Vila Real de Santo Antonio 3 Day Tour
Vila Real de Santo Antonio is a charming little town that is located on the banks of the mighty Rio Guadiana which marks the natural border with Spain. Vila Real has a pleasant calm and relaxed ambience, far removed from the major resort towns of the Algarve. Vila Real makes for a good base to explore the eastern Algarve region and has much more character than the bland beach resort of Monte Gordo further along the coast. This guide will provide a suggested 3 day itinerary and tour of Vila Real de Santo Antonio.
3 Day Tour of Vila Real Santo Antonio Overview
Day 1 – Vila Real Town and Castro Marim
Day 2 – Day on the beach – Monte Gordo Resort or Vila Real natural reserve beach
Day 3 – Day trip to Ayamonte Spain
Day one of 3 Day Tour
Vila Real is only a small town and it can be easily explored in a single morning of sightseeing. The town follows a grid plan with all streets running in north-south or east-west direction and was one of the first examples of this style. The heart of Vila Real is the Praca Marquis of Pombal plaza named after the great Portuguese politician who envisaged and designed the town. Popular tourist attractions include the 1920s light house and the pretty marina that runs along the Avenida da República.
The Praca Marquis of Pombal in Vila Real
The afternoon should be spent in Castro Marim the historic town that defend Portugal’s borders and which is dominated by two castles. The older castle dates from the 14th century and was the constructed by the Order of Chris, a branch from the Knights Templar. The castle was abandoned in the mid-15th century and was ruined by the 1755 earth quake but is popular today. The second castle on the opposing hill is the Sao Sebastiao fort which was constructed to replace the older castle.
Second day of Vila Real Santo Antonio Tour
Vila Real is not often considered as a beach resort but within the vicinity of the town are some glorious beaches. The sandy coastline extends for 12 km from the estuary of the Rio Guadiana to the small town of Manta Rota. The largest resort town of the region is Monte Gordo which is a mixture of bland white hotels, tourist focused restaurants and beach bars. Monte Gordo does have a great beach and is only a short bus ride of Vial Real.
The beautiful beach of Monte Gordo
An alternative section of the coastline are the beaches south of Vila Real which are access through the pine forests of the Mata Nacional das Litorais de Vila Real national park. These beaches are significantly quieter and calmer than Monte Gordo and are in a more tranquil setting.
The promenade of Monte Gordo
For the more active there is a purpose built cycle path which extends the length of the Algarve and begins in Vila Real. Depend on heat and ability it is possible to cycle to Tavira and back in one day and the route is approximately 40km.
Day 3 Vila Real Tour
For the third day it is suggested to catch the ferry and cross the Rio Guadiana into Spain. The opposite frontier town to Vila Real is Ayamonte and the Spanish town has a completely different ambience and appearance to Vila Real. Ayamonte has none of the crumbling charm of Vila Real with brightly painted streets and a bustling centre of open air cafes and restaurants. Spain is on a different time zone from Portugal so remember to adjust you watches while in Spain!
The ferry to Spain
Inside the main church, the Parroquia de las Angustias, is a sacred image of the Virgin Marry which was rescued from the sea by local fishermen. This caused tension between the two countries as the waters the image was found in were Portuguese but the fishermen were Spanish.