Exploring Olhão Saltpans

At the far edge of the saltpans looking back at the outskirts of Olhão

We cannot resist Olhão’s saltpans and inlets.  This is probably because we are avid birdwatchers, and we have found that the inlets and pans around Olhão are one of the best places to observe waders.


There are no hides, but there are plenty of places to sit out of sight from the birds and even if you can’t they are relatively unbothered by us if we stand at a distance.  It is not just the birds though that draw us back, the flowers and views are just as special.






There are however a few negatives you need to be aware of.  The first  – the rubbish  – is problematic.  I just despair at the amount of plastic and other rubbish. Taking photographs can be difficult because of it all.  The shot below of a Bluethroat (English birdwatchers at this point will be most excited!) should be stunning but as you can see struggles because of the rubbish.  There is also hidden pollution in the Ria Formosa which the local authorities are haphazardly dealing with, for more information check out this article.


We have learnt though to ignore it, my husband focusing on the birds and me on on the views.  The saltpans are one of the best places to enjoy the sunsets.  A short evening stroll has often turned into a longer walk.

Looking towards Farol lighthouse on Ilha da Culatra

The other nuisance I need to mention is tourists!  I know a bit ironic since in writing this post I am probably encouraging more. However bear with me for this.

We have noticed in the past few months that the pans are becoming more popular, which is great.  However I do struggle with those who either talks incessantly walking round the area or who because of their tiny lenses on their cameras try and get really close to the birds by walking straight up to them.  So if that’s you be warned!  It isn’t a zoo and you are not invisible so don’t be surprised when the Flamingos and most of the other birds leave when you walk round.  And also don’t be surprised if you consequently bump into a grumpy me!!


Whinge is over, but I do just need to warn you of one final nuisance.  The winds in Winter can be very strong and cold. It might feel like a strong breeze in the centre of town, but once you are out on the saltpans it will feel very different. You’ll be fine though if you have appropriate coats especially if you have only recently arrived from northern Europe!


Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

7 thoughts

  1. You describe the place well and the wind! It’s difficult to work out who is caring for the environment . We know a group on the Alvor estuary who are constantly battling against possible development there. By the fort at Cabanas it is more disturbed by the dog walkers. There are some lovely hoopoes around the large pines there.

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