The eastern Algarve stretches from the Spanish border to the Ria Formosa. Due to its long and flat sandy beaches protected by numerous dune formations this part of the Algarve is also called “Sotavento Algarvio”, because it is adverted from the winds of the Atlantic Ocean. The easternmost coastal area extends from the estuary of the river Guadiana on the border of the Algarve with Spain to the lagoon landscape of the Ria Formosa near Tavira. Long and flat sandy beaches separated by dunes from the interior, stretch for over 10 km. The major holiday resorts are Monte Gordo near Vila Real de Santo António, Manta Rota and Altura. Because of the Mediterranean winds coming from an easterly direction the sea is usually warmer here than in the western part of the Algarve and more inviting for a swim or a paddle, making this region an ideal holiday destination during the summer season for families with young children.
The eastern Algarve between Vila Real de Santo António and Tavira
The Eastern Algarve lies between Vila Real de Santo António and Cacela Velha near Tavira.
A long and flat sandy beach stretches along the bay of Cadiz for many miles from the estuary mouth of the river Guadiana, the border with Spain, to the beginning of the Ria Formosa east of Tavira. Sandy dunes separate the coastal strip from the backdrop of pine woods.
To the west there is the unique landscape of the Ria Formosa, extending from Cacela Velha to Ludo near Faro airport. A chain of islands and peninsulas protects the lagoon from the rough Atlantic Ocean, creating a great habitat for a wealth of fauna and flora.
Because of the special importance of this exceptional natural and cultural landscape we have dedicated a separate article to the Ria Formosa.
The most important cities and villages in this part of the eastern Algarve
Tourist activity in the eastern Algarve is focused in the coastal areas of Monte Gordo, Altura and Manta Rota. On the estuary mouth of the river Guadiana is Vila Real de Santo António, connected to Ayamonte on the Spanish shore only by ferry boat. Further upriver the castle and fortress of Castro Marim can be seen in the distance, testimony to the many conflicts with neighbouring Spain which lasted for centuries.
Sports und Leisure
Sports and leisure in the Eastern Algarve
The beach between the estuary of the river Guadiana and the beginning of the Ria Formosa near Cacela Velha stretches for more than 10 kilometers. It is an ideal place for families with children, because it is flat and broad, so that even infants will be safe here. Because of the Mediterranean winds from an easterly direction the sea is usually warmer than in the western part of the Algarve and more inviting for a swim or a paddle.
The eastern Algarve has only recently been exploited as a golf venue. Today there are already six different golf courses available within a 15 kilometer distance from Monte Gordo, and an additional three courses on the Spanish side of the river Guadiana.
The hinterland of the eastern Algarve: Rio Guadiana and Andalusia
The nearest large city is Vila Real de Santo António on the Rio Guadiana. From there cruises are available up the navigable part of the river to the historic town of Mertola in the Alentejo.
North of Vila Real de Santo António is Castro Marim with its Moorish castle overlooking the village and the surrounding salt marshes. This Sapal de Castro Marim is not only one of the largest areas in the Algarve where sea salt is harvested but also a hideaway for many bird species. It is an interesting venue for excursions especially during spring and autumn.
The location on the Spanish border is ideal for excursions to neighbouring Andalusia. A ferry boat covers the short distance across the river to Ayamonte in just a few minutes, and the bridge north of Castro Marim connects the A22 motorway with the A49 in Spain leading to Huelva and Seville with its fantastic monuments. This cultural centre on the Rio Guadalquivir can also be reached by an EVA Transportes bus from Tavira.
Tips for travelling to the Eastern Algarve