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Culatra Island - Ilha da Culatra
The Ilha da Culatra (Culatra Island) is a large sand bar island that is located south of the resort towns of Olhão and Faro. The island is part of the Ria Formosa national park and this has limited development, there are no paved roads on Culatra and the only method to reach the island is by ferry.
A deserted beach near Faro
Along the southern side of the island there are golden beaches, with calm crystal clear waters while on the northern side there are the lagoons. The Ilha da Culatra is the location to head for to escape the crowds and even in the summer season peace and quiet can be easily found.
Why Visit the Ilha da Culatra
The main attraction of Culatra Island is the natural scenery and abundant wildlife that is combined with the great empty beaches that run the length of the Island. Ilha da Culatra has two small villages, one on the western side called Farol and the second on the northern banks called Culatra, both villages traditionally supported small fishing fleets but today tend for the tourist trade.
The majority of Culatra Island is sparsely developed, with large lagoons running the length of the northern side and long sandy beaches to the south. Ilha da Culatra offers tourists a calming and relaxed destination with great empty beaches that is only a short ferry ride form the mainland.
Travel To Ilha da Culatra
Ilha da Culatra is connected to the mainland by a small passenger ferries which depart from Olhão or Faro. For both routes there are in excess of 10 departures per day in the high season but drop to only a handful in the winter. Departure times change seasonally (and even weekly) so check locally at ticket office especially for the last return ferry. There are expensive ferry taxi for missed departures.
A Faro ferry on the way to the Ilha da Culatra
From Olhão the ferries depart from the main jetty and make two stops at Farol (€7.00 return, 45minutes) and Culatra (€6.00 return 30minutes) the journey takes a surprisingly long time due to the shallow waters of the Ria Formosa. The ferry service from Faro departs from the Porta Nova Pier and connects to Farol (€5.00 return 30 minutes journey) and Culatra (€6.00 return, 40 minutes journey).
What to do on the Ilha da Culatra
The most obvious activity on the island is to enjoy the glorious sandy beaches with the central and eastern sides nearly deserted even in the summer months. The beaches on the southwestern side tend to be slightly busier and are supervised by a lifeguard.
For the slightly more active there is a popular walk from one village to the other the walk is along wooden walkways the closest the island gets to roads.
This route runs along the southern side of the island and most visitors arrive at one ferry jetty and depart from the other. The even more remote Ilha da Barreta (Deserted island) is just a short ferry ride from Ilha da Culatra but unfortunately there is no regular service between the two islands so a private ferry must be hired for €12.