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Published September 1st 2022
It's three hours south of Lisbon
The ancient town of Faro, south of Lisbon, is commonly known as 'The gateway to the Algarve'. Hundreds of planes each day bring holidaymakers who then make their way to the tourist towns along the coast. Few stay in Faro.
I read articles about the town before I arrived and most highlighted the old town, its history and architecture. I ventured further afield during the eight days I spent in Faro. Here's a summary of my five favourite walks.
1. The Old Town. Like most Portuguese towns, Faro is paved in mosaic cobblestones. They are beautiful to look at and difficult to walk on. I have no idea how anyone could walk across these pavements in heels.
I walked around the old town admiring the architecture, some of which dates back to Roman and Moorish times. Parts of a sturdy city wall still stand and incorporate a few impressive arches that were entrances to the original old town.
Many historic tales are illustrated by blue and white ceramic tiles depicting travellers and inhabitants of Faro in ancient days.
The Faro Tourist Office is situated right next to the Arco da Vila and can provide you with an informative paper map. Alternatively, you can punch these places into your smartphone map app. Or just walk. There's plenty to see.
Once you've walked around and enjoyed the old town of Faro, consider a trip to the islands. Close to the marina you'll find booths selling boat-trip tickets. Local ferries are cheap, at around €5 for a return trip. Other tour operators are dearer but either way, it's easy to get to nearby islands.
2. Walk around an uninhabited island. A trip to Ilha Deserta, also known as Barreta Island, presents a beautiful walk. This 7km long island is, as the name suggests, deserted apart from one lone inhabitant who goes fishing a lot. It features a lighthouse, a very long boardwalk and a bit of driftwood beach art. The beach itself is stunning and after walking the length of the boardwalk you can swim in the cool Atlantic Ocean.
3. Walk from one end of Culatra Island to the other. There are two ferry stops here; Farol and Culatra village. We chose to leave the ferry at Farol, check out the lighthouse, and then walk around 3kms to Culatra where we rewarded ourselves with lunch at one of the seafood restaurants located in the village.
There's a boardwalk here and there along the stretch of the beach and a few small beach cafés. In Culatra there are a number of restaurants to choose from. Seafood is the strong theme here and grilled sardines are a local favourite.
4. Walk and walk at Faro Beach. Faro's nearest beach is located on a spit of land, not far from Faro town, and easily accessible by local ferry. The ferry journey itself is a delight and costs only €3.50 for a return trip.
Once you arrive at Faro beach you can choose to start walking on the ocean side of the spit or along the lagoon side. It goes without saying that there are boardwalks everywhere although it's nice to walk barefoot on the sand.
5. Walk in Ria Formosa. One of Portugal's most significant natural parks is located very close to Faro beach. You can drive, or catch a bus, from Faro and stop at Ludo to access the park. Since we were staying at Faro beach we walked from there, across the bridge to the mainland, and found access to the park.
We followed the Ludo Trail which comprises, of course, a series of boardwalks through part of the Ria Formosa. The boardwalks wind through the lagoons and salt pans that characterise the park and allow close-up sightings of jumping fish and abundant birdlife.
Apparently, there are other walks nearby including the São Lourenço Trail, the Pontal Trail and various other small tracks that wind through the park. We walked for almost three hours, delighted at the raw beauty of the Ria Formosa, before returning to civilisation to enjoy delicious Portuguese coffee and a pastel de nata.