Surprisingly for such a major tourist town, the atmosphere is quite relaxed in Monte Gordo, and it doesn’t even have a lively nightlife. This place is essentially for families who just want to spend some days in the sun and like to have everything within walking distance. The water parks of central Algarve are a long way, but for breaks from the beach, there are some cultural attractions nearby, such as the castle of Castro Marim, the historic center of Vila Real de Santo António, or the beautiful town of Tavira. For a longer trip, you can even go to the Spanish city of Seville in just over 90 minutes.
Monte Gordo’s biggest draw has always been the convenience of hotels and restaurants close to the beach. It also stands out for the lower prices of accommodation and meals, and for its water temperature, which is usually a couple of degrees higher than elsewhere in the region. It has a Blue Flag beach, meaning clean water is guaranteed. The sea is shallow and there are no rocks, so when it’s calm, it’s generally safe for swimming. There are lifeguards in the bathing season, which lasts from June to September.
Unlike the central and western parts of the Algarve, here there are no cliffs, caves, rock formations, sand bars, or islands. It is very flat and backed by dunes. Its skyline is made up of tall buildings, mostly built in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s to cater to tourism, and there’s even a casino. The only reminders of Monte Gordo before tourism are the many fishing boats and nets that local fishermen still leave on the sand. Early in the morning, you might even see them bringing in the catch of the day. Much of that fish is served at the local restaurants.
An elevated boardwalk over the dunes connects the different beachfront restaurants and provides access to the disabled. It stretches for three kilometers to the east and west of the main beach area and is the longest in eastern Algarve.
Nearby is a big pine forest named Mata Nacional das Dunas de Vila Real de Santo António. It has a path used by cyclists and hikers that goes all the way to the town of Vila Real de Santo António and its beach, which is Portugal’s last settlement, just before you reach Spain.
Being a modern resort town means Monte Gordo lacks any Portuguese charm or character. Huge white apartments tower above the beach and mass tourism has completely replaced fishing.
As a holiday destination, Monte Gordo is purely focused on the beach, and the beach is simply stunning. There are kilometers of soft golden sands, which are lapped by calm seawaters and surrounded by pristine pine forests.
During the summer, Monte Gordo has a calm and personable ambiance. This is ideal for families or if you want somewhere less hectic than the large resort towns (such as Albufeira or Lagos). Monte Gordo also provides exceptional value for eating out and socializing. This is due to the large number of Portuguese tourists, who would not pay more than in the rest of their country.
Monte Gordo is the largest resort town of the eastern Algarve, but it is only a medium-sized town when compared to the central Algarve, with its significantly more tourist-developed.
The town is surrounded by pine forests and the rolling Algarve countryside, and the giant apartment buildings of Monte Gordo seem out of place in the low-key eastern Algarve.
Within Monte Gordo is everything needed for an enjoyable holiday. There is a wide selection of restaurants, shops, and bars, and even a casino. Along the beachfront is a pleasant beach promenade, which is lined with numerous restaurants and in either direction leads to deserted beaches.
There are many fascinating sights and day trips in the eastern Algarve, but they tend to be cultural, historical, or nature-focused (such as Tavira, Castro Marim, or the flamingos of the Castro Marim nature reserve).
So, if you are after a cultural or authentic Portuguese holiday, then Monte Gordo’s modernism is not for you. The majority of the eastern Algarve escaped the massive tourist development of the 1980s and 1990s. This was due to the majority of the coastline being lined by the lagoons and mudflats of the Ria Formosa Nature Park. The beach of Monte Gordo is the only one which is easily accessible from the mainland.
Monte Gordo is relatively small, and no hotel is more than a couple minutes’ walk from the beach or the main promenade of shops and restaurants. The combination of returning visitors and new tourists means that Monte Gordo accommodation will sell out rapidly. For this reason, we highly recommend that you book accommodation and flights as soon as possible before prices increase and sell out.
Is Monte Gordo good for your holiday?
The modern appearance of Monte Gordo and its location, also means it’s not really suitable for all types of visitors. This town is the perfect holiday destination for your holiday, if the beach and relaxing are your primary focus. It is ideal for families with young children or couples wanting a calm and low-key destination.
Monte Gordo is great for young children, as the beach is one of the safest of the Algarve, with small waves, no strong currents or sea breezes. The town has a calm environment and does not have any of the excessive drinking culture or riotous behavior found in the larger resort towns.
The eastern Algarve is a long way from the bustling excitement of the central Algarve, there are no waterparks or theme parks close by. Teenagers, twenties, and party-focused groups should be based in the central Algarve.
When to visit Monte Gordo?
The height of the summer season for Monte Gordo is from July through to August. During this season, the hotels are full, restaurants are busy, and there is a great atmosphere around the town. The weather is suitable for spending time on the beach from May until mid-October. Outside of the summer season, hotel bargains can be found, but the town will feel very quiet.
Things to do in Monte Gordo
- Hire bike
From Monte Gordo, there are short cycle routes to the border town of Vila Real (3 km) or the pretty village of Altura (3 km). All bike rentals will provide helmets and cycle locks. Cycling is a great method to explore the area surrounding Monte Gordo but it is advisable to avoid the heat of midday.
- Go for a day trip
There are many good day trips from Monte Gordo. A popular trip is to the classic 18th-century town of Vila Real de Santo António which was constructed in just 6 months. From Vila Real, a ferry can be caught to travel across the Guadiana River to the Spanish town of Ayamonte.
Another day trip can direct to the pretty fishing port of Tavira, which is regarded as the most charming town in the Algarve.
All of these day trips can be done by car or via public transport.
- Play golf
The Algarve is renowned for its golf courses with all courses offering challenging greens and set amongst stunning scenery. Monte Gordo is close to three excellent championship-grade courses with between 9-18 holes. Castro Marim Golfe & Country Club offers three 9-hole courses with wonderful views and some of the cheapest green fees found on the Algarve. Other good golf courses close to Monte Gordo include the Robinson Golf Course Quinta da Ria and the Benamor Golf (18 holes height of the season) with Atlantic views.
- Taste fresh seafood
As with many resorts, the space below the large white apartment and hotel complexes is filled with a range of different restaurants. Many of these restaurants serve authentic Portuguese cuisine, with a high proportion of the dishes based on the fresh catch of fish or shellfish.
Fresh fish is found in all restaurants and for lunch the Portuguese love Sardines or even snails for the adventurous. To add to any meal try a glass of local red wine or as a refreshing drink a glass of sangria. Many of the restaurants serve home cuisines but while in Portugal do try some of the local specialist dishes.
- Visit Vila Real de Santo António
Vila Real is a delightful fishing town, with grand Baroque architecture that sits on the mouth of the mighty Guadiana River. This town is only 3.5 km from Monte Gordo and is the perfect balance to Monte Gordo’s characterless modernism.
- Just enjoy your holiday
Monte Gordo has a holiday atmosphere. So, relax on the beach, eat delicious food, socialize in the bars – what more could you want for the perfect holiday?
- Discover the Mata Nacional das Dunas de Vila Real de Santo António
The Mata Nacional da Dunas Litorais de Vila Real de Santo Antonio is the largest forest in the Algarve. This forest was planted during the early 20th century to stabilize the sand dunes of the region. Today the natural park provides a unique pine forest ecosystem and provides tranquil walks, deserted beaches, and the perfect habitat for Portugal’s chameleons to hide. These timid reptiles are extremely difficult to see. The forest is the perfect place to escape the summer crowds, and there are pleasant, shaded footpaths across the 440 hectares of forest.
Beaches by Monte Gordo
Monte Gordo is famed for its massive beach which extends for 14km along the coastline, from the village of Manta Rota in the west to the Spanish border and the mouth of the Guadiana River in the east. The Praia de Monte Gordo provides some of the calmest sea waters in Portugal and is sheltered from the Atlantic sea breezes.
This long beach was one of the first to develop as a major tourist destination in Algarve, in the 1960s. Located just four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the border with Spain, it has been attracting a large number of Spanish tourists and Portuguese families for decades. It can be crowded in July and August, but its 1.5 kilometers (close to one mile) of white sand offers enough space for everyone.
Following the coast westwards leads to the smaller resort town of Altura and eastwards passes along the edge of the pine forests of the Dunas Litorias National Park. Timing the walk as the tide is dropping allows the catching of small burrowing shellfish, which are loved by the Portuguese in shellfish stews.
To the west is Praia do Cabeço and then Praia Verde, both known as family-friendly beaches.
To the east is the pristine beach of Praia de Santo António.
The seawaters of Monte Gordo are the warmest in Portugal, but are still chilly, only reaching a maximum of 24 °C in the summer. Being on the eastern side of the Algarve, the Praia de Monte Gordo is a long distance from the powerful waves and strong sea breezes that buffer the western Algarve. This is a calm and safe coastline and is great for families.
How to get to Monte Gordo
Monte Gordo is very easy to reach by car or public transportation. It’s a 45-minute drive on the A22 highway or about one hour on road N125 from Faro and 25 minutes from Tavira on both the A22 and the N125. There’s plenty of parking by the beach.
There’s also a bus from Faro to Vila Real de Santo António that stops in Monte Gordo. That’s the Vamus bus n°67, but it takes over 90 minutes to reach Monte Gordo from Faro, so the train is the better option. There’s no bus station in Monte Gordo, only a main bus stop by a roundabout at the end of the main pedestrian street, Rua Pedro Álvares Cabral.
The main international airport of the Algarve is Faro Airport. Monte Gordo is located 60 km to the east of Faro, and it is advisable to organize a pre-arranged pick-up from the airport due to the limited public transport connections. Never get a taxi from the airport to Monte Gordo as this will be very expensive.
Monte Gordo train station is part of the Algarve regional railway that extends from Vila Real in the east to Lagos in the west. Monte Gordo is possibly the quietest and smallest of the stations along the railway and has no ticket office or ticket machines and all train tickets must be purchased from the train conductor. Train travel is the recommended means of travel for long-distance journeys along the Algarve coastline.
As with many stations along the Algarve railway, the stations are not actually close to the relevant towns and Monte Gordo is no exception. Monte Gordo train station is approximately 1km from the edge of the town and 1.5km from the beachfront.
To reach the station follow the main pedestrian strip (the Rua Pedro Alvares Babral) north from the casino, at the first roundabout to the rear of the hotel complex go straight over. This road leads to the N125, at the roundabout junction with the N125 go straight over for a second time. The station is a further 200m at the end of the road. From the station to Monte Gordo, it is very straightforward and well-signed. The walk takes 10-15 minutes and the route is flat.
Bus travel from Monte Gordo offers more frequent services and a great range of local destinations but for longer journeys, a connection is often required, usually at Faro. There are fewer train services but traveling by train is more relaxed and enjoyable. Train travel is cheaper than the same corresponding bus. But for train travel from Monte Gordo always be sure of departure times as services are so infrequent.
The Algarve railway is a regional line and seats cannot be pre-booked, but there is no need for reservations as there are always plenty of spare seats. The main exception are trains heading from the Algarve to Lisbon or the north, these train tickets have to be reserved and this can be done at any manned train station. The northern inter-city trains connect with the Algarve regional line at Faro in the east and Tunes in the west.