The Algarve’s Ria Formosa Lagoon known as the Parque Natural de Ria Formosa is one of Portugal’s most beautiful natural harbours. Situated between Quinta do Lago and Cacela Velha in the central Algarve, the lagoon is home to a wide variety of birds, plant life, and crustaceans. Large expanses of marshes and salty areas provide habitats for many types of wildlife. The lagoon is best known for its birdlife such as storks, flamingos, common caimans, dwarf sea swallows, grey plovers, tailor birds, waders, common hawthorns, straight beaked kingfishers, ducks and water cocks. Some birds of prey such as the hunting kestrel are also seen in this area.
The park’s headquarters just east of Olhão is an excellent spot for visitors to orient themselves about the region. There is a well laid out walking tour where different aspects of the lagoon environment are explained: the salt marshes with their salt production facilities, the dunes, pine woodlands and traditional agriculture. Some traditional buildings, including a tidal mill and a traditional farmhouse have been restored, and there are even some Roman ruins. A traditional, restored tuna transport boat is used for trips around the lagoon and don’t miss the kennels where webfooted Portuguese Waterdogs are bred.
The most important cities near the Ria Formosa are Tavira, Faro and Olhão.
There are also some towns in this area, whose names are: Fuzeta (which belongs to the municipality of Olhão), Santa Luzia, Cabanas de Tavira (these last two belonging to Tavira) and Cacela Velha (which belongs to Vila Real de Santo António).
Several buses run from Tavira to Cabanas and back each day. The nearest train station is in nearby Conceição which is on the Tavira to Vila Real line.