Nestled in the eastern corner of the Algarve, Monte Gordo is a picturesque beach resort known for its expansive sandy beach and calm, shallow waters. Unlike some of the more rugged landscapes typical of the Algarve’s western coastline, Monte Gordo’s coastline is characterized by gentle dunes and a tranquil atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for families and those seeking a relaxed beach getaway.
Historically a fishing village, Monte Gordo blends that tradition with apartment blocks and hotels. The town centre, with its bustling pedestrian zones, is dotted with a mix of traditional seafood restaurants, contemporary cafes, and a selection of shops that cater to both locals and tourists. As you wander the streets, you’ll catch hints of the town’s maritime heritage, with various murals and artworks paying homage to its seafaring past.
Beyond the beach, Monte Gordo is surrounded by natural beauty. To its north lies the protected area of the Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Marsh Natural Reserve, a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Meanwhile, its proximity to the Spanish border makes it a strategic base for those looking to explore both Portuguese and Spanish cultures during their stay. In essence, Monte Gordo offers a harmonious blend of leisure, culture, and nature, positioning itself as a gem in the Algarve’s crown.
That’s just one side of Monte Gordo, however. Although the town largely revolves around the tourist industry, it’s also home to several thousand local Portuguese many of which live in colourful cottages several streets behind.
Monte Gordo is less than a 15-minute drive from the Spanish border, and so there’s also a bit of a Spanish feel to the town. Its location makes it ideal for those that not only want to spend time in Portugal, but that want to visit parts of Spain as well.
Featured accommodation in Monte Gordo
There are lots of accommodation options in Monte Gordo, but a few that stand out include:
- The Prime Energize – A 4-star boutique hotel with a panoramic rooftop swimming pool and poolside bar.
- Alcazar Hotel & SPA – Stylish spa hotel with a contemporary design, this hotel has a luxury spa, 2 outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, and a high-quality fitness centre.
- Hotel Vasco da Gama – Built in 1960, this was the first grand hotel to open on the Algarve and continues to be one of the most popular hotels in Monte Gordo.
Is Monte Gordo right for me?
With its tall blocks of apartments and high-rise hotels, Monte Gordo lacks a lot of the charm that many others towns on the Algarve have managed to retain. It isn’t overly built up, but there are other towns that don’t really have any blocks of apartments at all.
Of course, you can easily get the train to nearby towns like Faro, if you want a bit of history and culture. There are also lots of great towns nearby like Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António.
Spain isn’t far either. It’s just a 20-minute drive to Ayamonte across the border. Larger cities like Huelva (50 minutes) and Sevilla (1.5 hours) are both easily possible as part of a day trip as well.
Ultimately, Monte Gordo is perfect for those looking for a beach break or a base from which to explore this part of the Algarve and nearby Spain.
What to Do
Monte Gordo Beach, with its expansive stretch of fine golden sands, is more than just a sunbather’s paradise. This beach is the perfect setting for a variety of activities catering to visitors of all preferences. Water sports enthusiasts can indulge in activities like jet skiing, paddleboarding, and windsurfing, taking advantage of the relatively calm and warm waters. For those who prefer staying on the shore, beach volleyball and beach football are popular choices, often resulting in friendly matches among locals and tourists alike. The wooden boardwalk that runs parallel to the beach is ideal for leisurely strolls, jogging, or even cycling. As the day winds down, many visitors take to beachfront cafes and kiosks, savoring local delicacies while watching the sun dip below the horizon. Whether you’re an active traveler or someone looking for relaxation, Monte Gordo Beach offers a delightful mix of both.
One of Monte Gordo’s distinctive attractions is its notably warmer waters compared to other parts of Portugal. Due to its unique geographical positioning near the Guadiana River’s mouth and the Mediterranean’s influence, the sea temperatures in this part of the Algarve tend to be more pleasant and inviting. As a result, swimmers and beachgoers can enjoy extended dips without the bracing chill often experienced in the Atlantic-facing beaches further west. This characteristic, combined with its gentle shores, has made Monte Gordo a favourite spot for those seeking a more temperate beach experience in Portugal.
Monte Gordo’s strategic location near the Portuguese-Spanish border makes it an excellent base for those looking to explore a bit of Spain during their Algarve getaway. A stone’s throw away is the charming town of Ayamonte, accessible via a short ferry ride across the Guadiana River. This picturesque town is known for its cobbled streets, traditional tapas bars, and vibrant markets – an ideal spot for a quick day trip. For a more immersive Spanish experience, Huelva is a must-visit, with its rich history, beautiful architecture, and delicious seafood delicacies.
However, if one is keen on exploring the heart of Andalusian culture, a slightly longer drive will lead you to Sevilla, the region’s capital. Here, you can witness the grandeur of the Alcázar, wander through the maze-like streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz, or even indulge in the passionate rhythms of authentic flamenco shows.
If you rent a car from Faro Airport, be sure to check that you are covered to drive it over the Spanish border. Although there is no problem crossing the border, some car insurance companies only allow you to drive in Portugal — unless you pay an additional fee to cross the border.
Mata Nacional da Dunas Litorais de Vila Real de Santo António
Nestled between Monte Gordo and the Guadiana River, which forms the border between Portugal and Spain, lies the captivating expanse of ‘Mata Nacional das Dunas Litorais de Vila Real de Santo António’. This national forest reserve stands as a testament to nature’s artistry, composed of a stunning blend of sand dunes and verdant pine woodlands that extend over several kilometers. It serves not just as a protective barrier against sea encroachment but also as a sanctuary for a plethora of wildlife species, both flora and fauna.
Visitors venturing into this pristine environment are often struck by its serene beauty and the subtle sounds of nature, from the chirping of birds to the gentle rustling of trees. The marked trails within the reserve make it an ideal location for peaceful walks and nature-inspired contemplation, while its proximity to the coast means that one can seamlessly transition from forested paths to golden sands and shimmering waters.
From the coastal charm of Monte Gordo, the Algarve opens up a tapestry of historical treasures, all within reach for those seeking enriching day trips.
- Vila Real de Santo António: Just a stone’s throw away is Vila Real de Santo António, a delightful town known for its grand square, Pombaline-style architecture, and its riverfront location along the Guadiana. A day here can involve strolling along the marina, exploring shops, or relishing the view of Spain from the river’s edge.
- Tavira: Further west, Tavira beckons with its ancient Roman bridges, the ruins of a hilltop castle offering panoramic views, and a myriad of churches bearing witness to its rich history. It’s often referred to as one of the Algarve’s most historically preserved and picturesque towns, where the fusion of Roman, Moorish, and Portuguese heritage paints a vivid timeline of the past.
- Faro: Meanwhile, Faro, the region’s capital, brings forth a unique blend of the urban and the ancient. Within its well-preserved walls, you’ll find a charming old town, the grand arch of Arco da Vila, and the captivating Faro Cathedral, amongst other landmarks.
- Castro Marim: Venture a bit closer to Monte Gordo, and Castro Marim emerges from the landscape, its formidable castle perched atop a hill, guarding stories of Moors and Christian Reconquests. The town itself, with its cobbled streets and traditional homes, exudes a quiet charm, providing a peaceful respite from the usual tourist trails.
- Cacela Velha: Finally, the village of Cacela Velha, perched on a cliff overlooking the Ria Formosa lagoon, offers an almost ethereal beauty. This small hamlet, with its whitewashed buildings and fort offering sweeping views of the coastline, stands as a silent observer of time, inviting visitors to step back and revel in the Algarve’s layered history.
- Flying: The nearest airport is Faro Airport, which is around 50 minutes by car away. At the airport, you can easily get a taxi or Uber to Monte Gordo. If you want to take a bus or train to Monte Gordo, you’ll need to go into Faro City Centre (by bus or taxi) first.
- Train: Trains to Monte Gordo are available from all over Portugal, including from Lisbon and Porto. Discounted tickets are available if you book in advance (more information here). Tickets can be booked on cp.pt.
- Bus: Buses to Monte Gordo are available from Lisbon, Porto, and other parts of Portugal. Tickets can be booked through rede-expressos.pt.
- Driving: Monte Gordo is less than an hour by car from Faro Airport, and there are lots of car rental companies there. The drive to Lisbon takes around 3 hours.