Marim Nature Reserve - the saltpans, nature reserve and Castro Marim, The Algarve.

Castro Marim Nature Reserve Saltpans circular walk with pictures.

The Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim is located near Villa Real de Santo Antonio in the extreme eastern side of the Algarve, Portugal - only minutes away from the Portuguese/Spanish border and the Rio Guadiana river.Castro Marim Nature Reserve - Algarve - Portugal This 11.75km walk is flat and is on tracks and paths - it goes round the saltpans (which are still working/active) and also follows tributaries of the river. The area is full of wildlife and when we walked during October we saw many birds including hundreds of flamingos as well as storks, herons and various waders. Get to the start of the walk by taking the motorway (called E01 or A22 on various maps) as far Aroeira where you take the road marked to Vila Real de Santo Antonio and Lagoa. On reaching the n125 turn left and continue along to reach Vila Real de Santo Antonio. At a main road junction turn left towards Castro Marim, then after around 1.5 Kilometres take a small track (this is a little hard to spot as it is amongst some trees) on the left to some ruined buildings where you can park.

The walk is straightforward to follow in that you simply follow mostly track and dyke paths in an anti-clockwise direction round the huge saltpan area. Head out on the track which goes towards the saltpans and which has the river on the left, stay right when the track splits and then continue along going anticlockwise round the huge saltpan area - already there are lots of birds to spot and enjoy. The Castro Marim fort soon comes clearly into view on the right and also the various buildings belonging to the saltpan workings are visible on the left.

Marim-Saltpans Saltpans - Algarve working saltpans on the Algarve piles of salt - Algarve
The track circles round the saltpans and then heads towards and passes to the right of the saltpan processing buildings, then soon turns left and heads towards the saltpan works. Continue across a small crossroads - the way ahead is marked as private and has a gate but it is ok for walkers to continue through.
Marim Saltpans, The Algarve. Saltpans at Castro Marim Nature Reserve Marim - huge piles of salt busy scraping up salt - Marim - Algarve
You get really good views of the variously shaped vehicles which are working on the salt pans here as they scrape the layers of salt off the saltpan which is then transferred onto a huge conveyor belt system before being taken by small diggers and dumper trucks up to the top of huge piles of salt ready to be then shifted to the actual works. This was really interesting to watch - at least we thought so - and we had a nice half hour watching it all going on whilst sat eating our lunch.
Always stay on the main track as it heads away from the workings with canals/dykes either side and then eventually turns left to head towards the coast. When we walked here this was where we saw most of the flamingos - some really quite close up - however they will move away or even fly off if you are noisy as they become frightened. The path ends by a pumping station and the river tributary - several hundred metres in front of this is a railway line and you may if lucky spot a small train or two trundling along. Turn left in front of the pumping station and go onto a raised bank/dyke - note if the weather has been particularly wet this may be quite slippery/boggy underfoot in places. The raised bank continues along between what appears to be dis-used saltpans on the left and the river on the right.
lots of saltpan machinery - Marim, The Algarve. The extensive saltpans at Marim Saltpans, The Algarve. birds galore at Marim saltpans, The Algarve. lots of wildlife on the Marim saltpans - Algarve
storks and waders - Marim, The Algarve. Marim-Saltpans area walking and enjoying the Algarve - Marim Saltpans Saltpans pumping station
Once again we saw lots of birds along here - flamingos, storks and herons all enjoying the river - plus there were quite often heavy splashes as fish jumped for flies before crashing back into the river.
Castro Marim, Portugal Flamingoes at Castro Marim saltpans, The Algarve. saltpans on the Algarve Marim saltpans - Portugal
The raised path eventually becomes wider and easier to walk on as it bends right and then reaches a fork - go right here to soon reach the outbound track. Keep ahead and wander back to the start point.

Visiting Castro Marim Castle and Town in Portugal, The Algarve.

Having enjoyed the saltpans it is well worth then driving up into Castro Marim and have a look around the Castle. From the parapets you get views of the area including the Rio Guadiana river which divides The Algarve from it's neighbour, more saltpan workings and the impressive bridge which crosses the river into Spain.
Algarve - Castro Marim Church Castro Marim Fort, The Algarve. inside Castro Marim Algarve - church at Castro Marim
This is also one of the best places to get a good view of Marim's huge white fort nearbye on a hill top - as far as we were aware you cannot go into this fort for a look round. Inside the castle the authorities are renovating the buildings and interior walls etc. but there is still plenty to see and enjoy there as hopefully our photographs will show.
saltpan views from the castle at Castro Marim, Algarve The Algarve Portugal - Castro Marim The Algarve - Castro-Marim Some smaller saltpans at Castro Marim in the Algarve, Portugal
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