Discover one of Portugal’s natural wonders by bike, boat, kayak or on foot and find barrier islands and snaking waterways that provide a haven for flora and fauna.
The Ria Formosa Natural Park is a large reserve on the Algarve coast that stretches between Garrão Beach and Manta Rota. With its intricate system of wetlands, canals, marshlands and beaches, the nature reserve shelters a vast diversity of coastal plants and animals. Explore this 37-mile (60-kilometer) stretch of landscape by boat or kayak. Join a guided walking tour and learn about the local fishing traditions that continue amid the resource-rich wetlands.
A good place to start your exploration of the park is by visiting the Centro de Educação Ambiental de Marim (Environmental Education Center of Marim). This information center gives an insight into the park’s fascinating ecosystems and gives details on a range of hiking trails and viewing areas. Pick a trail or join a tour and begin your journey through the pristine park.
Birdwatchers will love exploring the hotspots in this protected site. You might see flamingos and purple swamp hens among the 20,000 birds that spend the winter period in this important migratory area. Join a boat tour and learn about the traditional fishing customs still practiced in this region. Mussels, oysters and razor clams are hauled in daily, with the aid of the Portuguese water dog.
If you are traveling by water, you can explore some of the park’s pristine islands. Faro, Barreta, Culatra, Armona and Tavira islands have rolling sand dunes and stunning Atlantic coastlines. Tavira Island is renowned for its lifeguard-patrolled swimming beaches.
Check out the park’s historic landmarks, such as the fortress at Cacela Velha, Forte do Rato and Forte de São João de Barra. Go to the towns, such as Faro, Olhão and Tavira, surrounding the park to find tasty local fare in waterfront restaurants.
The Ria Formosa Natural Park is located on the coastline of the Algarve region. The largest nearby towns are Tavira and Faro. Visit during fall and winter for the best wildlife encounters or visit in summer to relax on the beach.