Choose your mooring on the Rio Guadiana
|The boat is usually based at Laranjeiras, Portuguese for Orange Trees, about 9km south of Alcoutim. It’s normal cruising range is between Foz de Odeleite and Penha d’Águila, with the last leg to Mértola by dinghy. The following listing is in a south to north order, and the magnifiers will open Google Maps in a separate tab.
At Foz de Odeleite there is a visitor pontoon, but with no water or electricity supply. There is a good restaurant café, Os Arcos do Guadiana, that it is closed on Mondays. There is also a goat’s cheese dairy to visit in the village. The Ribeira Odeleite joins the Guadiana here and it is interesting to explore by dinghy or on foot. There is a restored water mill a few kilometres upstream and crystal clear waters with turtles and otters having been seen here. A few kilometres further on foot brings you to the interesting village of Odeleite.
Guerreiros do Rio , or Warriors of the River, is a small village about 5km further north with a visitor pontoon and café on the quayside, with wi-fi available. There is an interesting Museu do Rio, with models of traditional fishing boats and an interesting video telling the story of cross river smuggling during the epoch of Salazar and Franco. There is also a café behind the main street, with a tiny shop selling a few things. Traditional river fishermen can be seen continuing the traditions seen in the museum, repairing their nets and preparing their hooked lines. There are a number of GR walking routes in the area, of various lengths and challenges, but usually all well signposted.
Two kilometres north is another small village, Laranjeiras , where the boat is normally based. Here there is a visitor pontoon with an excellent café on the quayside, which serves appetising sandwiches at lunchtime and cerveja and artisan sangria all day. It also has a wi-fi service. Also in the village is one of the best restaurants on the river, the Cantarinha do Guadiana, serving the best porco preto I’ve ever tasted. Each morning a baker’s van stops in the village for fresh bread and on other days the butcher, the fishmonger, the fruit and veg and the pastelaria. Another good base for hiking, with a number of routes to take. In the adjacent, even smaller village of Montinho das Laranjeiras there are Roman ruins to visit.
Many of the visitors to the region come because they want to get a taste of local culture and tradition - in the most hands-on way possible. There is a shepherd of a flock of beautiful Algarve goats in the village, who takes them out to feed in a fashion unchanged in thousands of years. I hope to arrange for small groups of visitors to follow the flock to their feeding ground, where a traditional picnic of bread, olives, goat’s cheese, wine and water would be served.
For visitors who like fishing you’ll find a river teeming with numerous species and rod fishing is allowed with a licence. There are several local traditional river fishermen, and again I hope to organise means for visitors to join in with their timeless harvest of the river, the only thing having changed is that now they have outboard engines.
For bird spotters there will be a feast of colour and bird song and binoculars are available to use. With very little local lighting, the night sky is often a spectacular display and a joy for a knowledgable astronomer.
If you are on a touring holiday you really need your own means of transport as public transport here amounts to a bus out at 7am and a bus back at 6pm but only during the week and during school term time!
The towns of Alcoutim on the Portuguese side and Sanlúcar de Guadiana opposite on the Spanish bank, are about 9km upstream each with its visitor pontoons. Each has its historic castle menacing one another across the river. But despite the one hour time difference either side of the river, hostilities have ended. Now there’s even a zip-line from the Spanish castle’s hill to the Portuguese side apparently the only one in the world between two countries. There is a ferry service across the river, and especially in Alcoutim a good selection of bars, cafés and restaurants, together with a mini-mercado, banks, hardware store and pharmacy.
There are a host of tourist activities available in the town, including a Praia Fluvial, a beautifully restored and landscaped castle, tourist information office, bicycle and kayak hire and numerous events and fiestas. Tuesday lunchtime is well regarded, as it’s fish-day at the Restaurante O Soeiro over-looking the river.
North of Alcoutim there is no road beside the river, just an occasional dirt track that comes to a dead end, and passable only by 4x4 or hire car! The valley starts to get steeper and wilder, ever more peaceful and deserted. An ideal place to unwind. One of my favourite stops here at anchor is in the entrance to a tributary of the Guadiana the Rio Vascao, which is the border between the Algarve and the Alentejo. The Rio can be explored by dinghy and then by foot, with the pools along it’s course getting warmer the further upstream you go. This is around 10km north of Alcoutim and completely rural with just one house and a dirt track.
Another 4km further north is the small village of Pomarão , which has a visitor pontoon, but no water or electric provision. There are two café restaurants. Each summer the town holds a popular Fish Festival. The village is an interesting former mineral loading dock, supplied by a railway link from the Minas de São Domingos, which is now an 18km GR walking route. The mines, which began with the Romans, but were industrially exploited from 1854-1966, are interesting to visit. Until their closure the river was used extensively by large cargo ships. The river channel upstream from here turns west and both banks are in Portugal.
Penha d’Águila another 8km further north is the limit of navigation with the barge. The passage here is through some of the most spectacular countryside along the river. Here there is a visitor pontoon, but again no water or electricity provision. There is an excellent restaurant a short walk away that opens for group bookings and these can be a small as half a dozen.
The town of Mértola , with it’s mediæval castle towering on a rock over the river is a further 10km upstream that can be explored by dinghy or on foot, and is truly impressive to view on arrival from the river. The town is known as the hunting capital of Portugal, so there are inevitably a number of good restaurants. There is a good selection of shops, cafés, museums and cultural visits.
Further north the river is only navigable by canoe and there is a spectacular waterfall and rapids at Pulo do Lobo. Further north still is the Alqueva dam and the largest reservoir in Europe.