Ria Formosa Galleries

Image galleries of the Ria Formosa, the unique lagoon system stretching along the Eastern Algarve coast from the village of Cacela Velha near Tavira to Faro International Airport in the west

This lagoon landscape is well protected from the open sea of the Atlantic Ocean by a chain of islands and peninsulas. These barrier islands link with the sea via 6 inlets. Five of these inlets were naturally made and have changeable aspects but the 6th is an artificial inlet that was created to facilitate access to Faro's port. Most of the popular beaches are located behind long sandy dunes on the sea side of the islands. The sand dunes, islands and spits to the open sea are continuously shaped by tidal changes. The scenery undergoes particularly dramatic changes with the spring tides, as the extensive mudflats are exposed at low tide followed by a continuous watery landscape just six hours later. The salt marshes, sandbanks, dunes and estuaries of the Ria form an internationally important breeding, wintering and staging area for numerous species of water birds, and many migrating birds stop over here on their passage south. Since the mid-eighties, the Ria Formosa has been a nature reserve, where sea water birds can find protected breeding places and many fish species of the Northern Atlantic as well as other marine organisms reproduce. The commercial use is limited to special areas such as sea salt basins and mussel banks. The excellent water quality, without detectable contamination by industrial effluents, sewage dumping, agricultural and radioactive pollutants, favours the traditional gathering of sea salt.