Are you planning your next travel adventure in Portugal’s Algarve region? Let us start by saying you’ve made an excellent choice!
As Portugal’s southernmost region, the Algarve is renowned for glorious sunshine, beautiful beaches, rugged coastlines, great seafood, natural wonders, and much more.
Faro is the capital of the Algarve, so it’s hardly surprising that there are many amazing things to see and do in and around the city.
And as a leading provider of activities and boat trips in Faro and Ria Formosa, we can give local insights that help you make the most of your time here.
If you have any questions about our tours, please feel free to get in touch.
In the meantime, let’s focus on the best things to do in Faro!
Wander the Winding Streets of the Old Town
No trip to Faro is complete without exploring the stunning Old Town.
With a history stretching back over 2,000 years, and having been occupied by the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, and Moors, Faro has many stories to tell.
During their occupation in the 9th century, the Moors fortified Faro by building defensive walls around the city. You can still see these structures today.
Faro’s Old Town is home to important landmark buildings, cobblestone streets, captivating churches, Roman passages, fascinating museums, cosy cafes, and lively squares.
Exploring the Old Town is the perfect introduction to life here. To cover more ground in comfort, consider our electric bike rentals in Faro.
Admire Arco da Vila, the Gateway to the Old Town
An Earthquake in 1755 devastated Faro. Bishop Francisco Gomes do Avelar oversaw much of the reconstruction process.
This includes the building of a new gateway in the city walls on the original site of a much older Moorish structure.
The Genoese architect Francisco Xavier Fabri designed Arco da Vila and construction finished in 1812.
The result is a beautiful neo-classical archway complete with a recessed statue of St Thomas Aquinas above the arch itself. There’s even a bell tower too!
You can also view previous structures inside Arco da Vila, including ancient stone walls and a medieval horseshoe arch from the Moorish era.
Explore the Wonders of Ria Formosa Natural Park
Stretching for 60 km along the Algarve coast, from Garrão to Manta Rota, the Ria Formosa is a spectacular maze of islands, barrier islands, marshes, and canals.
It’s one of Portugal’s seven natural wonders and BirdLife International awarded it the status of “important bird area”.
Sailing through the vivid blue waterways is an incredible way to connect with nature and see the varied Algarve coastline.
While it’s common to spot dolphins and porpoises in these waters, the bird-watching opportunities are on a different level entirely.
Hundreds of native birds call the Ria Formosa home, while many stop here on migration routes between Europe and Africa.
Just some of the species you can find in Ria Formosa include:
- Purple Swamphens
Do you want to discover Ria Formosa’s birdlife with Formosamar? Check out our Birdwatching Boat Tour in the Algarve.
Led by a knowledgeable nature tour guide, this isn’t just one of the best things to do in Faro, but also one of the most interesting.
Visit the Resilient Faro Cathedral (Sé Catedral de Faro)
Also known as Igreja da Sé, Faro Cathedral dates back to the 13th century.
However, the only remnant from the original construction in 1251 is the tower, its main doorway, and two chapels.
The significant repairs during the cathedral’s lifetime are due to the damage caused by two major earthquakes and a raid by the English in 1596.
During the latter, the cathedral was sacked and burned.
As such, the interiors you can find there today are from the 17th and 18th centuries.
There are luxurious tile panels and gilded woodwork, and the altar and side chapel glisten with gold. The choir walls are a striking sight with their multi-coloured azulejos.
A mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, Faro Cathedral is a must-visit location. You can also climb the tower for a birds-eye view of the surrounding area.
For more adventures on land outside the city, check out our Ria Formosa cycling tour from Faro.
Sail Out to Farol and Deserta (Barreta) Islands
The outer islands in the lagoons have golden sandy beaches washed by azure waters. And because you can only reach them by boat, they’re more or less unspoiled.
On quieter days, there are no signs of life outside the small communities found here.
Deserta Island, also known as Barreta Island, sits west of one of the most important sea entrances of the Ria Formosa.
To the east is an island that is technically both Farol and Culatra islands.
Visiting these islands is the ideal way to relax, take in picturesque scenery, and see how the small, friendly communities here live and work.
Oyster and clam farms, fishing towns, lighthouses, white sand beaches, clear ocean water, and the southernmost point of Portugal (the Santa Maria Cape) — there’s a wealth of history and culture waiting for you to explore.
Our boat trips to Deserta and Farol Islands are the perfect addition to any Faro holiday itinerary.
Discover Faro and Ria Formosa with Our Activities and Boat Trips
The above is only an introduction to the best things to do in Faro and the surrounding areas. There are plenty more adventures for you to enjoy on land and sea.
Get an idea of the possibilities available by browsing our activities and boat trips in Faro and Ria Formosa.
For more information about our excursions and rental services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.