Learn about Ria Formosa, a protected area in the southernmost region of Portugal and a must-see during your holiday in Algarve
Located in the Algarve, Ria Formosa is a Nature Park since 1987.
It’s the largest wetland in the south of Portugal and covers almost 18,400 hectares formed by a spectacular 60 km (38 miles) long system of sand-dune islands – 2 peninsulas (Ancão and Cacela), 5 barrier islands (Barreta also known as Ilha Deserta, Ilha da Culatra, Ilha da Armona, Ilha de Tavira and Ilha de Cabanas) and several stretches of salt-marshes.
The Ria Formosa Nature Park covers a huge variety of habitats organized in mosaics like sand-dunes, salt marshes, tidal flats, islets, salt pans, fresh water marshes and ponds, pine woods and agriculture fields. It is one of the most precious treasures of the Algarve’s ecosystem bursting with wildlife to discover. Reflecting its importance, Ria Formosa is also classified as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) and as Special Protection Area, and is included in the Site of Community Importance Ria Formosa-Castro Marim (Natura 2000 Network).
The area is vital for birds, specially for waterfowl mainly because it’s a wintering ground for birds from northern and central Europe, particularly for several duck species and many waders. It’s also a stop-over point in the migration routes between Europe and Africa and it provides shelter for rare species in Portugal like the purple gallinule which was chosen as the symbol of the nature park.
The importance of this area is not limited to birdlife. The sand dunes and the salt marshes display a rich a unique vegetation specially adapted to these harsh environments. The lagoon is a nursery area for many species of fish that spend their early stages of development in the shallow waters of the lagoon.
Shellfish farming occupies more than 1000 ha and is responsible for nearly 80% of the Portuguese clam exports.
A resident population of 7.500 lives inside the park boundaries, but in summer these figures can triple. The resident population works mainly in activities related to the lagoon like fishing, fish and shellfish farming and salt extraction.
Classified as a Nature Reserve in the 70s, this protection status was elevated to a Natural Park in 1987 because of the increased need of regulation of tourism and urban pressure as well as due to the need of planning the surrounding territory.
This beautiful Nature Park is a must-see during your holiday in Algarve.