Algarve’s barrier islands

sunset over a calm sea by Algarve's barrier islands

Do you want that Robinson Crusoe feeling?

The barrier islands that shield part of mainland Algarve, stretching from Quinta do Lago eastwards to Cacela Velha, offer visitors just that opportunity.

The islands form part of the protected Ria Formosa Natural Park so, for obvious reasons, visitors are asked to respect the sensitive ecosystem. One idea that prevents damage to the dunes has been the construction of wooden boardwalks and footbridges.

There are many islands in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, but we feature just a few that may interest you.

Ilha Deserta

Taking the ferry from Faro, click here for more information, the first port of call is Ilha Deserta (also known as Ilha da Barreta) which is devoid of any buildings, except the restaurant O Estaminé.

The island is 7kms long and at its widest point just 600m wide and is a perfect place to enjoy the colourful birds that breed in the dunes and fly overhead during their migration.

Culatra – Ilha do Farol

Ilha do Farol is in fact part of Culatra. This island is 6kms long and at its widest point 900m.

Farol is Portuguese for lighthouse and it’s on the island of Culatra that the Farol do Cabo de Santa Maria is built. For more information on the Algarve’s llighthouses click here.

The small village of Farol is easily accessed from the jetty where the ferry drops visitors off. 

Consisting of small single-level homes for fishermen and summer homes for “mainland” families. Farol has a few restaurants however, there are no hotels.

About 1.5kms east visitors will find Praia dos Hungares. Here you will find an old bunker, a legacy from when the Portuguese Navy anchored its seaplanes at the island.

There is a large pier by the weir which is used by diving schools, for teaching purposes and fishermen can also be seen enjoying the peace and quiet.

Culatra can also be reached from Olhão which is just 6kms away.

Ilha da Armona

Again reached from Faro or Olhão, this island is around 9kms long and just 1km at its widest.

It has a campsite and a small permanent population of approximately 50. There are restaurants and cafés which serve, as expected, excellent fish dishes.

Praia da Armona (Mar) is the long beach that stretches to the east and where the Algarve’s sensational sunsets can be truly savoured.

If you prefer the calmer and warmer waters of the inlets, then try Praia da Armona Ria on the mainland side of the island. The sandbanks provide natural swimming pools here.

Ilha de Tavira

This island is free of cars and can be reached by ferry or via the small narrow-gauge railway and on foot.

There are restaurants and cafés but no hotel or campsite.

It is on this island that Praia do Barril can be found, with its strange anchor cemetery. Read more about this unusual sight here.

Ilha de Cabanas

To the east of Ilha de Tavira, opposite Cabanas, is Ilha de Cabanas.

Just a narrow strip of sand where fishermen are often found, this island can be reached by boat from the village of Cabanas.

There is a wooden boardwalk across the dunes, which leads to the only restaurant on the island.

A perfect place for a peaceful walk, collect shells and enjoy a bit of windsurfing!

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