Ria Formosa, a Natural Park to Discover

On one side, the sea, on the other, the ‘ria’. Ria Formosa is the most important wetland on the south of Portugal, protected area since 1987 is a privileged habitat for the fauna and flora and has become a place of great interest for tourists.

The Natural Park, with more than 17 thousand ha, is stage to many tourism and leisure-related activities, which have contributed primarily to the preservation of the natural and cultural values of the region. Discover the fascinating Ria Formosa, through some of the activities we present below.


Explore Ria Formosa in a boat tour where you’ll be to visit the islands and beaches, and learn more about this complex lagoon system. You will also observe the marine life, and with some luck you might spot some dolphins and turtles; for the fans of birdwatching, these tours are ideal to find several different bird species and observe them at a short distance, without disturbing them. It’s a magical experience.


The fun and adventure are never left out. Ria Formosa is a popular spot for the practice of many water sports such as kayak, windsurf, canoeing and Stand-Up Paddle, since it has the all the perfect conditions.


With more than 50km of extension, the Natural Park is a perfect place for a long walk, all year long, thanks to its weather. Throughout the trails you will spot many bird species, discover deserted beaches and unique landscapes.

From the innumerous trails, we suggest: the trails of Loulé (walking/cycling), Culatra Island trail, which crosses the entire island, and the walking trail of the Environmental Education Centre of Marim (CEAM), this trail crosses Quinta de Marim, the headquarters of the Natural Park.


The five islands of Ria Formosa that go from Faro to Vila Real de Santo António, perform a most important part in defending Algarve’s coast and insuring the preservation of the area’s biodiversity.

The islands of Farol, Culatra and Armona are already very famous tourist stops. But there are small pieces of paradise less known but as equally as amazing, for example, Island of Barreta or Desert Island, where it’s located the southernmost point of mainland Portugal – Cabo de Santa Maria. Where the land finishes and the sea begins. It’s very much worth visiting.

There are many ways to reach the islands, but the most common way is by taxi-boats that depart from Faro and Olhão.


The existing cultural and historical heritage of the Natural Park of Ria Formosa is one of great relevance for the entire southern region. The marks and archaeological remains that survived throughout time are varied and express millenary cultural roots. From forts and fortresses, like Forte de São João da Barra, or singular houses like the Chalet of Dr. João Lúcio and churches, the historical centre of Cacela Velha is the most important and emblematic point.

Ria Formosa represents the heart of Algarve, a vital part of its identity, and is therefore an unmissable place for those who wish to know the true essence of this region. The Algarve is waiting for you!



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