The route begins in Vila Real de Santo António. The city has a privileged location, the estuary of the Guadiana River to the east, the beach to the south, the pine forest to the west and the Marshland Nature Reserve of Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António to the north.
The historic centre city has a geometric layout and all streets converge to the Marquês de Pombal Square where the Nossa Senhora da Encarnação Church is. Besides this church, among the built and cultural heritage highlights include the Vila Real de Santo António Lighthouse and the Centro Cultural António Aleixo.
Connecting Vila Real de Santo António to Monte Gordo is the National Forest of Coastal Dunes, with an extension of 3 kilometres of pine trees.
Following the route you arrive in the Monte Gordo Bay, an extensive beach with calm waters. Here you can watch the colorful fishing boats and the traditional fishing methods. After the Monte Gordo Beach, there are other beaches along the coast including the Cabeço, Verde, Alagoa beaches, all with a large extension of sand dunes and typical flora associated and Manta Rota Beach. This beach has an extensive sandy area and is located on the eastern edge of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a lagoon area with important ecological, economic and social value.
From the Manta Rota Beach you can walk along the Ria Formosa to the historic village of Cacela Velha, watching the fossil cliff and traces of a sidewalk of Roman origin and dune and marshland ecosystems and the Fortress of Cacela Velha. You can also go to Cacela Velha Beach, located on the Cacela Peninsula, an extension of the beach and dunes that constitutes a physical barrier to the advance of the sea.
Resuming the route you arrive in Cabanas, a place rich in natural heritage. In this town we recommend a walk along the Ria Formosa Avenue, where you can admire the coast and the estuary, a visit to the Cabanas Beach and to the São João da Barra Fort.
Shortly after comes Tavira, a town implanted on the riverbanks of the Gilão River and with a vast natural and built heritage. To visit here highlights to the Rato Fort, Castle and Tavira Walls, the religious buildings and the old bridge over the river.
Still in the county of Tavira, the route continues and passes near the Santa Luzia village and then in the Luz de Tavira village. In the coast of this county with a 18 kilometers long you can found several beaches located in the islands of Tavira and Cabanas. There are also several areas of salt pans, salt marshes and dunes inserted in the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
A little curiosity at the gastronomic level is related to the fact that Tavira was the representative community of Portugal in the Mediterranean Diet application to Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Shortly after the route crosses the county of Olhão, in which you can admire the different monuments and sites that for its historical and architectural importance stand out. This county also has beaches with a privileged location – situated in the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
From Olhão you can go to the Fuseta village, where the beach of the same name is, through boats. You can also go to Culatra and Farol Islands from Olhão.
Following the route begins the county of Faro. Faro has a great cultural and architectural heritage, legacy of the people who lived there. The highlights include the Arco da Vila, the Cathedral, the Ordem Terceira de São Francisco Convent, the Walls, the Carmo Church and the National Museum. With regard to natural heritage you must visit the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, the Manuel Bivar and Alameda João de Deus gardens and the beaches.
The beaches of this region are located between the Peninsula of Ancão and Culatra Island, along an extensive chain of dunes that characterizes the Ria Formosa Natural Park. The Faro Barrinha beaches are in Ancao Peninsula, the Barreta Beach in Barreta Island and the Farol and Culatra beaches in Culatra Island.
Before leaving Faro you have to taste the Algarvian typical desserts, the “Dom Rodrigo” and the “morgados” (almond pastry) especially.
The route ends at Quinta do Lago, a resort in the Algarve.
This section is part of the Ecovia do Algarve, a 214 kilometers cycling route that connects Vila Real de Santo António (Section 1) to Cabo de São Vicente (Section 3), crossing 12 counties along the southern coastline of the Algarve.
Comments: Section 1