Zip-lining into the Algarve

It must be one of the most picturesque border crossings in the world.

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine June 2015

James Bond does it holding on to a chain while escaping from a cabin lift in Moonraker. Tom Cruise even does it shirtless, using just his belt in Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol. I for one am happy to be strapped to the steel cable by means of a safety harness. It still feels very action hero like, whizzing from Sanlúcar to Alcoutim at a speed of about 75km/h, crossing the Guadiana River in the process. The zip line isn’t only a fast way getting from Spain to the Algarve; it’s also the most adventurous one.

So how to release your inner superhero? First, when arriving in Alcoutim, a quaint little village with cobbled streets, walk down to the riverside. The thread of the zip line is barely visible in the sky (and certainly doesn’t seem strong enough to hold the weight of a grown up). Far away on the other side of the river a brown little hut is standing very high up the mountain. Is it…? Yes, it is. The launch platform.


Gather your courage and buy a €1 ferry ticket (Limite Zero will reimburse you for this). A short ride over the river will take you to the Limite Zero office, which is directly across the road from where the boat arrives. There, I meet the man behind the zip line: the English David Jarman. Was he tired of crossing by ferry? Nah, he wanted to put the two towns on the tourist map. “Alcoutim was already receiving tourism a few years ago, but Sanlúcar was like an old wild western ghost town with closed bars and tumbleweed in the streets.” So what do you do when you have two villages and a river? Build a bridge? No, you connect them via a zip line. “To me, it seemed like the obvious thing,” David comments. Uh, yeah, of course, now why didn’t I think of that?

From the Spanish Sanlúcar it’s a bumpy ride in a 4WD up the mountain until you arrive at the takeoff point, near the fort. Which is high. It’s at a height of 100m to be precise, but seems a lot higher – trust me. Especially when you’re about to throw yourself off a wooden platform for a 720m thrillride into Portugal. I take one last step, try to remember David’s final piece of advice, “You have the wind in your back, so bend your legs to make sure you won’t go too fast”, and scream. (A very adventurous action hero scream in case you’re wondering – anyone saying it was a high pitched I-am-afraid scream is either lying or mistaken).

Strangely, after the initial adrenaline rush I also find the experience relaxing. Once you’re soaring straight above the river, time seems to slow down (must have something to do with going back an hour) and I relish the opportunity to look around. Boats bob on the water and birds fly past, making for very peaceful scenery – it must be one of the most picturesque border crossings.

It isn’t until I’m close to the arrival platform in Portugal that I fear my entry into the Algarve will literally be a smashing one – surely this speed is too fast? How do the action heroes get off? I think back to the film scenes: 007 let go before he crashed into the cable car and thus jumped on the ground. Cruise dropped onto a van. Naturally, in the movies both walked away without a single scratch, but neither option seems very favourable to me (also, they’re impossible – I couldn’t let go if I wanted to). Luckily, there’s another member of Limite Zero on site in Alcoutim, making sure the brake functions as it should and helping me stepping off the platform in one piece. Having arrived in the Algarve in the coolest possible way, I now consider a part time job as a stunt woman. Who’s hiring?

Pictures by Marijke Verschuren


When to go?

Currently the zip line is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but in the high season it’ll be open seven days a week.

In summer holidays and weekends it can get crowded – in peak season there can be over 100 people a day wanting to do the ride. Weekdays are usually not that busy.

Want to go? Make sure to reserve beforehand to avoid disappointment. Do this either by booking online ( or by calling in advance (0034-670313933).

When booking, do keep in mind that there’s an hour time difference between Portugal and Spain.


For whom?

Thrill seekers, of course. And people who want to impress their friends by saying they’ve been on the fastest zip line in the world (this is theoretically the case as you arrive 59 minutes before you leave).

To do the jump, you have to be at least 14 years of age and weigh between 25 and 110kg. There’s no maximum age limit; the oldest person who has done it up to now is 97 years.

Dress according to the temperature (which can get up to 45˚C in the summer – in winter time it can be quite chilly, especially when crossing the river). There’s no dress code, even wearing flip-flops is OK. Just wear them on your arms if you’re worried about them falling in the river.


Other activities:

Combine your zip line ride with something active, cultural, relaxing or nature related. Possible activities in the Alcoutim area include:

  • (Nordic) walking (there are many signposted routes. Do this before it gets too hot; spring time is perfect but in mid-summer temperatures of 45˚C aren’t uncommon)
  • horse riding (make sure to book in advance)
  • canoeing (you can rent canoes from both sides of the river)
  • (sailing) boat excursions on the Guadiana River (the estuary section of the river runs all the way up to Pomãrao)
  • laying in the sun (there are artificial beaches on both sides of the river)
  • city culture (the 14th century castle of Alcoutim offers panoramic views, the 17th century fort of Sanlúcar should be open to the public this summer)


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine June 2015

Posted in This month we try and tagged .

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