Although famous for being a beach resort with a wonderful year-round climate, the Algarve is also a refuge and a haven for birdlife.
The West Algarve has very diverse habitats – from cliffs to coastal wetlands and from small forest patches to scrub-covered hills. At almost any time of the year, there is something of interest to see!
In this personalized self-drive birding tour, we present a collection of itineraries to birding hotspots, aiming at helping you to get the best birding opportunities!In Vilamoura, you’ll be set to explore probably the most extensive area of reed beds and lagoons in the Algarve, at Lagoa dos Salgados.
This is one of the most important sites in the Algarve for migrating passerines, and also a hunting area for various raptors.
In the serene Alvor Estuary, you’ll find a protected natural haven, with a variety of water birds, seabirds, and farmland birds. The tour will take you to the beautiful Rocha Delicada, an ochre promontory formed during the Miocene period.
In the wet zones of the river Arade, near the former Arab capital of the Algarve, Silves, you’ll appreciate an important ecosystem, representative of the Mediterranean landscape.
This area collects a large number of waders, such as Redshank, Greenshank, and Common Sandpiper. There are also a few passerines, like Yellow Wagtail and Crested Lark.
The Lagoa de São Lourenço is another interesting bird spotting place we planned for you. This body of water is rich in aquatic vegetation, edged by reeds and bulrushes, and thus is rich in avifauna.
In winter, large numbers of ducks gather here, including Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal, Common Pochard, Eurasian Wigeon, and Tufted Duck.
All year round you find Red-crested Pochard, Little Bittern, Purple Swamp-hen, Black-headed Weaver, and Great Crested Grebe.
At the southern end of the lake lie the channels, salt marshes, lagoons, and sandy barrier islands of the Ria Formosa Natural Park which, depending on the tide and the season, can be teeming with waders, gulls, herons, and egrets.
In Ludo, in the busy salt-producing farms, it’s possible to see Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Booted Eagles, and many nesting White Storks.
You then head to the remote southwest corner of Europe, to Sagres, in the Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina Natural Park.
This is an area of particular importance for migrating birds, and it’s always advisable to keep an eye out for rarities.
From your central and privileged location in Albufeira, you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of birding hotspots, within different habitats, in this fabulous birdwatching experience!
This self-drive birdwatching tour counts with a free day. You can explore at your leisure other parts of the Algarve and get to know a bit more about the culture, heritage, and natural history of the region.
Day 1 – Arrival in Faro Airport and rental car pick up
Individual arrival to Faro Airport and rent a car vehicle pick up
Day 2 – Parque Ambiental de Vilamoura & Lagoa dos Salgados
This is probably the most extensive area of reed beds and lagoons in the Algarve. It is bordered by farmland with cereal fields and orchards to the south, a sewage treatment plant favoured by gulls and ducks, to the east and golf courses to the north.
This is one of the most important sites in the Algarve for migrating passerines, especially warblers and hirundines. It is also a hunting area for various raptors including Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, and Booted Eagle.
Half a decade ago, these where farm lands covered with irrigated orchards, cereals and pasture. Over the years, the land was replaced with reed beds, alongside the man-made artificial ponds and irrigation channels.
The riparian vegetation of the river of Quarteira and the bordering golf courses, constitutes a habitat of great diversity of birds and small mammals.
This pond has good patches of reed and reed mace and holds several interesting birds. Regular species here include Little Grebe, Moorhen, Purple Swamp Hen, and Kingfisher, as well as some passerines, such as Cetti’s Warbler; in winter, there are usually Bluethroat, Chiffchaff and Penduline Tit. In the surrounding fields it is possible to find several passerines, such as Northern Wheatear on autumn passage, or White Wagtail and Meadow Pipit in winter.
At certain times of the year, along the banks of the lagoon is not difficult to find waders. Black-winged Stilt, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Common Redshank and Greenshank are some of the common species that can be regularly observed. Sometimes Bar-tailed Godwit turns up. Other interesting birds that can usually be seen this site are Coot, Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier and Caspian Tern.
The surrounding areas may produce Kestrel and several species of passerines like Crested Lark, Stonechat and Zitting Cisticola; in autumn, a few trans-saharan migrants put in appearance, like Whinchat and Northern Wheatear, whereas in winter there are Skylark and White Wagtail.
Day 3 – Alvor Estuary & Rocha Delicada
The scenery is gentle, serene and cosy in the Alvor estuary. This protected natural haven contains a wide array of habitats.
To the north you’ll clearly discern the lush green Monchique mountains silhouetted in the horizon; a bit to the south, hidden by the large unspoilt dunes, there’s Lagos Bay; meanwhile, contemplate the ever changing shades of blue and green along the secluded inner lagoons, as well as the beautiful Rocha Delicada (‘Delicate’ or ‘Elegant Rock’), an ochre promontory formed during the Miocene period. Embedded in its calcareous rock face, it is possible to detect some marine fossils from this remote period, mainly composed of oyster, scallop and clam specimens.
The estuarine area is separated and protected from the sea by two sandbars, the Alvor beach on the east side and the Meia-Praia to the west, which encircle two headlands, the Quinta da Rocha and the Abicada. The diversity of habitats that can be found over a relatively small area – about 1,700 ha – produces a wide variety of waterbirds, seabirds and farmland birds.
On the sand banks and during the low tide Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Oystercatchers, Turnstones and Sanderlings are visible, among other waders. Crested Lark, Kentish Plover and Little Tern can be seen on the dunes, where they breed.
During late summer and early autumn, this area, surrounded by agricultural fields attract hundreds of passerines seeking rest or feeding areas during their long migration: Northern Wheatear, Reed, Melodious and Garden Warblers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, among others.
In winter, White Wagtail, Robin and Black Redstart are common. Throughout the year it is also possible to find Stone Curlew.
The saltmarshes attract usually Flamingo, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Black-winged Stilt and many other shorebirds, as well as Crested Lark.
Day 4 – Arade Estuary & Sítio das Fontes – Silves
The Arade River crosses the western Algarve and flows into the sea just past Portimão, forming a narrow estuary. Being the second biggest estuary in Algarve it comprises the streams of Boina and Odelouca.
The Municipal Park of Sítio das Fontes is a natural park, located on an 18ha plot, on the left bank of the Arade River.
Created in 1989, it represents an important ecosystem with a great diversity of environments representative of the Mediterranean landscape – marshes, reeds and a small lagoon surrounded by abandoned agricultural fields, planes and water lines.
Originally created in 1989 as a picnic site, recent developments include a restored watermill, an old water well, an open-air amphitheatre, a children’s playground and a fitness trail. The marked trail takes you along the river bank for a pleasant stroll with educational sign boards at regular intervals.
This area collects a large numbers of waders, such as Redshank, Greenshank and Common Sandpiper. There are also a few passerines, like Yellow Wagtail and Crested Lark.
From the birding point of view, this wetland produces various numbers of shorebirds and waders. Amongst the most interesting birds there are Spoonbill, Flamingo, Black Winged Stilt, Crested Lark and Crag Martin.
Recorded observations include Shoveler, Kestrel, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Yellow Wagtail and Linnet.
No matter where you are in this area, White Stork is almost always present.
Day 5 – Free Day
This is an ideal opportunity to relax and enjoy the attractions of the Algarve. You can walk/tour independently, or visit local places of interest. From Albufeira there is a wide variety of sightseeing available (we can advise and/or recommend options according to your interests).
Day 6 – Sagres Peninsula
In the remote south west corner of Europe, Sagres is of particular importance for migrating birds due to its’ geographical location. It’s part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, the area concentrates a massive movement of migrant birds across southern Europe.
The vast majority of the migratory bird species that occur regularly in Portugal can be spotted here along the season, and it is always advisable to keep an eye out for rarities.
The Vale Santo is an area of coastal plateau, with some undergrowth. Here we can observe resident species characteristic of more open habitats such as the Little Bustard or the endangered Red-Billed Chough.
The Beliche cliff stamps the transition between the southern and western edges of the country. The Forte of Santo António do Beliche or Forte do Beliche as its commonly known, stands out at the top of the cliff. Though its definite origin is unknown it was a beacon of pirate’s attacks including Francis Drake.
The S. Vincent cliff on the edge of the west coast is the reason for the greater presence of seabirds, since it lies in the migration corridor.
Depending on the time of year, it’s possible to observe a wide number of seabirds. Migration seasons may bring Scopoli’s Shearwater and Common Scoter.
At the south western edge of Sagres, next to the fishing port, birdwatching observations may also be very productive. In this area it may be possible to observe Great Cormorant, Audouin’s gull or Razorbill.
Day 7 – Lagoa de São Lourenço and Ludo
The Lagoa de São Lourenço is a body of water which is largely surrounded by a golf course. The Lagoa is rich in aquatic vegetation, edged by reeds and bulrushes and thus is rich in avifauna. In winter large numbers of ducks including: Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal, Common Pochard, Eurasian Wigeon and Tufted Duck gather. However there are many special birds which make their homes here all year round including Red-crested Pochard, Little Bittern, Purple Swamp-hen, Black-headed Weaver and Great Crested Grebe. They are joined in summer by Little Terns, hirundines and swifts.
At the southern end of the lake are the channels, salt marsh, lagoons and sandy barrier islands of the Ria Formosa which, depending on the tide and the season, can be teeming with waders, gulls, herons and egrets. To the east of the golf course is an area of pines which open onto Ludo, a busy salt producing farm where it is possible to see Greater flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Booted Eagles and many nesting White Storks.
Day 8 – Individual departure or extra days
Rocamar Exclusive Hotel
Rocamar Exclusive Hotel
Rocamar Exclusive Hotel & Spa – Adults Only (4****) or similar
Located on Praia dos Pescadores beach, this stylish hotel is just a short walk from Albufeira. It offers a swimming pool, a restaurant with sea views and luxury spa.
All the rooms are well equipped with air conditioning and satellite TV. Guests can relax on their own private balcony.
The Hotel spa offers a variety of cosmetic treatments and body massages. All guests can enjoy free access to the hot tub, fitness centre and sauna.
The restaurant offers fresh, local cuisine and a variety of international dishes. Cocktails are available at the bar and can be enjoyed on the terrace.
Numerous bars, shops and restaurants can be found in Albufeira town centre, only 300 m from Hotel Rocamar. Reception is open 24 hours per day and free public parking is available nearby.
You must be adequately insured to join our Guided and Self-Guided holidays. We do not insist that you insure with us but we require that you are adequately insured for the nature of your holiday.
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Please consult our Travel Insurance page, where you’ll be able to get more detailed info about insurance requirements and an immediate quote for your trip.