The Ria Formosa Natural Park – All You Need to know


The Ria Formosa Natural Park stretches from Praia Do Garrão (Garrão beach) in Faro to the Cacela Peninsula over 170km² along the Algarve coast. It was classified as a Natural Park in 1987, thus giving it status to better protect its flora, fauna and lagoons. It’s a wetland of international importance made up of a mixture of lagoons, salt lakes, peninsulas and canals. As well as being a tourist attraction, Ria Formosa also supports other activities that help grow the economy like seafood farms and the port of Faro.

Here is a list of things to do whilst you’re in the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Boat Tours

Whether you’re into fishing or interested in just going on a boat, this will be a perfect opportunity for a boat activity. These can vary from kayaking to dolphin watching and fishing. If you are the more adventurous type, you can go kayaking in pairs or individually. Kayaking is a fairly cheap and energetic activity. The price for this tour ranges between €20 – €30 upwards depending on the time you want to spend on the water. You will have plenty of fun whilst exploring the beautiful surroundings of the Ria Formosa. Another popular boating activity is the Lagoon boat tour. You will take to the waters on a large pontoon sight-seeing along the Ria Formosa starting from Faro for approximately 45 minutes.

Bird Watching

Ria Formosa is a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 250 species living there. One of the rarest is “galinha-sultana (sultan hen)”. It’s known as one of the most important wetlands for aquatic birds in Portugal. A lagoon called Lagoa dos Salgados is one of the most popular places for bird-watching in the Algarve. Here you will find many species of waterbirds such as egrets, flamingos and black tern just to name a few.

Bike Tours

Bike tours are a marvellous way to immerse yourself in the Algarve’s natural sights. You certainly won’t be short of options as the bike tours are on offer from various operators in the area. There are over 60km of stunning landscapes and rugged coastline to explore on the bike tours, some lasting for around 2.5 hours. You will learn some interesting facts about the Ria Formosa whetting your appetite for future trips or other activity tours around the Algarve. For more information on different cycle routes be sure to check out The best top-rated attractions & things to do in the Algarve.

Segway Tours

A Segway is a very fun and convenient way of touring the Ria Formosa. Your legs don’t have to work out as much as they do on a bicycle, and you’ll soon get the hang of balancing on one. On a Segway tour you’ll be able to take in all the surrounding flora and fauna found along the guided route whilst going around the Ria Formosa. These tours last from about 30 minutes upwards.

Olhão Market

If you’re visiting the Algarve, Olhão is a perfect starting point when exploring the Ria Formosa. It doesn’t have stunning beaches as it’s the largest fishing port of the Algarve, but you can take a boat trip to many of the islands from there. Your trip isn’t complete if you haven’t visited the municipal market which is located on Avenida 5 de Outubro. You’ll find a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a fish market. Saturday markets are held outdoors on the street, and it’s one of the biggest markets of fresh produce in the Algarve.

5 Interesting Facts about Ria Formosa Natural Park

  1. There are a series of barrier islands there which connect to the sea through 6 inlets. Five of these inlets are natural and the 6th is artificial, thus allowing for entry into Faro’s port.
  2. The Portuguese Water Dog is an Algarve dog breed and is almost extinct. It’s known as the “Dog of Water” and are said to help fishermen whilst out at sea.
  3. Ria Formosa is a bird migratory channel resulting in it having some of the last remaining nesting grounds in Europe.
  4. Around 80% of the total exports of oysters and clams come from the Ria Formosa.
  5. Seahorses in Ria Formosa were once the largest communities of their species in the world. They are now at risk of becoming extinct.


In conclusion, The Ria Formosa Natural Park is full of bird life, flora, fauna and plenty of activities to keep you entertained and enjoy your holiday in the beautiful Algarve.

If you’re planning on going to any location across the Ria Formosa Natural Park, book a private transfer or contact us for more information.

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