Travel advice for the old seaport town Portimão on the estuary of the river Arade with the new marina, centre of international water-sports, the coastal resort Praia da Rocha, one of the most popular holiday destinations on the rocky Algarve coast in the south of Portugal, surrounded by the best golf courses in the western Algarve
Portimão is a city (cidade) and municipality (concelho) in the district of Faro (Algarve), the most southerly region of Portugal. Even better known than Portimão is its principle beach Praia da Rocha, one of the liveliest holiday destinations in the western Algarve.
Portimão location and access
Getting to Portimão
Portimão is situated on the west bank of the Rio Arade where the river flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The coastal strip between Praia da Rocha and Alvor is famous for being one of the most popular and beautiful beaches along the whole of the Algarvian coast.
The national road EN125 from Lagoa to Lagos passes to the north of Portimão; the bridge which crosses the wide river mouth can be seen from miles away. Exiting the A22 at junction 6 takes you into the city via good access roads in a matter of minutes.
The railway station of the single track, Linha do Algarve, which runs from Lagos to the Spanish border, links Portimão to other towns in the Algarve. The busses of EVA Transportes link the city to many other places in the Algarve, to Lisbon and to Seville in Spain.
Portimão sports and leisure
What to do in Portimão
Beaches of outstanding beauty are set against the rugged backdrop of impressive sandstone cliffs. They stretch for many kilometres from the mouth of the river Arade along the coast in easterly direction.During high season, Praia da Rocha is a real hot spot and one of the busiest places on the Algarve coast. There are numerous restaurants and bars alongside the promenade at the waterfront and one the three Algarve Casinos is also here.
Portimão is one of the most important maritime centres in the Algarve, offering great facilities for many water sports activities. It is internationally renowned as a centre of excellence for yachting. The annual Portugal Match Cup, an integral part of the World Match Racing Tour, takes place here. Year by year this magnificent spectacle is attracting an increasing numbers of fans.
The marina of Portimão is situated at the mouth of the River Arade just at the foothills of Santa Catarina fortress. It has about 620 berths for boats up to 50m and takes vessels with a maximum draft of 5 meter. The surrounding area has many restaurants, shops and apartments.
The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, a racing circuit of 4,692 m length, is situated in Mexilhoeira Grande north of Portimão. Since its opening in 2008 several international car and superbike events regularly are taking place there. The facilities also include a karting track and an off road track.
The nearest golf courses are Alto, Penina and Palmares, near Alvor. There are many other golf courses within a thirty minutes drive.
Surroundings of Portimão
The surroundings of Portimão: Ferragudo, Alvor and Estombar
Highly recommended is a visit to the beautiful, scenic village of Ferragudo, located on the bank of the river Arade opposite Portimão. Take a stroll through the streets and up to the hilltop church, where you will be reward with an amazing panoramic view of the river mouth. Return to the village and enjoy a plate of fresh fish or a Cataplana at one of the waterside restaurants.
Sitio das Fontes, the largest limestone springs in the Algarve are located on a side branch of the river Arade near Estombar. At this tidal confluence there is a water mill powered by the tides. The surrounding area has been converted into a recreation area with BBQ facilities, an open air stage and an educational trail.
The popular holiday destination Alvor is situated between Portimão and Lagos. The old picturesque heart of the village is located on top of a hill overlooking the lagoon. The houses are grouped around the parish church, and narrow lanes lead down to the small harbour, where some excellent fish and seafood restaurants can be found.
The fascinating lagoon landscape of the Ria do Alvor invites for an interesting walk, offering great views from Alvor in the east across the bay with its mussel beds to the fabulous Palmares golf course and the endless sandy beach Meia Praia near Lagos.
History of Portimão
The importance of Portimão is linked to its harbour
The remains of many civilisations have been found around the city dating as far back as Neolithic times. In the nearby parish of Mexilhoeira Grande are the megalithic monuments of Alcalar, a group of burial tombs dating from the Copper Age (2000 - 1600 B.C.). This necropolis has been classified as a National Monument in Portugal.
Even in Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian times, the city had great commercial value because of the natural harbour at the mouth of the Arade River. The name Portimão is derived from its Roman name of Portus Magnus (“Great Port”).
During the Muslim period, when the city of Silves was the capital of the Algarve, the harbour on the river Arade guaranteed the essential sea access. After the expulsion of the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula, it took Portimão until the 15th century to regain its importance as a port renamed Vila Nova de Portimão during the Age of the Discoveries.
The 1755 earthquake and tsunami caused such severe destruction to Portimão and the immediate surroundings, that the city only recovered in the 19th century. Fishing, fish processing plants and the related canning factories drove this economic revival. Up until the middle of last century, the canning industry maintained its influence as the most important economic factor in the region. In 1924, Manuel Teixeira Gomes, the tenth President of the Republic, who was born in Portimão, gave his home town, city status. Since then, the city has been known by its current name.
Tourism took root quite early in Portimão, although holidaymakers could only get to the Algarve by boat. Already in the 1930’s there was a 9hole golf course, popular with the British and the first hotel on the Algarve coast was opened in Praia da Rocha: an old mansion was transformed into a luxury holiday residence that even to this day is famous as Boutique Hotel Bela Vista.
Municipality of Portimão
Besides the city of Portimão itself, the coastal village of Alvor and the inland village of Mexilhoeira Grande, also form part of the municipality. The increase in population from around 45,000 in 2001 to almost 56,000 in 2011 indicates the growing dynamic economic development within the area.