Eastern Algarve

Travel advice for the Eastern Algarve, the so called "Sotavento", stretching from Vila Real de Santo António on the Spanish border to Tavira: endless sandy beaches protected by dunes, places to visit, sports & leisure, inland

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 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

The eastern Algarve is an ideal summer holiday destination for families with children. The flat terrain is suitable for bike tours, and bikes can be rented at many hotels and other places. Golfers will find excellent courses  on both sides of the lower course of the river Guadiana and cheaper green fees in Spain.