Olhão is not well known as a beach destination, as the town itself has no beaches. However, even in the main season it is not full of tourists here and you can find quiet and relaxation in a town which combines Arabian and African influences in a very special way. It is also the ideal starting point for trips inland and to many beaches and bays well worth visiting and off the beaten track. These days Olhão has more or less merged with Faro and many hotels here offer a shuttle service to Faro airport which is only 20 minutes away by car. It is an ideal short trip destination at the Algarve.
Olhão - a place of many faces
Olhão is often described as a place of many faces and that is exactly what it really is. Looking from the sea, the industrial sites of the largest fishing harbour of the Algarve dominate the scenery. Meanwhile, on the well-kept, spacious promenade, the numerous small cafés and shops make Olhão much more attractive and inviting. Here you can enjoy the hustle and bustle on the streets and along the promenade in a way that makes you think of anything but tourism. Especially in the two market halls you can soak up the atmosphere of a typical Portuguese harbour town. Here you can enjoy listening to the noise of the haggling at the numerous market stalls together with the smell of fresh fish, fruit and other delicacies and build up an appetite to enjoy a meal in one of the many small fish restaurants at the seafront. Highlight for any fish-lover here is the annual seafood festival which takes place in August and provides the best opportunity to sample typical Portuguese cuisine!
A fishing village with history
The former fishing village of Olhão did not become anything other than locally important before the 19th century. Although the fortress of São Lourenço dates back to the year 1679, it was only built to protect the village from pirates. About twenty years later the fishermen founded the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, the first stone building of the village which is still in good condition today. Also opposite the church you can visit the museum of the village in the Compromisso Maritimo, the fishing community from the 18th century, as well as the many nice cafés where you can enjoy delicious food and admire the view of the fine masonry and cast-iron balconies of the whitewashed houses.
The magic of the lagoons of Ria FormosaNot far from the urban streets of Olhão you will find a real gem for nature-lovers. The Parque Natural da Ria Formosa is to the east of the town and is well known for its rare plants and animals and is therefore very popular with botanists and zoologists. The park is difficult to access, but is well worth a visit if you are a fan of nature. The Ria Formosa lagoon network stretches right up to Olhão, which itself has no beach. However, what is not so well known is that from Olhão you can easily reach the beaches of the little offshore islands, the nearest of which are very near the town. Ferries and small boats travel regularly from the harbour, located to the east of the market halls, to these islands, the so-called "ilhas”. This is how you can for example reach Ilha do Farol, the island of the lighthouse, where you will find crystal clear water and an almost completely unspoilt dune landscape.