Guide to Hiking in Ria Formosa and Faro

Faro Hiking – Discover the Top Walking Trails of Ria Formosa and Faro 

Looking for the best Faro hiking trails? Staying in Eastern Algarve and looking for some great outdoors experiences? Ria Formosa Natural Park offers some of the best walks and hiking trails in the South of Portugal!

Known for its incredible islands, white-sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters, visitors can explore Ria Formosa Natural Park by taking a boat trip in the Algarve, exploring Ria Formosa by kayak or, as we’ll see, by foot.

So, let’s explore why Ria Formosa is the Algarve’s best-kept secret!

Birdwatching walking tour through Portugal’s stunning Ria Formosa

Whilst Spring is often the favoured time of year for walkers to get their boots on, in Ria Formosa Natural Park you can walk all year long! Located in the Eastern Algarve coastline, there are stunning short and easy trails for those seeking a nature walk or a summertime stroll near the Atlantic.

Our carefully considered guide to walking in Ria Formosa and Faro is designed for avid walkers and those who love the combination of walking and swimming. So, let’s take a look at this hidden gem’s secrets.

A Guide to Hiking in Faro & Ria Formosa Natural Park

São Lourenço Walking Trail

São Lourenço Walking Trail in Ria Formosa, Faro

WALK FACT SHEET

  • Location: Quinta do Lago, Loulé
  • How to get there: head towards Almancil on the N125, then turn to Quinta do Lago and follow the signs to the parking lot of Quinta do Lago beach.
  • Start Point: Opposite the wooden bridge that connects Quinta do Lago to the Ancão Peninsula
  • End Point: Opposite the wooden bridge that connects Quinta do Lago to the Ancão Peninsula
  • Type of Trail: Linear
  • Extent of Walk:  3 km approximately (there and back)
  • Total Walking Time: 1 ½ up to 2 hours
  • Way Marks: this walking trail is not marked, though you will find some information boards and directional arrows
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • When to visit: All Year

Known as one of the best places for birdwatching in the Algarve, this walking route is perfect for nature lovers and bird watchers due to its different habitats: marshland, scrubland, and freshwater lakes.

This walk will take you between marshes and golf courses. At low tide, keep your eyes peeled for Fiddler crabs, many aquatic birds, mainly waders and also for the back-breaking work of fishermen picking up shellfish.

There is a bird hide where you can enjoy all the natural beauty and wildlife that is protected here. As the trail reaches a stone pine thicket, you can see mastic trees, Mediterranean Dwarf Palm, rockroses, and aromatic plants like thyme and French lavender.

Ahead you will find a second bird hide facing a freshwater lake. Take some time to look out for the Purple Swamphen, the bird elected as the symbol of the Ria Formosa Nature Park.

Purple Swamphen in Ria Formosa, Faro - Algarve

This is one of the best birdwatching sites in the Algarve. Depending on the time of your visit there are good chances to see other interesting bird species. Anyone who enjoys birding should pack a snack or two, as you can easily spend your day here!

The trail ends at the Roman fish-salting tanks near the large carob trees. These ruins are evidence of the Roman presence in the Algarve and dates back to the 2nd century AD.

Ludo Walking Trail

Ludo Walking Trail in Ria Formosa near Faro

WALK FACT SHEET

  • Location: Ludo, Faro
  • How to get there: head towards Aeroporto de Faro on the N125. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Praia de Faro. Head 500 meters and at the roundabout, take the first exit onto EM527-1
  • Start Point: Quinta do Eucalipto/Ludo path
  • End Point: Quinta do Eucalipto/Ludo path
  • Type of Trail: Linear
  • Extent of Walk:  8,5 km approximately (one way)
  • Total Walking Time: 2 up to 4 hours
  • Way Marks: this walking trail is not waymarked, though you will find some information boards
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • When to visit: All Year

This walk takes you through the great variety of habitats in Ria Formosa, including marshes, saltpans, and pine woodlands. Like the São Lourenço Walking Trail, Ludo is one of the most popular spots for birdwatching in the Algarve.

You can visit the area on your own and if you’d like a great complementary tour, try our Ria Formosa Birdwatching Boat Trip on our eco-friendly solar-powered boats.

This walk starts through woodland with stone pine, maritime pine, and eucalyptus tree with chances to see the azure-winged magpie, hoopoe, and other feathered friends.

Discover the natural beauty and wildlife of Ria Formosa on this walking tour in the Algarve

Continue walking ahead to reach a beautiful system of creeks and saltpans. It is a great place to spot flamingos, several species of waders and ducks.

As you walk past the saltpans, you will reach the lagoon and its marshes. Continue walking along the trail until the bird hide to be greeted with great views of the Ancão Peninsula and its dunes.

You can use this guide to explore the Ria Formosa walking trails on your own or join our Guided Walking Tour of Ria Formosa that highlights the vibrant local flora and fauna. Our qualified biologist guides will take you out on a gentle hike, pointing out many of the exciting birds and wildlife.

Marim Centre of Environmental Education Walking Trail

Walking Trail in Ria Formosa, Olhão - Algarve

WALK FACT SHEET

  • Location: Quinta de Marim, Olhão
  • How to get there: from Faro, take the N125 towards Olhão / Tavira and turn when you see the arrow to Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, about 1 km after passing Olhão
  • Start Point: CEAM gate
  • End Point:  CEAM gate
  • Type of Trail: Round
  • Extent of Walk:  2,5 km approximately
  • Total Walking Time: 1 ½ up to 2 hours
  • Way Marks: this walking trail is waymarked with several information boards
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • When to visit: All Year

Located on an old farm alongside the lagoon, this is a great walk for nature lovers. It’s an easy round walking trail that’s also great for children. You can see all the habitats that can be found in the Ria Formosa Nature Park as well as Roman ruins, a tide mill, a noria, a picnic area, and more!

Tide Mill in Ria Formosa, Olhão - Algarve

You will need to pay for an entrance at the gate. The facilities of the centre are only open on weekdays, but you can do the walk also during the weekends since the only thing close is the Ria Formosa Interpretation Centre at the headquarters of the park.

This is a great place to see several species of plants and there are also bird-watching opportunities and maybe, just maybe, you can even find a chameleon.

Ilha da Culatra Walking Trail

Ilha da Culatra in Ria Formosa, Faro - Algarve

WALK FACT SHEET

  • Location: Ilha da Culatra, Faro
  • How to get there: take a ferry from the Olhão pier; there are year-round ferries to Culatra
  • Start Point: Ilha da Culatra Pier
  • End Point:  Culatra Beach at the end of the walkway
  • Type of Trail: Linear
  • Extent of Walk:  5,6 km (there and back). The trail follows a 1,5 km stretch of beach
  • Total Walking Time: 2 hours
  • Way Marks: this walking trail is not waymarked
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • When to visit: All Year

This walk will take you off the touristy areas near the harbour and lead you to beautifully preserved dunes. You’ll reach white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters where you can go for a swim in the Atlantic. All you have to do is cross the village to a walkway.

Spiny thrift (Armeria pungens) colours the dunes of Ria Formosa, Faro - Algarve

The boardwalk gives you beautiful views over the island, the dunes, and coves. At the end of the walkway, you will reach Culatra Beach. You can explore by paddling along the seaside for about 1.5 km or take a break and go for a refreshing swim in crystal clear waters!

Barril Beach Walking Trail

Santa Luzia seen from the Barril Walking Trail, Algarve

WALK FACT SHEET

  • Location: Pedras d’El Rei, Tavira
  • How to get there: from Faro, take the A22 (Via do Infante) or the N125 towards Tavira; about 2 km east of Luz de Tavira, head to the village of Pedras d’El Rei. You can park in the parking lot near the beach and along the road connecting the village to Santa Luzia
  • Start Point: Pedras d’El Rei, after the bridge to Barril Beach
  • End Point: Barril Beach
  • Type of Trail: Linear
  • Extent of Walk: 1.5 km (3 km there and back)
  • Total Walking Time: 1 hour
  • Way Marks: this walking trail is not waymarked but there are information boards
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • When to visit: All Year

This walk has panoramic views of the marshland vegetation and, at low tide, there is plenty of wildlife to see, such as fiddler crabs, herons, and waders. The walkway goes along the dunes until the bars and cafes of Barril beach and ends at the anchors’ cemetery.

Anchors cemetry at Barril Beach, Ilha de Tavira - Algarve

From 1841 to 1966, this place was home to a small tuna fishing industry known as the “Arraial do Barril”. The support structures for fishing were converted to provide beach support instead.

In the past, this place was where 80 fishermen and their families lived from April to September. They made their living from the tuna that swam offshore as they migrated to the Mediterranean and returned to the Atlantic.

You can find the anchors once used by the tuna fishing fleet facing the dunes. This unique rusting memorial is known as the cemetery of anchors.

You can return by tram using the railway line. This transportation was built around a century ago to support the fishing industry.

Essential Eastern Algarve Hiking 

The best time for walking in the Algarve is probably autumn, spring, or late summer when the temperatures are cooler and the crowds have disappeared. Spring is also a wonderful time to walk through the countryside when flowers fill the landscapes.

Late summer and autumn are great seasons for walking in the Algarve. It may not be as green but it is still beautiful to walk and warm enough for a swim on one of the beaches of the islands of Ria Formosa.

Guided Walks in Ria Formosa, Algarve

We hope our guide to Walking in Ria Formosa Natural Park and Faro helps you as you explore our region. And if you’re looking for ways to experience nature in the Algarve while practising responsible tourism, our eco-tours ensure you don’t have a negative impact on the local environment.

You might also like to check out our Ria Formosa Boat Trips — all of which use solar-powered electric boats through Ria Formosa and out of Faro — or explore through our Faro Experiences and Trips! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions and we’ll help plan your perfect hike.

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