Serving as a transitional area between land and sea, the Ria Formosa is a vast lagoon system that stretches for 60 km along the coast of the eastern Algarve. It covers an area of approximately 18,000 hectares between the Ancão Peninsula in the municipality of Loulé and Manta Rota in the municipality of Vila Real de Santo António.It is the most important wetland zone in southern Portugal and features a wide variety of habitats: barrier islands, marshes, sandbanks, dunes, saltpans, freshwater and brackish lakes, water courses, scrubland and farmland; all of which is also propitious to a tremendous variety of fauna and flora.Classed as a wetland zone of international interest, the Ria Formosa is particularly noted for its birdlife. The area is a winter home for birds from north and central Europe, as well as being on migration routes. Various rare species can be seen here, including the purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) the symbol of the park.From a botanical point of view, the particular highlight is the vegetation on the dunes and in the marshes.A veritable nursery for marine species, it is also an area where bivalve molluscs are produced.Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this nature park. Visit the towns and cities that have developed in conjunction with the Ria, enjoy the huge sandy beaches on the barrier islands, explore the walking routes that criss-cross the area or see it by boat instead.Surrender to the charming gracefulness of the aquatic birds and keep your eyes peeled because you may just spot another of the Ria Formosa’s important residents: the chameleon.