Olhão and the Islands

Olhão, 8km east of Faro, but with a vibrant market, attractive riverfront gardens and atmospheric backstreets, it’s an appealing place to spend some time. It also makes a great base from which to visit the surrounding sandbank islands of Armona and Culatra or the Quinta do Marim environmental centre. The largely pedestrianized old town boasts some superb tile-fronted buildings, quirky shops and bars, while the flat roofs and narrow streets are striking and give a North African look to the place – perhaps not surprisingly, as Olhão had traditional trading links with Morocco.

The town was granted its charter by exiled king João VI to thank the local fishermen who sailed a small boat, O Caíque de Bom Sucesso, across the Atlantic to Brazil in 1808 to give him the good news that Napoleon’s troops had left Portugal. The amazing journey was completed with the most basic navigational aids, and a replica of the boat is now moored on the water behind the market: it occasionally runs boat trips along the coast – ask at the turismo for details.

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