If city streets full of tourists and souvenir shops arenâ€™t for you, then stray off the beaten track towards an experience that is altogether more breathtaking, authentic and unique. Ria Formosa Natural Park is located just 30 minutes from Faro, and is one of the Algarveâ€™s best spots for exploring the natural wonders of Portugal.
A Unique Coastal Lagoon
As one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal, the Ria Formosa Natural Park is a place that is internationally recognised for its diverse mixture of habitats and ecosystems. Spread along the stunning Algarve coast, the beaches, canals, islands and marshland of the park all offer the chance to spot some truly amazing flora and fauna, along with taking in some unforgettable views of the Portuguese scenery.
Due to the ever-changing nature of its tides, winds and currents, this unique coastal lagoon offers a different experience for each visitor. For a magnificent view over the whole area, head to the historical town of Cacela Velha, from whose fortress you can admire the estuary, sea and sky.
Islands and Peninsulas
Ria Formosa Natural Park is comprised of a huge 18,000 hectares and is protected from the sea by a number of barrier islands and peninsulas. The peninsulas of Cacela and AncÃ£o (which the locals call the island of Faro), along with the islands of Barreta, Armona, Tavira, Cabanas and Culatra (where the lighthouse of Santa Maria stands), are dotted along the Algarve coast and are all worth exploring.
There are multiple ways to get acquainted with this amazing place, including guided walks, bike rides, boat trips and kayaking, all of which offer a different perspective of this picturesque paradise. One must-see local activity is the gathering of shellfish, such as clams, mussels and razors. These then play a delicious part in some of Portugalâ€™s most delectable dishes. Why not try them for yourself in a seaside restaurant?
Flora and Fauna
Perhaps the biggest draw for visitors is the parkâ€™s diverse and colourful range of wildlife. In particular, Ria Formosa is like heaven for keen birdwatchers, as its wetland habitat is home to more than 20,000 winged creatures. Lucky visitors will spot the rare purple swamphen, whose stunning plumage appears on the emblem of the National Park.
Another species of fauna thatâ€™s worth a glimpse is the Portuguese water dog, an animal native to the Algarve which helps fishermen by diving and retrieving the fish that are caught in their nets. The lagoon actually serves as a nursery for several species of fish, as well as being the source of 80% of Portugalâ€™s clam exports.
How to Get There
Make your journey to Ria Formosa Natural Park simple and stress-free with Shuttle Directâ€™s fast and reliable services. Our trustworthy and friendly drivers will get you where you need to go faster than you can say â€œPortuguese water dogâ€!
Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct, the number one provider of shared and private airport transfers all over Europe and northern Africa. If you’re heading to Faro to explore the Ria Formosa Natural Park, Lukas and his colleagues can make sure that you and your luggage get to and from the airport swiftly and safely.
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