There are many great articles on Itinari about all the best beaches in Algarve, which is reasonable since Algarve is easily the region with the most well-known landscapes. But it does overshadow another great aspect of southern Portugal, the peaceful countryside. In August I had the pleasure of spending some days in this serene countryside while visiting the small village of Alcoutim!
Alcoutim is a curious place! Although the village itself is small, the county is very big (around twice the size of the island of Madeira)- even if most of it is just open countryside and farming areas. But even more unique is its location right at the border with Spain, with the village of Sanlúcar de Guadiana (which is about the same size as Alcoutim). Both these villages are separated by the Guadiana River, which serves as the border between both countries all along Algarve. But the relationship between the two is very amicable, and both have constant movement between their ports with plenty ferryboats moving back and forth. For the more courageous, Sanlúcar has a very long rope slide that will take you from Spain to Portugal in seconds!
There is also a lot of history to be told here. Like in a lot of other places in Algarve, Alcoutim has been the battleground for many fights. As a result, it has an ancient castle that sits on the top of the village. It dates back to the Islamic attacks on the Iberian Peninsula (like many more, such as the one in Mértola and the old town in Faro). Nowadays, the castle is a museum that provides different exhibitions on the Moorish occupiers and some even older roman relics found nearby. It also offers a perfect view of the whole village. The ticket for the museum also comes with entries for other museums and cultural sites in the county of Alcoutim.
But if it’s too hot for a walk, you can always swim on the beach! It's not like the ones near the ocean, but a river beach. Here you can cool off from the sometimes unbearable heat the Algarve summer has.
Alcoutim has many things to offer, but at the end of the day, the best part really is just how serene these areas of Algarve can be. It’s very different from the more “vacation destination” cities like Vilamoura or Albufeira, or even Faro. Here you can just sit at a café, have a drink, and stare at the river without the noises of those bigger cities. Sometimes you can even hear the Spanish sheep bleating from the other side of the river.
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