Portugal will make the Guadiana river navigable all the way from its mouth, in Vila Real de Santo António (VRSA), up until Mértola, the historic town in neighbouring Alentejo. Previous works, finished in 2015, had made navigation possible from VRSA to Alcoutim, and the new project will extend this “natural motorway”, as it has been called, deep into Alentejo. The total cost will be of 6 million euros (about 5,3 million pounds), with 75% of it being co-financed by the European Union. The project should be finished in 2021.
Speaking to the press, the mayor of Mertola, a tiny, scenic hilltop town, coming back from Roman and Islamic times, said this will boost tourism and economic development in the region. The mayor of Alcoutim added that the navigation works have already brought more visitors since 2015 and he expects now to have, even more, has the river’s potential for attracting tourists will increase.
Guadiana is one of the big rivers of southern Iberian Peninsula, who once were the big communication routes of this region (the other being Guadalquivir, in Spain). The Roman city of Emerita Augusta (today Merida, in Spain), capital of the province of Lusitania, was born in its margins.
Those familiar with Algarve might have already visited VRSA, Castro Marim and the natural park surrounding them. Doing a cruise up until Alcoutim is already an established tour alternative, bringing people to do a smooth and joyful boat trip, some 25 miles inland. Eastern Algarve is, of course, easy to reach through A22 motorway (Via do Infante); VRSA is just 45 minutes from Loulé and a little more than one hour from Portimão.
Algarve is not losing sight of searching and developing new tourism opportunities and alternatives, adding value to its offer, both for tourists and residents. These are the kind of projects which will endure – and be available – for decades to come.