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cacela velha vakantieoostalgarve

The nature of the
Eastern Algarve

In addition to the hills and the beautiful views in the hinterland, the Eastern Algarve is especially famous for the Ria Formosa

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Ria Formosa: what is it?

The Ria Formosa is a protected nature reserve of approximately 60 km along the coast of the Eastern Algarve. To be specific: from Ançao to Manta Rota, the total area is 18,400 Ha. It covers the districts of Loule, Faro. Olhao, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio.


It is a system of barrier islands, with about 6 openings to the Atlantic Ocean. 

The Ria Formosa  in addition to being a nature park, it is also very important for the regional economy,  in addition to attracting tourism, it also houses fish farms, from tuna to shells. It is also a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and autumn migrations. 

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Ria Formosa, and beyond...

The Ria Formosa and beyond


The Ria Formosa is a wintering place for birds from northern and central Europe. 

The Purple Gallinule has been declared the figurehead of the Ria Formosa. 

Find out more about birding,

click here.


Besides birds, you stumble across Chameleon and Fiddler crabs, seafood is also farmed; 1,000 ha provide almost 80% of Portugal's exports.


Find out more at the Ria Formosa visitor park:

Centro de Educação Ambiental de Marin, Quelfes / Olhao 

tel: 00351-919284842


opening hours: Mondays. Fridays from 08:00 to 20:00

weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Dogs are not allowed!

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Parque Natural da Ria Formosa covers about 270 km2 and extends from Quinta do Lago in the west to Monte Gordo in the east. It is bordered on the west by the Ancão peninsula and on the east by that of Manta Rota (Cacela Velha).


Five very narrow islands, Barreta, Culatra, Armona, Tavira and Cabanas, lying parallel to the coast, form a barrier between the coast and the ocean. 

As a result, the water is calm on the coastal side, where channels meander between the sandbanks. Because of the gaps between the islands, the tides are very noticeable in the lagoon. 


Under the influence of sea and wind, the islands constantly change shape. On the islands off the coast you will find the long, beautiful sandy beaches. The islands of Culatra and Armona are permanently inhabited and it is a mixture of tourists and locals. The atmosphere is relaxed and convivial and it is like going back in time. From Faro, Olhao, Fuseta, Tavira and Cabanas, the islands can be reached by ferry and/or water taxis.  


The island of Tavira does not necessarily require a ferry or water taxi. The beach at Praia da Barril can be reached by a small train or a footpath through the Ria Formosa. It is definitely worth visiting the islands and soaking up the atmosphere or enjoying the beautiful beaches. The 'hiking' section elsewhere on this website provides some suggestions for nice trips.

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Cerra de Cabeça

What is also fun to do is hike to the viewpoint (and beyond) on the Cerra de Cabeça near Moncarapacho.


In clear weather, you can see Monte Gordo (near Spain) on the far left and Quarteira on the right, and you can see the numerous islands off the coast.

There is a hiking trail (marked red with yellow) that is 6 to 10 km long.

How to get there: 

Turn into the road opposite the Alcantarilhas supermercado in Moncarapacho heading north, and you'll see a small car park on the left after about 2 km.

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