The Home of the Chameleon
The quiet coolness of the pinewood bridging Vila Real and Monte Gordo provide an invitation to take a relaxing walk and a chance to witness the flora and fauna that flourish here.
Over the dunes, the sea air blends with the scents of wild plants with their curious names that translate into lambs of the beach and narcissus of the sands. The National Forest of the Maritime Dunes of Vila Real de Santo António is a protective swathe of green that holds the dunes in place and reduces the sea breeze as well as protecting the native fauna.
An important chameleon population lives here, making its home in the forest in one of the last remaining outposts of its natural habitat. The region is also notable for the people themselves who generously share the nature and surrounding calmness with visitors.
The Blue of the Sea and the River
A visit to the wetlands of the reserve, Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real de Santo António, is well worth the effort. It is the first of its kind in Portugal and is now a haven for birds, fish, molluscs and crustaceans. 2089 hectares have been protected by the Ramsar Convention among other international statutes for nature conservation. A patchwork of life-forms and vegetation render the landscape surprising and unique landscape through the contrasting lagoons and salt-marshes, a perfectly designed, inimitable and secure habitat for many of the species present both in the waters and on the surrounding land.
The beautiful flight of the stork or the light rose-coloured clouds of flamingos are spectacular and not to be missed amid the traditional saltpans that reflect the rays of the sun, an unexpected whiteness between the green of the fields and the blue of the river.
The marshes, saltpans and the interior give visual contrasts that encourage relaxed strolling. Given a little time to wander, it is easy to appreciate the calmness of the surroundings, punctuated only by the stark white of the traditional houses or old windmills on top of the surrounding hills.
The Fluid Road of the South
The sinuous River Guadiana defines the essence of Vila Real de Santo António. One of the most traditional ways of getting to know the area, therefore, is by taking a boat trip on the river, leaving the port to the sound of the waters leaping in order to find the green of the fields mixing with the blue of the river and the sound of thousands of birds chattering.
This great river of the south that separates Portugal and Spain or, more precisely, the Algarve from Andalusia has always attracted men, not only by its location but also for its strategic importance and the origins of settlements here go back for centuries.