Ra Formosa: why this Portuguese landscape is one of the most spectacular in Europe


The Algarve of the neighboring country guards this Natural Park made up of five islands and two peninsulas, in addition to countless lagoons, beaches with golden dunes and turquoise waters, salt flats from Roman times… We walk through it.

Flamingos in the Ra Formosa Natural Park.SHUTTERSTOCK
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It is one of the most spectacular environmental havens in Europe (and beyond). So, no room for discussion. also one of the Seven Natural Wonders From Portugal. The Romans settled here to take advantage of its salt flats. Even the kind pirates francis drake they did their thing among its marshes. And, a long time later, it is still one of the last wild redoubts of the Old Continent.

This would be a small letter of presentation of all the benefits that the Ra Formosana unique landscape of the Portuguese Algarve, half sweet and half salty, made up of five islands (Armona, Culatra or Farol, Barreta or Deserta, Tavira and Cabanas), two peninsulas (Anco and Cacela), lagoons, canals golden dunesbeaches with turquoise waters, estuaries, forests, chaos, eyes, salt flats from Roman times and even a graveyard of more than 200 anchors rusty stranded (the largest of its kind in Europe) located on the sand of the Barrel Beach, in front of the beautiful municipality of Santa Luzia.

Ferries moored in the R
Boats moored in the Ra Formosa of the Algarve.I. GARCA

And everything, in a space of 18,400 hectares and 60 kilometers of coastline that was created by the work and grace of earthquake that destroyed all of Lisbon in 1755 and whose claws reached here. Much later, in 1987, he declared Natural Park over 170 square kilometers of territory. It is also a Protected Humid Area of ​​International Importance, as certified by UNESCO. So what lighthouse airport it literally passes through the middle of it, one of the many curiosities of the place.

the R
The Ra Formosa is made up of five islands.

The best way to explore the ra is by getting on one of the many boats that depart from the towns of Olhao, Santa Luzia (before you have to take a little train that takes you into the area) or Pharaoh, the Algarve capital. We opted for the latter on a catamaran from the company Ra Formosa Boat Tours, which also organizes three-hour trips to the main points of interest in the park that a walk to see the sunset (another European record: they also say it is one of the most beautiful on the continent) with wine included or a full day with stops on islands such as harmony, natural habitat of hundreds of birds.

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Two young men about to catch a boat.I. GARCA

The latter is one of the one of the activities that travelers enjoy the most, as Luis Pinto assures, in command of one of the vessels of the aforementioned company. “They also like it for the dunes of Culatraanother of the islands, where fans of windsurfing they have a real paradise”, he explains before landing on it. In the distance you can see the beautiful lighthouse of Santa María.

ornithological paradise

Not surprisingly, this corner of the Algarve is home to more than 30,000 types of birds, many of them in danger of extinction, which is why it is considered one of the main ornithological meccas (once again) in Europe. Beware of the flamingos that swarm over its freshwater lagoons, but also the little bittern, the squid, the red duck or the black-headed weaver. To name a few.

One of the boats that ply the r
One of the boats that ply the ra.

Not to mention the chameleon or the Seahorse, with the largest population in the world scattered around these parts. And there is more: these waters circulate 300 types of fish and 200 molluscs. For some reason, 90% of all of Portugal’s shellfish production comes from the Ra Formosa, especially clams and oysters, at a rate of 600 tons a year in the case of the latter. That is why it is also not difficult to see some shellfisher giving the task when the tide is low.

The sighting of p
Bird watching is one of the activities of the place.

Because that is another: every six hours it changes, some areas being able to reach a depth of 3.8 metres. Just ask Nuno Gomes, a local vendor who proudly stocks the local octopus. “No matter how many oysters and clams there are, my star product is the octopus,” he affirms with conviction.

That there are five types of clams precisely one finds out on board the ship. “Japnica, chocolate, giant, fresh water and Iceland”, lists Anna, a young Polish woman living in the Algarve and in love with the area who acts as a guide on the boat. She also says that “formosa” means “beautiful” translated from Portuguese, so imagine the views from the ship. Or do not imagine: see the photos that illustrate these words.

Tourists in a boat through the waters of the Portuguese enclave
Tourists in a boat through the waters of the Portuguese enclave.I. GARCA

It’s time to discover an authentic desert island. Not in vain, although its original name is Barreta, they call it that: Deserta. Nobody lives in it, except a fisherman in charge of the only restaurant in the place, stamina, a beautiful design building in which to taste (of course) the fish and shellfish of the area as oysters, clams, cuttlefish, mackerel, shrimp…

A clam collector in the Natural Park.
A clam collector in the Natural Park.

The list of options is endless, so you will have to sign up for several lunches. To lower the culinary tribute one can walk along the 11 kilometers of Sandy beaches golden that the island has, also perfect for surfing or diving, in addition to enjoying one of the most impressive sunsets ever seen. With her we say goodbye.

The Estamin restaurant
The Estamin restaurant on the Desert Island.

More information on the Algarve Tourism website.

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