Located in the Algarve, Ria Formosa has been a Nature Park since 1987. It is the largest wetland in the South of Portugal and covers almost 18,400 hectares along approximately 60 km (38 miles) along the coastline. It is full of beautiful landscapes to explore.
Ria Formosa sits between Ancão (Loulé) and Manta Rota (Vila Real de Santo Antonio) and is formed of an estuarine-lagoon system of marshes, inlets, and channels protected by robust sand belts.
From West to East we have Península do Ancão, Ilha da Barreta also known as Ilha Deserta, Ilha da Culatra, Ilha da Armona, Ilha de Tavira, Ilha de Cabanas, and the Península de Cacela.
This beautiful nature park is a must-see during your holiday in Algarve. To help you with your visit to this protected area, we have selected ten landscapes you can’t miss in Ria Formosa. If you’d like any further advice on visiting the Algarve, please get in touch with our expert team.
1. Enjoy an Aerial view of Ria Formosa
Upon your arrival at Faro airport, keep your eyes peeled for Ria Formosa. It is an impressive and complex landscape that you only truly experience from the air.
2. View of Ria Formosa From the Cathedral of Faro
The Cathedral, in the church of Santa Maria, is located in the Old Town of Faro. Make sure to climb all the steps up the bell tower for one of the must-see points in Faro. It’s well worth raising your heart rate!
For those who are not residents, you have to pay the entrance fee, but this visit to the bell tower is a not to miss in the Algarve. For a small price, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of Faro and the Ria Formosa.
3. Sunset From the Docks Next to the Marina of Faro
The floating platform on the dockside designed for boat mooring is one of the best places in Faro to enjoy the sunset in Ria Formosa. Bring your camera, you won’t want to miss the spectacular views.
4. Visit the Cacela Velha in the Algarve
Cacela Velha is an unspoiled village on a low cliff facing the lagoon. Located in the easternmost area of Ria Formosa, this whitewashed village is a reminder of how the Algarve must have looked half a century ago.
Take your time to enjoy the exhilarating views from the clifftop of the picturesque Cacela Velha.
5. See The Salt Marshes of Ria Formosa
The stunning marshlands of Ria Formosa are one of the richest and most productive of all ecosystems on Earth. They are continuously covered and uncovered by the rising and falling tide. Learn more about the flora and fauna of the Ria Formosa here.
6. Enjoy the Landscape From the Lighthouse of Cape Santa Maria
The lighthouse of the Cape of St. Mary measures 33 feet high and is located on the island of Culatra. The view from its top is simply breathtaking!
7. Sail to Barra da Armona in Fuzeta
Barra da Armona is only accessible by boat. Here you can enjoy unspoiled nature, numerous bird life, and off-beaten beaches with vast stretches of sand and crystalline waters.
8. Walk the Streets of Tavira in the Algarve
Tavira is one of the most beautiful and charming towns in the Algarve. You can admire its beaches separated by the coastal lagoon of Ria Formosa and orchard-covered hills on the outskirts of this lovely town.
9. Relax on Barril Beach in Ria Formosa
Barril is an idyllic beach in the Algarve located on the island of Tavira, known for its anchors. This place was formerly home to a small tuna fishing community.
You can find the anchors once used by the tuna fishing fleet facing the dunes. This unique and rusting memorial is known as the cemetery of anchors.
10. Learn About the Salinas of Ria Formosa
The geography and climate of the Algarve are perfect for one of its natural resources: sea salt. Originally salt-marshes, these large rectangular saltpans (salinas in Portuguese) are still producing salt nowadays.
These areas are a favourite feeding site for wading birds. It is also in the salinas we can see the Greater Flamingo and many other species of birds.
If you are on holiday in the Algarve and looking for things to do, check out our eco-friendly solar boat trips in Ria Formosa and activities from Faro. There are plenty of ways to explore this beautiful part of the world in an environmentally friendly manner.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about any of our experiences! We look forward to welcoming you to the Algarve.