Built by King Afonso III, the castle of Castro Marim protected the Christian kingdom of Portugal from the threat of Spain. Later, in 1319, King Dinis established the headquarters of the Order of Christ in the town. Formerly known as the Knights Templar, the religious military order played a key role in expelling the Moors from Portugal, and later in the funding of the expeditions during the Discoveries.
To further protect the country from Spanish invasion, a new fort (Forte de São Sebastião) was built not far from the castle in 1641. It’s not currently open to the public but can be seen from the walls of the castle. From there, visitors also admire views of salt pans and marshes of a nature reserve, and across the Guadiana River to Spain.
The castle was damaged in two earthquakes (in 1755 and 1969) and restored over the years. It now houses a small museum with artifacts found in archaeological excavations and preserves a small church from the 14th century, frequented also by Henry the Navigator.
Every year, on the last weekend of August, the castle and surrounding streets host a medieval fair, recreating the atmosphere of medieval times with medieval music, fencing competitions, parades, and food stalls with local specialties.
The other historic attraction in the town is the Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires, a small domed church from the 16th century, which was altered and expanded in 1834. Inside and out, it mixes different architectural styles, from the Renaissance to the Baroque to the neo-Manueline (Portuguese Gothic).
Everything can be seen in less than a couple of hours, and although there are some more interesting attractions to visit, is recommended to take a day trip from Tavira, Monte Gordo, or Vila Real de Santo António.
The tranquil countryside along the banks of the Guadiana is lush with orchards and vegetable gardens. These are just a few facets of a municipality that stretches from the sea to the tile hinterland, with a river as its boundary. The elegant outline of flamingos, the dusty gold of soft sand, the turquoise blue of warm waters.
How to get to Castro Marim
Public transportation to Castro Marim is very poor. There are just a couple of buses (Vamus n° 34 and 119) from Vila Real de Santo António, and they only operate on school days and twice a day, at inconvenient times for tourists.
If you don’t have a car, Uber is your only option, as taxis can be hard to find in Castro Marim for your return.