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Ria Formosa Algarve

Updated on September 13, 2010

Ria Formosa Natural Park

The Ria Formosa is situated in the Algarve along the Eastern coast, from Ancão beach in the council of Loulé passing through Algarve´s capital Faro, all the way to Manta Rota beach close to the city of Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

Ria Formosa´s 60 km extension is its widest with 8 km in Faro and was proclaimed a Natural Park in 1987 and before that a Natural Reserve.

The name Ria means mouth of a river or fluvial valley that is influenced by the tides, which is not the case.

In fact the Ria Formosa is a system of barrier islands about of 18.400 hectares in total that connects with the Atlantic Ocean through a series of channels subjected by tides and currents.

These channels were naturally made by nature but greatly changed by the last striking wave due to the oceanic earthquake in 1755.

Ria Formosas 60 km coastal extension
Ria Formosas 60 km coastal extension
View of Faro City, Airport and Ria Formosa
View of Faro City, Airport and Ria Formosa
Eastern most point of Ria Formosa
Eastern most point of Ria Formosa

Man´s Intervention

The channels have been modified throughout the ages not only by natural deposit and washing erosion but by man as well.

Mid 20th century the channel between Farol Island and Deserta Island was protected with massive concrete blocks to lessen the natural erosion and guarantee a shipping passage to Faro and Olhão´s Port.

As well because of the ever dynamic sands, a new channel was opened in the 90´s just west of the original channel in Faro Island that was being blocked by shifting sands and asphyxiating Ria Formosa.

The scenery between high and low tide is so great that it’s hard to believe you´re admiring the same paradise.

This constant tidal change provides Ria Formosa with the oxygen rich clean water.

Archeological sites found in the area show remains of Roman and Phoenician settlements related to various sea and fishing activities and recently found, evidence that a few thousand years ago salt extraction ponds were man made that still last today.

In the middle of the lagoon near one of the islands, in low tide you can see the remnants of what used to be a fort, large stones scattered around and still with canons that now are homes of small fish and crab.

It shows that the Ria Formosa was a crucial area to defend in the Discoveries era.

Farol lighthouse
Farol lighthouse

Animal life

Aquatic birds find sheltered breeding places and a must stop for migrating ones.

Flamingos are amongst the favorite to be appreciated. A true birdwatchers spot.

Hundreds of fish species of the Atlantic as well as other marine species reproduce in what is for them a heaven.

Some fish species come in the Ria Formosa to grow while other species of bigger fish come in to feed.

Cultivating the Ria Formosa

Thousands of families make their living and are fed from the Ria Formosa. Either by fishing or caring for clam and oyster nurseries, or tending the salt farms.

It really is remarkable how this gifted Natural Park can supply complete nourishment and income to so many families.

You can find Ria Formosa oysters in France, the famous flôr de sal in Germany, fished tuna exported to Japan and this list goes on and on.

More Ria Formosa Algarve Pictures

Ria Formosa near Olho
Ria Formosa near Olho
Ria Formosa near Tavira
Ria Formosa near Tavira
Old house in the middle of the Ria Formosa
Old house in the middle of the Ria Formosa
Ria Formosa seaside at Fuzeta
Ria Formosa seaside at Fuzeta
Ria Formosa untouched banks
Ria Formosa untouched banks

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