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Nature Parks in the Algarve

This subject is by no means a complete overview of the nature parks in the Algarve. We describe the most important and most beautiful distinctive nature areas in the South of Portugal.

Ria Formosa National Park

Ria Formosa wetlands - birdwatching paradise - Ludo Faro

Ria Formosa National Park is is one of the Natural Parks in the Algarve. A protected nature reserve and a must for nature lovers.
The park covers 60 kilometres coastline in the Eastern Algarve.  A coastal dune system separates the labyrinth of lagoons lagoons from the sea.

Enormous variety of natural habitats provide shelter, food and breeding areas. Hence the reserve offers a unique flora and fauna. It is the home of a large range of shellfish (oysters and Venus shells). The largest concentration of sea horses in Portugal and a wide variety of fish live here too. They are a source of food for the many birds that come to feed and breed in the area.

Rise and fall of the sea and the ever-changing levels of salt in the lagoons cause an enormous biodiversity. They also result in the constant creation of new lagoons, channels and islands.

Visitor centre Quinta de Marim of the Ria Formosa National Park is in Olhão. Exhibitions, aquariums and an auditorium and the starting point for a walk through the dunes and marshes. The trail is sign posted, but you can also make the trip with a professional guide.

Cabo de São Vicente

Most southwestern tip of the Algarve - Cabo de São Vicente

Cabo de São Vicente is part of the Costa Vicentina National Park. This park is a popular day trip for tourists to the Algarve. Towering cliffs drop hundreds of feet into the sea. One can imagine reaching the “Fim do Mundo”  or the end of the world. Every day local fishermen defy the gusts of wind.  They stand on the small ridges to get their catch of the day.

The Cabo de São Vicente is part of the Costa Vicentina National Park. This park extends along the coast of the Algarve and the Alentejo for over 150 kilometres. Established to protect this pristine part of the west coast from property developers, it is a vast and impressively empty land. Development is prohibited within 1 km off the coast. Tall structures are not allowed along the 80km coastline. The park includes 60.000 acres of land and almost 30.000 acres of sea.

Birdwatching

‘The Cabo’ is a true paradise for bird watchers, nature lovers and photographers. The area has a semi-desert (tundra-like) environment. In springtime field flowers emerge in an explosion of colour, making it a feast for the eye.

Apart from a rich diversity of plants and mammals (otters, badgers, lynx), the bird population is especially characteristic for the area. Along the riverside you find heron-type birds, storks and kingfishers. The cliffs offer an excellent breeding ground for peregrine falcons. And most remarkable: this is the only place in the world where storks nest in the rocks above the sea.

Surfers paradise

The beaches offer the best surfing location of the country with Aljezur as the centre of the action. There are an enormous variety of beaches: some broad and others small and tucked away. Although many secluded beaches are less easily found they are not to be missed.

Guadiana National Park

Summer in Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana

Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana locates in the Alentejo around the town of Mertola. It covers 600 km² of narrow riverbanks dotted with ancient tidal mills, steep ravines in Mediterranean vegetation and magnificent landscape views.

In the northern part of the park you will find the biggest waterfall in southern Portugal. At Pulo do Lobo waterfall (Wolf’s Leap), the ravine is so narrow that it seems that the river can be crossed in one giant leap.

Walking lovers can roam about to their heart’s content. For bird watchers this park is a true haven. In the steep gorges of the river Guadiana you have ample opportunity to spot many bird species. Black stork, Bonelli’s eaglecand eagle owl, among others, live here. Further inland look for the great bustard, Montagu’s harrier, the Spanish imperial eagle and many other species.

The area is also famous for its flora, especially its wide variety of plant species threatened with extinction.

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