Algarve walks, Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve: ‘At the whim of the tides’

Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve: ‘At the whim of the tides’

(199) town and harbour
Town and harbour from Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve

It was a typical Algarve winter day in late December, with blue skies and warm sunshine; a perfect day to do a walk around the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve, which is described in the Guide to Walking Trails in the Algarve, published by the Turismo do Algarve, as the ‘At the whim of the tides’ walk. It is an easy, circular walk, most of which is along a wooden walkway which zigzags over the salt marshes and wetlands by the estuary of the Ria de Alvor. As with most of the walks included in the Guide to Walking Trails, there are information boards around the nature reserve and we learnt that Alvor lies on a lagoon formed by a tidal estuary which is fished for razor shells and clams and due to its varied geological features the reserve attracts many species of birds, such as the cormorants and common-ringed plovers that we saw on our visit, as well as dunlins, Northern gannets, herons and terns. The boards also informed us that we would see plants such as Sarcocornia fruticosa, shrubby sea-blite and grand statice on the salt marsh and I have photographic evidence that we did indeed see Sarcocornia fruticosa, with its distinctive red and green string-of-bead-like stems.

From the walkway there are lovely views of Alvor’s harbour, the fish market and the pretty Igreja do Divino Salvador (Divine Saviour Church) at the top of the hill, and to the east are views of the nearby (rather unphotogenic) high-rise hotels and the cliffs of Praia dos Três Irmãos in the distance. At the furthest western point of the walk where the mouth of the estuary meets the sea is a manmade breakwater made of granite blocks, which leads to the lighthouse. This is another popular fishing spot. From here we walked among the sand dunes on the Praia do Alvor, where another information board noted that the sand dunes act as a barrier between the lagoon and the sea and that the area is a transitional habitat between the land and the sea, but my overriding thought was that the soft sand was much harder to walk along in sandals than it looked.

After we had meandered our way along the walkway back to the start of walk we decided to explore the pretty town of Alvor. But that is for another blog!


The walk is 5km and takes approximately 2 hours. It is an easy walk along a flat wooden walkway for most of the walk and along the beach for some of the walk. There are several information boards along the walk with information in Portuguese and English about the flora, fauna and geological features.

This walk complements the Quinta da Rocha nature reserve: the ‘Rocha Delicada Trail’ walk, which approaches the Alvor Estuary from the north-west.

We parked in the open-air car park on Rua da Ribeira, which is opposite the start of the walk.

Buses run to Alvor from Lagoa, Portimão and Lagos.

(221) plover
Common-ringed Plover, Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve