Olhão is a city in the eastern Algarve, home to the interesting island of Armona, which is part of the nature park, Ria Formosa, and the popular Fuseta and Armona beaches. It’s also home to the largest fishing port of the region.
Despite the industrial look of the city, with its warehouses and fishing boats, Armona Island has a stunning large golden sand beach, attracting tourists who seek an alternative beach destination in the region. People flock here for the fishing, diving and snorkelling, or to simple sizzle under the sun away from the larger crowds.
HistoryEvidence suggests that area that now makes up Olhão has seen human occupation since pre-historic times. However, the first documented evidence of a settlement proper dates back to 1378, in which it’s referred to as “Olham”. Why not experience the town’s history yourself and visit its historic centre with Moorish-style houses, influenced by its commercial past trading with North Africa.
In the middle of the 17th century the town became a popular and prosperous fishing port. The protection provided by the construction of São Lourenço Fortress encouraged local fishermen to settle here as it reduced the risk of coastal attacks. Currently the fortress is part of a submerged archaeological site, where you can still see some stones from the ancient walls and three ancient iron cannons during low tide.
Ria FormosaRia Formosa is a nature park dedicated to the conservation of fauna and flora. It’s of particular interest due to the number of migratory birds it attracts, many drawn in by the well preserved natural habitats; these include barrier islands, marshes, mud banks, sand dunes, salt marshes, freshwater ponds and brackish waterways.
The MarketplaceThe marketplace is the perfect place to visit if you’re staying in a self-catered apartment. There are two market buildings along the waterfront selling an exceptional variety of fresh seafood and locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. Why not try your hand at making a local classic?
Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário and Olhão City MuseumAcross from the market halls in the Praça da Restauração is the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário. This baroque church was the first stone buiding in Olhão, built back in 1698 by the local fishermen. The building behind the church was the fishermen's mutual society, but is now home to the Olhão City Museum, which displays archaeological finds dating back to the Copper Age, Bronze Age, Roman and Islamic periods.
Culatra IslandCulatra Island presents visitors with a beautiful sandy beach and ornate old lighthouse, plus great views over the ocean. This is a great spot for fishing too, so rent a rod and, grab a good book and relax while you wait for your catch of the day.
Food and DrinksGrilled sardines and cataplana, a wild combination of clams and paprika, onions and coriander, are just two of the amazing local delicacies you can get around here. Local wines are plentiful and full-bodied too. We recommend Avenida 5 de Outubro, located at the back of the Fisherman’s Gardens and Sea, for a really good meal.