Alcoutim – the complete guide

Discovering Alcoutim feels like finding a hidden gem in the heart of the Algarve. This charming river town, nestled amid lush green hills, seamlessly blends history, nature, and serenity. A mere 30-minute drive from the bustling Algarve coast, Alcoutim reveals its full splendor, especially in the vibrant bloom of spring. This guide will equip you with all you need to navigate and relish your visit to Alcoutim.

Essential details

Alcoutim, a petite enclave in the Algarve, is home to around 3000 inhabitants, boasting the lowest population density in Portugal at a mere 8 inhabitants per km2. Situated near the Portuguese-Alentejo border, Alcoutim has a storied history marked by conflicts with its Spanish counterpart, Sanlúcar de Guadiana. Today, the towns share amicable relations, with a convenient ferry service connecting them.

Alcoutim – the complete guide
Alcoutim – the complete guide

Located an hour’s drive from Faro Airport and 30 minutes from the Southern beaches, Alcoutim is best explored by car due to its lack of a train station. The well-maintained roads facilitate easy travel in and around the town.

Visual delights in high definition

For a swift glimpse of Alcoutim’s highlights, indulge in the captivating visuals of the short video below. It’s the perfect teaser to ignite your wanderlust.

Exploring Alcoutim

The Majestic Guadiana River

Situated on the Portuguese banks of the Guadiana river, dividing Portugal and Spain, Alcoutim offers a scenic view of the Spanish town, Sanlúcar de Guadiana, across the river.

Alcoutim – Guadiana River
Alcoutim – Guadiana River

While the river’s current makes swimming here ill-advised, indulge in a refreshing swim at Praia Fluvial do Pego Fundo.

Sanlúcar de Guadiana Excursion

Embark on a ferry journey to Sanlúcar de Guadiana for a visit to the Castle of Sanlúcar (Castillo de San Marcos), perched atop the town’s hill.

Alcoutim – Guadiana Excursion
Alcoutim – Guadiana Excursion

Revel in the historical charm of this Spanish locale.

Untouched Natural Beauty

The surroundings of Alcoutim showcase lush greenery and abundant water, providing a stark contrast to the Algarve’s southern coast. A mere 30-minute drive attracts nature enthusiasts seeking a tranquil and rejuvenating experience, adorned with picturesque flowers and trees along various hiking trails.

Preserving Culture and Heritage

Alcoutim proudly preserves the traditional Algarvian lifestyle with its simple, kind-hearted people, emanating a calm and welcoming ambiance. Strolling through its narrow streets feels like a journey through time, with architecture mirroring its century-old charm. The main square, too, exudes serenity and tranquility, complemented by a charming fountain.

Alcoutim – Heritage
Alcoutim – Heritage

Experience the authentic local life, centered around fresh river fish, smoked ham, and sausages. Alcoutim remains economically tied to agriculture and craftsmanship, with each surrounding town specializing in its unique craft:

  • Pottery, blankets, and rugs in Alcoutim.
  • Blacksmith’s works and puppets in Martim Longo.
  • Woolen blankets and linen towels in Santa Justa and Tacões.

Alcoutim’s Castle Journey

Explore the Castle of Alcoutim, a Moorish fortress from the 14th century, strategically built to safeguard the border. From its elevated position, revel in a spectacular panoramic view and traverse the castle walls, immersing yourself in medieval tales. The castle houses a small archaeological museum, offering insights into Alcoutim’s tumultuous history through artifacts.

The castle offers an enchanting view of the surroundings, inviting contemplation of the region’s history.

Delve into the archaeological museum within the castle, a treasure trove of artifacts narrating Alcoutim’s history. History enthusiasts will find this visit particularly captivating.

Praia Fluvial do Pego Fundo (River Beach)

Northwest of Alcoutim, along the Guadiana river, lies Praia Fluvial do Pego Fundo, a river beach offering a safe swimming experience. The pristine water, distinct from the southern Algarve beaches, adds to its unique charm.

Locals and visitors alike favor Praia Fluvial do Pego Fundo, enjoying its tranquility. The Tá-se Bem Beach Club, a beach bar on-site, provides food, drinks, and essential amenities like toilets and showers, ensuring a delightful visit.

Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição

Within Alcoutim’s municipality lies the enchanting Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição. Originally constructed in the early 16th century and later rebuilt in the 17th century, preserving its original doorway, the church is dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Portugal’s Patroness since the 17th-century Restoration war. Venture inside to marvel at an exquisite 18th-century gilt carved wood altar piece adorned with King João IV’s coat of arms. This historical gem is a must-visit.

Igreja Matriz de Alcoutim

Another architectural marvel in Alcoutim is the Igreja Matriz de Alcoutim (also known as Igreja Matriz do Salvador de Alcoutim), dating back to the 14th century. This church stands as one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in the Algarve.

Admire its beauty from the riverside, as captured during the Festival do Contrabando, revealing the vibrant atmosphere around the church during this event.

Exploring the Hinterlands

The Algarve’s interior boasts numerous treasures, and Alcoutim is just one gem worth exploring. Enhance your Alcoutim experience with various activities. Consider renting a boat to navigate the serene Guadiana river independently. Alternatively, join boat cruises to Mértola (upstream) or Odeleite (downstream), with online booking options available. For those who prefer self-driven exploration, here are suggested routes:

Scenic Countryside Drive

Embark on an adventurous yet tranquil day with a full-day tour: Tavira – Cachopo – Martim Longo – Vaqueiros – Giões – Pereiro – Santa Marta – Cortes Pereiras – Alcoutim – Guerreiros do Rio – Foz de Odeleite – Castro Marim. Immerse yourself in the untouched Algarve, featuring traditional life, kind-hearted locals, and breathtaking landscapes. This is the Algarve rarely seen by tourists.

Historical Expedition

History enthusiasts can delve into the southeastern part of Portugal with the Castro Marim – Alcoutim – Mértola tour. This exploration unveils castles, churches, ruins, archaeological sites, and charming old villages, offering a captivating journey along the Guadiana river and through mountain ranges.

Smuggler’s Festival

Experience the annual three-day Festival do Contrabando (Smuggler’s Festival) in Alcoutim and Sanlúcar de Guadiana every March. Immerse yourself in street performances, music, and traditional arts and crafts, many highlighting the dynamic between smugglers and law enforcement. Comparable to Silves’ medieval fair, this festival draws thousands to Alcoutim, promising a uniquely memorable experience.

During the festival, a floating bridge connects Alcoutim and Sanlúcar de Guadiana, allowing pedestrians to cross the river between Portugal and Spain. This annual bridge becomes a major attraction.

Dining Spots

While dining options around Alcoutim are limited, knowing the best spots is crucial. Our top restaurant picks include:

  • Cantarinha do Guadiana: A beloved Portuguese eatery serving delectable local cuisine. Due to its popularity, reservations are recommended for its small size.
  • Restaurante O Rio: This establishment offers generous portions of excellent local fare, complete with an outdoor terrace. Prices are reasonable, and their regional house wine is a delightful choice.
  • Shiva Indian Restaurant: A fine choice for Indian cuisine, boasting good food and service. While slightly pricier than local Portuguese restaurants, the quality justifies the cost.


Given Alcoutim’s small size, accommodation options are limited. For a comfortable stay near Alcoutim, consider the following hotels:

  • Hotel D’Alcoutim: A popular three-star hotel with a garden, swimming pool, and picturesque views of the Guadiana river. Comfortable rooms and an excellent breakfast await, complemented by friendly staff.
  • HI Alcoutim – Pousada de Juventude: An economical choice for travelers, this youth hostel fosters social interaction with shared dormitories and private rooms.

We recommend booking your hotel promptly, as availability may be limited. Explore the map below for hotel locations in Alcoutim, adjusting the holiday date for current prices.

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