days