Olhao, which is located only 10 kilometers southwest of Faro in Portugal, is home to the biggest fishing port in the Algarve. Aside from its jewel – Ilha de Culatra – the town has also some interesting aspects.
The heart of the town is strongly felt at the Mercados, the town’s public markets which is composed of two separate red brick buildings – one for fruits, vegetables and meat and the other one for fish. Cozy and small cafes are located around these two buildings where the locals usually hang out before or after doing their shopping and where local fishermen grab something to drink after a long night’s work and delivering their fresh catch of the day.
CAMINHO DAS LENDAS
One way to see and discover the town is by following the Caminho das Lendas (The Tales Path).
It is a walking trail that connects five of the main squares in the historic part of Olhao. Found in each square are figures and written explanation about certain tales. It is a very easy trail and good signposted; you just have to look for the signs on the walls of the buildings normally found on street corners. It took us only an hour to do the trail, including of course some needed picture taking.
RIA FORMOSA NATIONAL PARK
Olhao is considered a very good starting point to discover and experience the Ria Formosa National Park. The Park, which was declared a Natural one since 1987 and having an area of about 18000 hectares, is located in the southern part of Portugal, in the Algarve. It is a maze of canals, lagunes, islands , marshlands and sandy beaches stretching 60 kilometers along the Algarve coast.
Hans and I visited the Ria Formosa National park situated about 1.5 kilometers from the Olhao town center. Entry is 2.60 per person and we parked our camper inside the compound.
There is a nice circular walking trail which begins from the visitors’center. The walk brought us to some nice areas full of high pine trees and marshland. There was also the old tide mill, one of the few remaining tide mills of its kind in Portugal. There are observation points for birdwatching, unfortunately there were not so many interesting birds to observe when we were there. One of the highlights of our walk was our short visit to the Bird Hospital where a personnel enthusiastically explained to us how the hospital works and what the problems are about bird exploitation.
DIA DE REIS (Feast of Three Kings)
January 6 is the Feast of Three Kings or the Dia de Reis, as known by the Portuguese. The municipality of Olhao celebrates the day with a little spectacle. Around 10 in the morning, actors playing the role of three kings and other Betlehem figures, were gathered at Avenida 5 de Octobre. It was an enjoyable morning especially for the children who all had paper crowns on their heads. The actors were dressed accordingly like Kings and other characters, and they were live camels too! The company of three kings had a small group parade and re-enactment to the full delight of the young audience, and also us! It was a whole long day for the actors, as later that day, they had various parades and appearances at some major squares and government building.
Highlight was the meeting with the town mayor. The happening was in front of the city hall, where a big crowd gathered to witness the event. There, the three kings paid tribute to the town mayor, and also a little show was performed like dancing and sword fight. After that the group walked around town again, ending up by the waterfront.
CAMPSITE : Avenida 16 de Junhio
Coordinates : N : 37.02625 W : 7.83718
It is a small open grounds found at the corner of Avenida 16 de Junhio and Rua Francisco Menezes, at the back of Casa Musica and opposite a shop. A bit noisy with the traffic, but it is convenient because of its proximity to the supermarker (Pingo Doce), waterfront, ferry terminal fishport, town center and the Mercados. There are no other facilities.
There is also a possibility to wild camp at a big parking area found at the beginning of Avenida 5 de Octobre, near the police station. There is a board that it is not allowed for campers, but apparently, the police tolerates it.