Guide to Hiking in Ria Formosa and Faro

The city of Faro and Ria Formosa Natural Park are a match made in heaven for many reasons. Our home city is the ideal blend of old and new. It is rich in history, culture, and tradition, but as the Algarve’s capital, it also has incredible restaurants, charming cafes, and tempting shops.

But with Ria Formosa Natural Park on our doorstep too, Faro is surrounded by stunning scenery and gorgeous landscapes waiting to be explored. Formosamar’s Ria Formosa boat tours and outdoor activities in Faro are the perfect gateway to this natural playground for locals and visitors alike. But there are many incredible hiking trails to enjoy too.

If you want to hit one or more of these trails during your stay here, then this guide to hiking in Ria Formosa and Faro is for you! Scroll down to find our route recommendations and hiking advice — and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Ria Formosa Marina Faro

Where are Faro and Ria Formosa Natural Park?

Nestled along the southern coast of Portugal, Faro is a charming city known for a history that spans centuries, a vibrant, welcoming culture, and breathtaking natural beauty. Immediately to the south of the city lies Ria Formosa Natural Park, a coastal haven renowned for its diverse ecosystems, picturesque landscapes, and abundant wildlife.

Stretching over 60 kilometres of coastline, Ria Formosa is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. It’s also a wetland of international importance, or Ramsar site. The reserve consists of a labyrinth of salt marshes, lagoons, and barrier islands, all of which provide the perfect backdrop for hiking adventures that showcase the region’s unique biodiversity and stunning scenery.

When is the Best Time to Hike in Faro and Ria Formosa?

While Faro and Ria Formosa boast mild temperatures and sunny skies year-round, the best times to explore the trails are in spring, late summer, and autumn. During these times, the weather is pleasantly warm and the flora and fauna are at their most vibrant. They also avoid the peak crowds and hottest temperatures of mid-summer.

For a deeper dive into this topic, read our blog When is the Best Time to Visit the Algarve? It’s filled with local insights to help you choose the time of year for a trip that’s right for you.

Now, let’s lace up our hiking boots and embark on a journey through some of the most captivating trails in the area!

Ludo Walking Trail

Our first stop is the Ludo Walking Trail, a picturesque, linear route that winds through the saltpans, marshes, creeks, and pine forests of Ria Formosa. This easygoing trail offers stunning views of the lagoon and ample opportunities for birdwatching, particularly during the migratory seasons. In fact, it pairs perfectly with our Ria Formosa Birdwatching Tour.

As you meander along the wooden boardwalks and sandy paths, keep an eye out for flamingos, herons, and the many other coastal birds that call this wetland home. With its tranquil atmosphere and diverse wildlife, the Ludo Walking Trail is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts of all ages.

To reach the trail, travel toward Faro Airport on the N125 road and then take the first exit at the roundabout to Praia de Faro. After 500 meters you will reach another roundabout. Here, take the first exit again, this time onto the road EM527-1.

Ludo Walking Trail at a Glance

  • Length — 8.5km (approximately) one-way
  • Walking Time — 2 to 4 hours on average
  • Difficulty Level — Easy

São Lourenço Walking Trail

Next up, we have the São Lourenço Walking Trail, another birdwatching hotspot! This scenic route takes you along the rugged coastline, past sand dunes, secluded beaches, and ancient ruins dating back to Roman times. You’ll even pass a golf course too!

As you hike along the paths, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding islands. The environments in the area — namely scrubland, marshland, and freshwater lakes — provide habitats for a stunning array of wildlife.

If you visit during low tide, watch out for waders and other aquatic birds, Fiddler crabs, and the hardworking fishermen searching for shellfish. And when you reach one of the bird hides facing a freshwater lake, see if you can spot the Purple Swamphen — it’s the symbol of the Ria Formosa Natural Park!

To reach the São Lourenço Trail, head out towards Almancil on the N125 road. Make the turn toward Quinta do Lago and then follow signs to the Quinta do Lago Beach car park. As an added bonus, Quinta do Lago Beach was one of our picks for the best beaches in Faro!

São Lourenço Walking Trail at a Glance

  • Length — 3km (approximately) out and back
  • Walking Time — 1.5 to 2 hours on average
  • Difficulty Level — Easy

Marim Centre of Environmental Education Walking Trail

For those seeking a deeper understanding of Ria Formosa’s ecosystems, the Marim Centre of Environmental Education Walking Trail is the perfect choice. This interpretive trail winds through the salt marshes and tidal flats, offering informative signage and interactive exhibits along the way.

Learn about the park’s flora and fauna, conservation efforts, and cultural heritage as you explore this educational and immersive trail. Don’t forget to visit the onsite visitor centre (open on weekdays only), where you can discover even more about the natural wonders of Ria Formosa.

This short trail is a great way to see all the habitats that make up Ria Formosa Natural Park, as well as interesting features like a tide mill, a noria, and Roman ruins. Please note, when visiting on a weekday and using the facilities, you will need to pay an entrance fee at the gate.

To reach the trail, head out of Faro on the N125 toward Olhão and Tavira. Around one kilometre after Olhão, make the turn when you see an arrow pointing to Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.

Marim Centre of Environmental Education Walking Trail at a Glance

  • Length — 3.5km (approximately) roundtrip
  • Walking Time — 2.5 hours on average
  • Difficulty Level — Easy

Ilha da Culatra Walking Trail

Step back in time with a visit to Ilha da Culatra, a charming fishing village nestled on a barrier island in Ria Formosa. This traditional community is accessible only by boat and offers a glimpse into the timeless way of life of the local fishermen.

Explore the narrow streets, colourful houses, and quaint cafes as you wander through the village. Then, set off on the Ilha da Culatra Walking Trail, which leads you along the coastline and through the dunes to some of the island’s most scenic spots. And when you reach the crystal-clear water of the Atlantic Ocean washing over the white sand beach, why not cool off with a refreshing swim?

If this sounds like your kind of experience, find out more about our customisable private boat charter in the Algarve. Let us take you to Ilha da Culatra for a day you’ll never forget! For more boating adventures, be sure to check out our Boat Tour to Deserta and Farol Islands in Ria Formosa.

Ilha da Culatra Walking Trail at a Glance

  • Length — 5.6km (approximately) out and back
  • Walking Time — 2 hours on average
  • Difficulty Level — Easy

Barril Beach Walking Trail

Last but not least, we have the Barril Beach Walking Trail, a family-friendly route that combines history, nature, and relaxation. Begin your journey at the charming village of Santa Luzia, where you can catch a miniature train to the beach.

As you stroll along the golden sands, you’ll pass by the remnants of an old tuna fishing village, including the iconic Anchor Cemetery—a haunting yet fascinating reminder of the island’s maritime past. Take a dip in the refreshing waters or simply unwind and soak up the sun on this idyllic stretch of coastline.

For this day trip out of Faro, take either the A22 (Via do Infante) or the N125 road to Tavira. Around 2km east of Luz de Tavira, make your way to Pedras d’El Rei. Park in the car park near the beach here or at the side of the road leading to Santa Luzia.

Learn more about Olhão and Tavira in our Guide to the Towns in the Algarve. And find even more travel inspiration for adventures east of Faro with our picks for the best things to do in the Eastern Algarve

Essential Tips for Hiking in Ria Formosa and Faro

  • Prepare Accordingly: Before setting off on your hike, make sure to check the weather forecast and dress appropriately. Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear suitable for walking on varied terrain. Our Essential Guide to Ria Formosa Natural Park is a great pre-trip read too.
  • Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially during the warmer months. Consider carrying a refillable water bottle to minimize waste and ensure you have access to clean drinking water throughout your hike.
  • Protect Yourself from the Sun: The sun in Portugal can be intense, so don’t forget to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Consider hiking early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the peak sun hours.
  • Respect Wildlife and Nature: Ria Formosa is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, so be sure to tread lightly and respect the natural environment. Avoid disturbing wildlife, stay on designated trails, and refrain from littering or leaving behind any traces of your visit.
  • Bring Snacks and Supplies: Pack snacks, a packed lunch, and any necessary supplies for your hike, such as a map, compass, first aid kit, and insect repellent. It’s also a good idea to carry a mobile phone or communication device in case of emergencies.
  • Be Mindful of Tides and Weather: If you’re hiking along the coast or visiting tidal areas, be aware of the tide times and plan your hike accordingly. Sudden changes in weather, including fog and strong winds, can also affect your hike, so be prepared and exercise caution.
  • Inform Someone of Your Plans: Before embarking on your hike, inform a friend or family member of your itinerary, including your planned route and expected return time. This ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts and can raise the alarm if necessary.

Keep Exploring the Algarve with Our Ria Formosa Boat Tours

We hope this Guide to Hiking in Ria Formosa and Faro has inspired you to explore the Algarve’s spectacular natural scenery. Remember, our Ria Formosa boat tours and outdoor activities in Faro provide even more options for connecting with the beautiful nature surrounding us.

If you have any questions for the Formosamar team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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