Ria Formosa Natural Park: A Birdwatcher’s Paradise

A Self-Guided Tour with Car designed to discover the special and diverse ecosystems of this region, one of the most attractive birdwatching spots in Europe. The Algarve is a famous resort, but is also an amazing site for nature observation, being home for hundreds of endemic bird species, and a wintering and feeding station for many others, which thrive in its rich wetlands, saltmarshes, saltpans, and woods.

We'll provide a route notebook with maps and detailed descriptions, and a rented vehicle to hit the road.


Based in the most important wetland area in the Algarve, the Ria Formosa Natural Park, this personalised tour will also take you to the Guadiana River Estuary and the Castro Marim Natural Reserve. More than a week of holidays, it’s a true chance to escape from the frantic daily life, while surrounded by nature.

Supported by detailed instructions and route notes, you’ll find opportunities not for just for birdwatching, but for nature and bird photography; painting and illustration; scientific research; the pursuit of rarities (twitching), etc.

The Ria Formosa Natural Park covers an area of around 16,000-hectares and consists of coastal lagoons, vast areas of tidal flats, saltmarshes, saltpans and woods that are enclosed by a belt of dune islands and peninsulas. It is of particular importance as a wintering area for many birds from northern Europe and as a resting and feeding station for birds migrating between Africa and Europe. The area is classified under the Ramsar Convention.

Winter brings wintering waders, such as Oystercatchers, Avocets, Dunlins, and Little Stint, amongst others. Wildfowl is also present in impressive numbers, and some of the most common species are Wigeon, Sholever, Pintail and Pochard. Other interesting birds to be found are Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black-winged Kite, Caspian Tern, Bluethroat, and the scarcer Penduline Tit.

Breeding birds include Purple Swamphen, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Collared Pratincole and Audouin’s Gull. The barrier islands hold the largest colonies of Little Tern in Portugal, regularly seen fishing in the shallow waters, as well as a small population of Eurasian Thick-knee and Little Bustard. Interesting breeding birds also include Pallid Swift, Spectacled Warbler, European Bee-eater and Black-eared Wheatear.

In the surrounding woodlands, species like Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodchat Shrike and Golden Oriole are present.

The Castro Marim Natural Reserve presents the visitors with glimpses of European Goldfinches, Short-toed Tree Creepers, and Sardinian warblers, just to name a few. At the saltpans it is possible to watch several species of water birds, including the Audouin's Gull, Little Tern, Collared Pratincole and Yellow Wagtail (spring/summer); Shelduck, Shoveler, Black-necked Grebe and Caspian Tern. All year round it is possible to find Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts, Spoonbills, Greenshanks and Avocets. Kingfisher is regular at this location and, during migration times, Black Tern often turns up.

The route notes are designed to be a simple, easy to use field guide for all who enjoy watching birds in their natural habitat. Each itinerary is accompanied by a map and a description on how to get there, the most interesting species to be found there and various tips about the best way to visit.

We’ll make sure you have an unforgettable experience, with no time consuming search for places to stay, no research on the best birding sites - our tours are complete and most of all perfectly thought through and organised! The tour is designed to be enjoyed no matter your level of birding ability and expertise.

And to fully enjoy all the wonders of this tour you’ll be roosting in the centre of Tavira, just 2km away from the closest bird observation spot!

Spectacular birding in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, which comprises several habitats. It is possible to see a wide range of bird species, wild orchids in the spring, and in the summer months look out for Mediterranean Chameleon.
Traditional Saltpans with numerous tanks, channels, creeks, and drainage ditches, where salt is manually harvested. In autumn and winter the large tanks attract large numbers of birds, and at high tide are a popular roost for many species. In the surrounding woodlands, there are also many bird spotting opportunities.
The Castro Marim Natural Reserve is another wet area with great importance for visitor birds and living-in species
Nature observation
A fantastic itinerary, developed and perfected by keen local birders, very knowledgeable of the region and birding sites.
The hospitality and warmth from the local population.
Portugal is known for its gastronomy and wines, and in the Algarve you’ll be delighted with the fresh fish and seafood.
Our self-guided tours are thoroughly designed and include all the information and services you need, from detailed route notes to a 24h hotline

The tour includes

8 days/7 nights

Complete route notes with descriptions of best birding spots, information on bird species most likely to be found, general information about the region, its culture and traditions.

Comfortable ensuite accommodation BB, next to the Ria Formosa and the sea, in the very heart of the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Package with car included

Possibility of halfboard and single supplement

Hotline number for emergencies

Get your quote below:

Photo Gallery

Bird photographs by Peter Dedicoat