Guadiana, one of the three greatest international rivers that flow in Portugal and Spain, is a kind of frontier between the two Iberian countries, it comprises protected areas and it is a place of history since the Arab times to the years of smuggling and exploration of the Alentejo mines. Today, besides being the Alentejo’s irrigation source, it embraces several leisure activities, from boat rides to fishing.
In the Guadiana Valley Natural Park – that passes through Mértola and Serpa – is mandatory to visit the Pulo do Lobo (Wolve’s Leap), a narrow gorge where the waterfalls at 20 meters high. It is indeed a place of a unique beauty and where it is possible to see the black stork, rare species of the stork family. In the Alentejo village of Mértola have passed the Romans, the Arabs and, later, the Reconquista. During the Arab period the Guadiana was the most important port in the Iberian Peninsula and it had a noticeable economical importance during the years of the São Domingos mine exploration in the 19th century.
The ore was taken from the mine to the Pomarão port by train – the railway still exists and it was one of the firsts to be made in Portugal. The ore was then taken from there by boat to Vila Real de Santo António, the Portuguese city of the Guadiana base level. It is in this last section of the river that it is possible to navigate and where boat trips may be carried out. Before Portugal was part of the European Union the Guadiana was a smuggler hotspot. The Portuguese took coffee and sugar and traded it for fabrics, such as corduroy, brought from Spain, and the goods were taken by men who crossed the river swimming.