visit a paradisiacal Algarve area (full of charm)

Visiting the Ria Formosa can be one of the best experiences for those who want to know and travel in the Algarve. There are hundreds of experiences to do in Ria Formosa, many things to see and do, and, especially, to taste in Ria Formosa. This corner of Portugal, the Ria Formosa, still so characteristic despite the growing urban pressure, remains full of charms.

by Filipe Pereira

Portuguese Local Guide

Since an early age, Algarve has been a mandatory stop for me at least twice per year. Get to know this region through insider tips, and discover it like a local!

FARO’S LIDE – What is the Ria Formosa

The Ria Formosa is the common name given to one of the most beautiful geographical accidents on the coast of Portugal, the Lido de Faro. The Lido de Faro is a set of two peninsulas and five barrier islands, parallel to the Portuguese coast, from Faro to Cancela Velha, the famous Ria Formosa. These barrier islands in the Ria Formosa play a very important role in the defense of the Algarve coast, building its interior, a lake environment very rich from the point of view of biodiversity. Dune cords, marshes, sandbanks, and islands are a set of environments that allow the preservation of very rich fauna and flora in the Ria Formosa.


1. Visit Faro in Ria Formosa

Faro is the capital of the district and the former capital of the province of Algarve, now extinct. However, the charm and history of the city in Ria Formosa are well preserved in its streets, in the historic center, and throughout the surrounding area. It is the best place to start exploring the Ria Formosa. To find out about the city’s cultural program Faro, consult the official website of the City Council.

2. Explore the Ancão peninsula when visiting the Ria Formosa

Faro beach is located on the Ancão peninsula, also commonly known as Faro Island or Faro peninsula. This beautiful peninsula is one of the ends of the Ria Formosa and the ideal place to start exploring this area of the Algarve.

3. Go to Cabo de Santa Maria, the southernmost point of Portugal

Cabo de Santa Maria is the southern tip of Portugal and is located on the Ria Formosa. The place where the land ends and the sea begins. The southernmost place in our continental territory. It is a geographical landmark that is worth feeling and knowing in the Ria Formosa.

4. Getting to know Barreta beach when visiting Ria Formosa

The island of Barreta or Deserta island is the first barrier island in the Ria Formosa. As the name implies, it is a desert island with difficult access to the Ria Formosa. Only by boat or on tour can you reach the island of Ria Formosa. It is a piece of paradise in the Ria Formosa.

5. Climb the lighthouse “island” lighthouse to see the upper Formosa estuary

The tip of the Lighthouse has the best observatory in the Ria Formosa. It is the lighthouse that gives its name to the “island”, which can be raised whenever navy officers allow it. We tried to climb but due to the Covid-19 situation, we were not allowed. We were unable to understand how the visits work because the “marine crowd” that was there was not very friendly to share this information.

6. Have a drink at the beach of the “island” of the Lighthouse

The tip of the Lighthouse on the Ria Formosa is a magnificent place to go bathing and enjoy a morning or afternoon on the beach on the Ria Formosa. But, after going to baths, the sea, and the sun, you have to drink a refreshing drink on a terrace in front of the sea and here, there is even more style. Enjoy!

7. Take the trail from the island of Culatra to the tip of the Lighthouse

The trail between the island of Culatra and the tip of the Lighthouse is a route that crosses the dune cord of the island of Culatra and allows you to make a beach in the part of the sea or laugh, the part of the sea here is much higher. The trail is truly wonderful and then goes along the beach to the Lighthouse on the Ria Formosa.

8. Have fresh fish in the village of Culatra

When visiting the island of Culatra you cannot miss the opportunity to eat fresh grilled fish from the Ria Formosa, served in one of the simple and traditional restaurants on the island. You will not regret it.

9. Bathing on the beach on the island of Culatra

The island of Culatra, even at the height of summer, is an ideal place to go to the beach, as it is large and with a very large beach. Just walk a little, especially in the East, towards the eastern tip of Culatra, to have the beach almost alone for you in the Ria Formosa.

10. Bathing on the sea beach of Armona Island

The island of Armona is a delight for beach lovers and the Ria Formosa. With a very extensive sea beach, it invites prolonged dives and large sea baths.

11. Bathe on the beach of the Armona Island estuary

The island of Culatra has a sea beach and a ria beach. The beach at Ria Formosa is small but on windy days it is sheltered and ideal for enjoying the beach.

12. Explore the island of Armona on foot and discover lakes and water lines while visiting the Ria Formosa

The island of Armona is one of the best islands in the Formosa estuary to get to know on foot. There are no marked trails but there are several paths that lead to lagoons, saltwater channels in the middle of the barrier island, and routes through the dunes and the beach. It is a beautiful place to stroll and discover on foot in the Ria Formosa.

13. Drinking a gin at sunset in the Olhão markets

There are many better ways to feel the Ria Formosa than drinking a gin in a bar at the end of the day (and sunset) in the city of Olhão, especially in the area of the city’s markets. The fall of the day, the light, the coming of the night … It’s wonderful! With a view, of course, to the Ria Formosa!

14. Visiting the fresh markets in Olhão early in the morning

It is worth getting up early to visit the markets in Olhão, which recently recovered and with new air. Olhão has two markets, one for fruits, vegetables, and local products, such as spices, regional sweets, or sausages, and another, the fish market. The fish market, they say, is more alive on Tuesdays and Saturdays, so if you’re in town these days don’t make it easy.

15. Travel the route of the legends of Olhão

The city of Olhão decided to put its legends on the streets and tell them to anyone visiting the city. There are five legends and five statues that allow you to follow an urban trail through the old part of the city. This trail takes about 30 to 40 minutes to travel and is an excellent way to explore the urban part of Olhão.

16. Explore street art in Olhão

Street artists in the Algarve must be very good because the city of Olhão is full of places magnificently painted by graffiti and plastic artists. Dare to walk around the city to find out.

17. Visit the Ria Formosa Natural Park

Visiting the Ria Formosa Natural Park in Olhão can be an extraordinary way to discover the island’s biodiversity and Geography. It is possible to walk in the park or by bicycle and it is a beautiful family program for an afternoon or morning in the Ria Formosa region.

18. Visit Ria Formosa on a boat tour in Fuzeta

An excellent option to visit the Ria Formosa is to take the boat trip, for one hour, through the Fuzeta area. Unfortunately, the company we used “Passeios – Ria Formosa” was a disappointment. The hour trip was only 45 minutes and we did not go to some of the places that were included in the itinerary, namely Praia do Homem Nu, which included a 15-minute stop for a swim. So, look for alternatives to this tour that is very beautiful and should be one of the highlights to visit the Algarve and the Ria Formosa.

19. Getting to know Fuzeta beach, one of the most beautiful landscapes to visit in Ria Formosa

From Olhão to Fuzeta it is just over 10 minutes by car and it is even worth exploring the Ria Formosa in this region. In Fuzeta you can buy a boat ticket and cross to the beach of Fuzeta but you can do more than that. You can also take a taxi boat (3.5 € / person) to the deserted islands off Fuzeta, namely Barra Nova, Barra Velha, etc. Do not miss this experience when visiting the Ria Formosa.

20. Know the history of Torre de Aires

The village of Torre de Aires, in Tavira, has a series of Islamic defense structures to protect the Algarve coast. There are several interesting places to visit, but the best is the alignment of watchtowers along the marginal road parallel to the Ria Formosa. A visit to the Ria Formosa is worth visiting.

21. Eat a drumming and tongue skewer at Marisqueira Fialho, in Torres de Aires

If you are looking to eat seafood and bivalves from Ria Formosa, Marisqueira Fialho is a good option. It is a simple, traditional place with popular service and fair prices. We eat cueirão and a magnificent spike of monkfish and prawns but they say that the cueirão rice is to cry for more!

22. Take the Praia do Barril trail

The Barril beach trail is an excellent walking route on the Ria Formosa (or tourist train) to discover the traditional art of tuna fishing in the Algarve.

23. Eating octopus at Casa do Polvo in Santa Luzia, not to be missed when visiting Ria Formosa

Whatever happens, if you appreciate Portuguese cuisine, you can’t help eating octopus at Santa Luzia in Tavira. Believe us! There are many good restaurants but we have always been to Casa do Polvo and are super fans.

24. Take the trail of Tavira Island

The island of Tavira is magnificent for beach making but there is also a small trail to discover the barrier island around the campsite on the Ria Formosa. It is an excellent program to combine a day at the beach on the island of Ria Formosa.

25. Contemplate fishermen’s work in Quatro Águas, in Tavira

Four glasses of water are the base of fishermen in Tavira, where you can still appreciate the art of fishing and witness the daily work of this demanding and important profession in the Algarve and the Ria Formosa.

26. Explore the Salinas de Tavira

The Salinas de Tavira is an excellent place for a beautiful tour of the historical and cultural heritage of this Algarve city and the Ria Formosa. The work of salt in these parts is ancestral and the landscape does not leave us indifferent to the work of man to dominate nature.

27. Discover the beautiful village of Tavira when visiting the Ria Formosa

Tavira is one of the most beautiful small towns in the Algarve to discover on foot and in a peaceful way. It is worth getting lost and walking through the narrow streets of the old town. We couldn’t talk about Ria Formosa without sharing with you one of the restaurants we like most in the Algarve, 7imeio. Do not miss the magnificent octopus and tapas as it is an excellent choice for lunch or dinner in Olhão.

29. Taste the regional sweet Morgado of almonds from the Algarve

Don’t resist, believe me! It’s not worth it. This is one of the best regional sweets in Portugal. It is the almond Morgado of the Algarve, a sweet to cry for more and that you have to taste when visiting the Ria Formosa.

30. Enjoy the wonderful beach of Cacela Velha

Cacela Velha is one of the most beautiful places on the Ria Formosa, with an excellent beach, beautiful cafes, and restaurants. It is a must-see place to go for oysters, drink a beer and a drink at sunset and take the opportunity to take a dip in the sea in the Ria Formosa.

Where to sleep when visiting Ria Formosa

1. Where to sleep in Olhão

In Olhão, on the Ria Formosa, you can stay in some excellent wonderful places to explore the Ria Formosa. From there you have access to the beaches of Culatra and Farol, as well as Armona. You can choose to:

2. Where to sleep in Tavira

In Tavira, on the Ria Formosa, you can stay in some excellent places, in different areas. You can choose to stay:

3. Where to sleep in Fuzeta

In Fuzeta you can also stay in some excellent places to explore the Ria Formosa. From there you have access to the beaches of Culatra and Tavira, as well as Armona.

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