The Alentejo has a clear vocation for Activity Tourism and for Nature Tourism. The beauty of the landscape invites excursions on foot, on mountain bikes and on horseback, and the country lanes known as estradas municipais, despite the absence of cycle lanes, are excellent for cycling-tourism.
On the rivers, the reservoirs and the coast, many water-based activities are possible. The beaches are of the highest quality. And the sky, with this fantastic climate, is ideal for parachuting, paragliding, ballooning and microlight flights.
The Natural Park of the Guadiana Valley, with an area of approximately 70,000 hectares, extends between the area upstream of the Pulo do Lobo waterfall and the Ribeira do Vascão to the south of Mértola. It includes landscapes that are very different from each other: the enclosed valleys of the river and its tributaries, the quartzite heights of the Serra de Alcaria and Serra de São Barão and an extensive and wild peneplain where dry-land trees grow – montados (woodland and pasture) of holm oak and areas of cistus. In the steepest parts of the serras and river valleys, where there has been little intervention by humans, you can still find the so-called Mediterranean scrub, an expression of the original vegetation of the region. In a word, we are in the part of the Alentejo that best expresses the inhospitable beauty of the south. But, now that the Alqueva has submerged a substantial part of the Guadiana, we are also in a place that is privileged in every way for discovering the memories of the way the river used to be as it continues to flow freely to the sea from the Açude de Pedrógão.
The urban centre at the pole of this Park is Mértola. Local enterprises offer excursions on foot or by bicycle, canoeing activities and trips in motorboats for the whole navigable section of the river, which extends between Mértola / Pomarão and Vila Real de Santo António. These small cruisers can operate regular programmes or are available for private bookings.
With an information base available at the Tourist Office, we suggest that, on foot, by bicycle, or by car, you don’t miss places full of bucolic delights, such as the Moinho dos Canais, the Azenhas de Mértola or the small fishing port of Penha d’Águia. As places that should be seen, we suggest the Pulo do Lobo waterfall and the conjunction of the Mina (mine) de S. Domingos and the Praia Fluvial (river beach) da Tapada Grande.
Outside the Natural Park, we also suggest that you don’t miss visiting the beautiful stretch of river that extends upstream between the Pulo do Lobo waterfall and the Açude de Pedrógão weir.
Excursion to the Pulo do Lobo ("leap of the wolf”) Waterfall
Access to the Pulo do Lobo is signposted on the Mértola – Serpa road on the eastern (left) bank, next to the village of Vale do Poço, and on the Mértola – Beja road on the western (right) bank, from Corte Gafo. The most spectacular view is from the eastern bank, although a better view of the fall itself is from the western bank. It is a dangerous area on both banks. If you are travelling with children, every care is necessary because there are no protective railings.
Mina de S. Domingos and Praia Fluvial da Tapada Grande
Continue to the Estalagem da Mina located on the Praia Fluvial (river beach) da Tapada Grande. It is a very agreeable combination, with sand, water with a reputed quality for bathing, a picnic area, an open-air amphitheatre and a bar. If you are travelling with children, this is an excellent spot for them to be free and to relax.
Between the Açude de Pedrógão and the Pulo do Lobo
As you are in the region, don’t miss a visit to the Historical Centre of Serpa and taste the renowned sheep’s cheeses of the region.