Vila Real Santo Antonio is a border town and dates back to around 1762. It was completely re-built at this time, by the Marques de Pombal, since it was totally destroyed in 1755 by the tsunami which followed the devastating earthquake of 1755. Being a border town it is very good for shopping and also has several big supermarkets. The city lies on one side of the mouth of the Guadiana river, at the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Spain lies on the opposite side of the river, and from there are directly facing Vila Real de Santo António the city of Ayamonte and its adjacent Isla Canela.
Vila Real de Santo Antonio is a quiet and peaceful town and the perfect escape destination for those wanting to get away from the stress of everyday life.
The topography of the municipality is diverse. Marshes are common, especially north of the city where a section of the salty wetlands became the Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Marsh Natural Reserve (established in 1975, this was continental Portugal’s first natural reserve). Woodlands spread for a considerable area within the plain civil parishes of Vila Real de Santo António and Monte Gordo. In Vila Nova de Cacela, barren lands and schistous hills are more predominant. The easternmost part of the Ria Formosa system of lagoons is located in this civil parish.
The three civil parishes are washed by the Atlantic Ocean. Each has several kilometers of continuous sandy beaches.
The climate of the region is Mediterranean. Winters are short and mild, while summers are usually very hot. November and December are the rainiest months. On average, the municipality has around 300 sunny days a year.
There are no airport near the city, the two nearest airports are located in Faro and in Sevilla, Spain. Both a located around 1-1½ hour away from Villa Real by car or public transportation.
There are 10-15 daily buses from the regional centre Faro, which takes between 1½-2 hours depending on the company, expect to pay around €5 for a one way ticket, there is no substantial discounts on return fares. Many of these buses continue to Sevilla in Spain, which takes around 2½ hours and cost approximately €15 (note that there is a 1hr time difference between the two countries when you check the schedule). The reverse route is naturally also possible. Companies that operate on this line include Eva Transportes, Eurolines España, and Damas.
Up to 10 days per day traverse the quite spectacular route along the coast from Lagos to Villa Real via Faro. The train takes around 1hour 15mins. from Faro and costs around €4,50. The route is run by the Portuguese Railways. There are no direct trains from Sevilla but it is possible to take the train to the city of Huelva about half way, and continue from there with a bus.
Since the highway bridge crossing the river to Spain is off limits to pedestrians or cyclists, there is still a small ferry crossing the river to Ayamonte on the opposite side of the river.
There are lots of places to explore around Vila Real but one to make top of your agenda is Cacela Velha. It is a very small village with a handful of typically Algarvean whitewashed houses around a Church and a fort situated on the waterfront just past Manta Rota.
Offering exhilarating views from its clifftop, Cacela is highly picturesque and it’s rarely overrun by visitors. The beach below the village is a delight.
* Cais ao Rio (Discoteca), Foz do Guadiana, 281 511 174. F-Sa midnight-6.
* Bar Klassik, Rua Jacinto J. Andrade, 102.
* Rio Club, Ponta de Areia, 281 544 231. F-Sa 23-07.
* Capítulo II, Rua de Angola 45, 969 071 850.
* Hotel Guadiana, Av. da República 94, 281 511 492.
* Hotel Apolo, Av. dos Bombeiros Portugueses, 281 512 448.
Tourist Information (Centro Cultural António Aleixo), Rua Teófilo Braga, 281 542 100.