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Nestled in the sun-drenched region of the Algarve, Olhão is a coastal town that offers a unique blend of serene beaches, rich history, and vibrant culture. This blog post delves into the charm of Olhao beaches, the best time to visit, and the must-do activities that make this destination a hidden gem in Southern Portugal.

A Little History of Olhão

Olhão, a town with deep fishing traditions, is intertwined with the sea’s bounty and the tales of its people. The town’s history is marked by its role as a significant fishing port, with its architecture and local culture reflecting the influence of maritime life. Olhão’s historical essence is palpable in its streets and markets, offering a glimpse into the past where the sea was the town’s lifeline.

Best Time of Year to Visit Olhao Beaches

The best time to visit Olhão for beach enthusiasts is between June and September when the weather is warmest, and the waters are inviting. However, to avoid the peak tourist season while still enjoying pleasant weather, consider visiting in late spring or early autumn. During these times, the temperatures are comfortable, and the beaches less crowded, providing a more intimate experience with nature’s beauty.

Olhao Beaches

Photo by João Matos on Unsplash

How to Get to Olhao

To get to Olhão, Portugal, you have several transportation options depending on your starting point. Here are some ways to reach Olhão from nearby airports and other locations:

From Faro Airport (FAO):

  • Recommended Route: Fly to Faro Airport, which is approximately 11.4 km away from Olhão. You can then take the line 16 bus and train from Faro to Olhão, with a travel time of about 1 hour.
  • Alternative: You can also consider taking a taxi or renting a car for a more direct and flexible journey.

From Other Locations:

  • Train/Bus: There are train services available that connect various cities in the region to Olhão. You can check the train schedules and routes for a convenient way to reach Olhão.
  • Ferry: Another interesting option is taking a ferry from Vila Real de Santo António to Ayamonte in Spain, which provides a unique travel experience at an affordable cost.
  • Car: If you prefer driving, you can rent a car and enjoy the scenic route to Olhão at your own pace.

These transportation options offer flexibility and convenience for travelers looking to visit Olhão and explore its beautiful coastal surroundings. Make sure to choose the mode of transportation that best suits your preferences and travel plans.

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Photo by Jennifer Uppendahl on Unsplash

Best Beaches in Olhão

Olhão boasts some of the Algarve’s most picturesque and peaceful beaches, nestled on barrier islands part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. These islands, including Ilha da Armona, Ilha da Culatra, and Ilha do Farol, are accessible via short ferry rides from Olhão, offering visitors a tranquil escape from the mainland’s hustle and bustle.

Ilha da Armona is celebrated for its expansive white sandy beaches, clear waters, and a small yet charming community. It’s a haven for those seeking solitude or a family-friendly spot with shallow waters ideal for children​​​​.

Ilha da Culatra offers a unique blend of untouched beaches and a small fishing village vibe, where the sound of waves provides a tranquil backdrop. Its pristine sands and clear waters make it a perfect spot for sunbathing and swimming​​​​.

Ilha do Farol is known for its picturesque lighthouse and the less crowded stretches of sand beyond the main beach area, offering a peaceful beach day experience​​.

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Photo by Jennifer Uppendahl on Unsplash

Parking and Accessibility Olhao Beaches

Access to Olhão’s beaches is primarily through ferries, making it a unique experience compared to other Algarve destinations. Parking is available in Olhão town, where you can leave your vehicle before taking a short ferry ride to the islands. The journey itself offers beautiful views of the Ria Formosa and a glimpse into the area’s natural beauty.

What to Do in Olhão

Beyond its beaches, Olhão is rich in activities and sights. The town’s Municipal Market is a must-visit, showcasing local seafood and produce in an iconic orange-hued building. For history enthusiasts, the Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosário offers architectural beauty and a deep connection to the town’s past​​.

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Photo by Jennifer Uppendahl on Unsplash

Dining in Olhão

Olhão’s culinary scene is a reflection of its fishing heritage, with numerous restaurants offering fresh seafood dishes that encapsulate the flavors of the Algarve. From traditional Portuguese seafood restaurants to international cuisine, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

If you are looking for dining options in Olhão, Portugal, here are some top-rated restaurants to consider ( blue icon) as well as some accommodation options.

Foods to try in Olhao:

In Olhão, Portugal, some of the most popular dishes to try include:

  1. Cataplana: A traditional Portuguese seafood dish cooked in a special copper pan called a cataplana.
  2. Shrimps, Lobster, Mussels, and Clams: These fresh seafood options are commonly featured in Olhão’s cuisine.
  3. Folar de Olhão: A sticky Portuguese bun topped with honey, orange, cinnamon, and sugar, offering a delightful local taste.
  4. Dry-cured Tuna Muxama: A delicacy worth trying in Olhão, showcasing the region’s culinary specialties4.

When dining in Olhão, you can explore local restaurants to savor these authentic dishes and immerse yourself in the rich gastronomic culture of the region. I personally love eating Shrimp and seafood rice when I visit Portugal.

Festivals and Events Olhao Beaches

Olhão comes alive with various festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating everything from seafood to local culture. One highlight is the annual seafood festival, where locals and visitors alike indulge in the freshest catches and vibrant entertainment, embodying the spirit of this coastal town.

  1. Festival do Marisco (Seafood Festival)
    • Held annually in August, the “Festival do Marisco” is a lively event celebrating seafood with fresh culinary delights and live entertainment. It is considered one of the biggest Seafood festivals in Portugal.
  2. Eco-fest
    • An event focused on environmental awareness and sustainability, promoting eco-friendly practices within the community.
  3. Pirate Festival
    •  A fun-filled festival that brings the spirit of pirates to Olhão, featuring themed activities and entertainment for all ages.
  4. Southeast Nights (Noites de Levante)
    • A cultural event showcasing the traditions, music, and arts of the region, providing a glimpse into the local heritage.
  5. Algarve Nature Fest
    • An event celebrating the natural beauty of the Algarve region, offering activities related to nature, conservation, and outdoor exploration6.

These events offer a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, enjoy delicious seafood, and participate in engaging activities that highlight Olhão’s unique charm. Make sure to check the specific dates and details of each event to plan your visit accordingly.


Olhão’s beaches are more than just sun, sand, and sea; they are gateways to experiencing the Algarve’s untouched beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat or an adventure in Portuguese culture, Olhão offers an array of experiences that promise lasting memories.

So, when are you planning your visit to this exquisite part of Southern Portugal? Check out these other posts about Portugal.

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