The Best Things to See and Do in Ria Formosa

Spanning 60 km of the Algarve coast on the southernmost point of Portugal, sun-seekers and sightseers visit the Ria Formosa every year to enjoy a range of activities and spectacular scenery. But what should you do on your visit to the natural park?

A myriad of islands, marshes and canals covering an area of 18,400 hectares, Ria Formosa is the perfect place for any adventure-lover hoping to get lost in nature. There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy and no two days are ever the same here.

We’ve rounded up some of the best activities for you to enjoy on your vacation, including hiking and biking as well as birdwatching and sampling local cuisine. Keep reading to learn more about our experiences in Faro and activities in Ria Formosa.

So, whether you dream of sinking your toes in sandy beaches, spotting rare and beautiful birds, or kayaking in crystal-clear waters, there’s something for everyone at Ria Formosa Natural Park. Just get in touch to find out more! But let’s begin our virtual tour for now.

Birdwatching in Ria Formosa

Considered one of the best spots for birdwatching in the Algarve, over 200 species of birds roam the skies above Ria Formosa throughout the year.

Among these are many rare and endangered species, including the Hoopoe, Flamingos, Azure-winged Magpie, and even the Purple Swamphen, which has become a symbol of the park. 

If you’re a fan of all things feathered, you’ll love our Faro Boat Trip – Birdwatching in Ria Formosa. Over 2.5 hours from 12pm every day, our guide will take you on a gentle eco boat tour through the Ria Formosa lagoon — a top spot in Portugal for bird-watching. 

Or, if you prefer to explore the area on foot, try our Ria Formosa Birdwatching Tour. This walking tour lasts for 3 hours and the protected areas of Ludo and Quinta do Lago.

The Purple Swamphen is one of many rare species of bird you’ll find in Ria Formosa Natural Park. Photo: Roberto Vivancos

The Wondrous Wildlife of Ria Formosa 

Although best known for birdwatching, the diverse and flourishing ecosystem of Ria Formosa is also home to an abundance of animals, including 34 different species of mammals, 19 types of reptiles, and 12 species of amphibians.

A veritable wildlife hotspot, the park is teeming with inhabitants — from Otters and Genets to the endangered Mediterranean Chameleon, and even Seahorses.

Chameleon in Ria Formosa, Faro - Algarve
A Chameleon in Ria Formosa

The Ria Formosa’s Fantastic Flora

With diverse habitats including barrier islands, sandbanks, salt marshes, dunes, freshwater ponds, brackish water lagoons, streams, woodlands and farmland, Ria Formosa’s varied biodiversity is integral to the continuation of the many plant and animal species that live within it.

At Lands, we don’t just recognise the importance of maintaining such a vibrant and delicate ecosystem – we champion it, by keeping our environmental impact to a minimum and ensuring our trips are sustainable and eco-friendly.

Among others, flower-fanatics can look forward to spotting Spiny Thrift, Sea Holly and Cottonweed in the dunes, and vibrant pink and purple Grand Statice dotted among the marshes. 

If you’re visiting in the late summer, be sure to keep an eye out for the pure-white petals of the Sea Daffodil too!

The Sea Daffodil (or Sea Lily) is one of many plants that grow in the park. Photo: Iñigo Ibisate

Paddle Through Ria Formosa on a Kayak

Renting a kayak is a great option for a family-friendly adventure, or if you’d like to explore the peaceful and protected lagoon in Ria Formosa at your own pace.

Soak up the park’s natural beauty as you paddle through the calm, still waters of the channels and marshes towards isolated islands and breathtaking beaches.

If being one with the water is top of your wishlist, have a look at our Ria Formosa Kayaking Tour. This 2-hour guided trip comes equipped with everything you might need, and includes a quick lesson on handling a kayak, so it’s perfect for first-timers and old-hands alike!

A couple kayak in one of the Ria Formosa’s channels

Get Lost in the Dunes of Ilha Deserta

The deserted dunes and sparkling waters surrounding Ria Formosa make island-hopping a dream. There are five islands in the park, including Cabanas, Tavira, Armona, Culatra, and Ilha Deserta (also known as Ilha da Barreta or ‘the Deserta Island’). 

Expect white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and some of the freshest seafood on any of these islands of the Algarve coast. 

If you would like to visit some of the islands near Faro, our private boat tours set off on solar-powered boats can take you on a journey to one of our favourite spots — Barrinha, which is just opposite Ilha Deserta and off the touristy route. 

A solar-powered boat in Barrinha – Ria Formosa, one of the Algarve’s beautiful beaches

Hike and Bike in Ria Formosa

Whether you prefer a relaxed stroll or a heart-pumping hike, with such a wide range of paths and trails in Ria Formosa you’re sure to find the right route for you.

Get up close and personal with the pine woodlands, marshes and salt pans during our 3-hour-long Ultimate Faro Walking Tour of Ria Formosa. During the tour, our expert guides will talk you through traditional salt extraction methods, clam farming, flora and fauna, and much more! 

If you long to feel the sand between your toes, Praia de Faro is a must-visit.

With sandy dunes and a 7.6 km-long nature trail, this top spot near Montenegro combines the fun of a beach holiday with the thrill of adventure. During July and August, this spot can get very busy so we recommend seeing it outside of the summer months.

At 2.5 km long, the Marim Center of Environmental Education Walking Trail is so much more than a walk in the park. Making your way through the towering trees and babbling brooks, this trail takes an average of 2 hours to complete and has several worthy stops, including an animal research center, educational exhibitions, and observatories for spotting some of the rare birds that call Ria Formosa home. 

There are also a multitude of bike paths in Ria Formosa, ranging from easy to expert. Most are paved and well-marked, and you can rent a mountain, tandem or e-bike easily from one of the many rental shops in the area.

Walking in Ria Formosa near Faro, Algarve
The Marim Center of Environmental Education Walking Trail, the Algarve

Eating In Ria Formosa

Ria Formosa offers a delectable array of seafood to indulge in. With its pristine coastal waters, the region is renowned for its fresh and succulent seafood options. 

From grilled sardines to mouthwatering clams and prawns, Ria Formosa delights seafood enthusiasts with its exquisite flavours and culinary delights. You can also try oysters, shellfish, and fish catches of the day.

Whether you prefer traditional Portuguese dishes or innovative local creations, Ria Formosa promises a gastronomic adventure for seafood lovers.

Begin your Adventure in Ria Formosa with Lands

With so much on offer, it’s easy to see why Ria Formosa Natural Park is one of Portugal’s Seven Natural Wonders — all you have to do now is choose what you’ll do first!

See the full range of Ria Formosa tours we offer, including informative and accessible eco-boat tours, kayaking tours, walking tours and bird-watching tours, and let us take the hassle out of your trip. 

Plus, as the Algarve’s primary eco-tourism expert, you can be assured you’re making unforgettable memories in an environmentally-sustainable way that’s good for you, and good for the planet!

If you have any questions about how we operate or our tours, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Leave a Reply

en_GBEnglish (UK)
Open chat
Here to help
Hello. How can we help you today?