En Route with the Dutch version of “A PLACE IN THE SUN” – part 2

This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)


The last time we interrupted our tour in the idyllic town of Tavira, so that’s where we start from today. I have deviated from the chronological order of the TV programme “Droomhuis Gezocht” (the equivalent to A Place In The Sun”) so that the tour makes more sense geographically. So come with me on this new adventure …. Let’s go to the harbour of Olhão.

We drive from Tavira to the authentic fishing town of Olhão. This town is only a 10-minute drive from Faro and has the largest fishing port in the Algarve. To be honest, Olhão is not the most beautiful town in the Algarve but it is the gateway to the stunning islands Ilha da Armona, Ilha do Farol and Ilha de Culatra!

Ferry to the islands

“Mercado Municipal” in Olhão

A visit to the local market “Mercado Municipal” in Olhão is a must.  This beautiful covered market is located on the quay and consists of 2 separate buildings in a very special style, built in red stone. In this market, you will find the most delicious regional produce. The first building houses the fish market and the second the fruit and vegetable market. Walk through it and taste that wonderful Mediterranean atmosphere! Yes, I know, we are at the Ocean but still …. the atmosphere is Mediterranean 😉.

Mercado Municipal Olhão

Outside the market you will find bars and restaurants with great views towards the sea and the islands. Don’t leave without enjoying a portion of delicious shrimps and a glass of vinho verde or a cool beer. Heaven!

The market is just a few steps away from the harbour which is also the departure point for the ferries and boats to the islands. You can choose to make the crossing with the ferry or with a smaller private taxi boat. Both are a great experience in themselves but, of course, the ferry is a lot cheaper.  The port is always buzzing with life and fishermen sitting on their boats repairing their nets. It always fascinates me, how they can do this job with so much patience?

Ilha da Armona

Anyway, enough strolling around and bothering the fisherman, it is time for the crossing to “my” beloved islands.  It only takes 10 minutes to get to the first island “Ilha da Armona” and a return ticket costs about 5 euros.  I am a super fan of these islands but before you all rush to Armona, Culatra and Farol I think it might be wise to explain a little more and, maybe, adjust your expectations! There are no fancy boulevards and you won’t find top of the range cars on these islands because no cars are allowed. There are actually no roads on the islands so an Uber is no option if you have walked a little too far…..You won’t see big, flashy yachts off the coast but you will see beautiful sailboats in the Lagoon. There are no Michelin star restaurants, that is to say, they don’t have the stars but they do have the quality😀. So in short, it is simple, super relaxed and amazing !

We start at “Ilha da Armona” which is also the place where you can find the first property shown in the programme “Droomhuis Gezocht” (you can watch this episode by clicking on this link). Ilha da Armona is part of the nature park “Ria Formosa” , I wrote about Ria Formosa in my previous post (part 1). Armona is 9 km long and about 1 km wide. About 50 people live permanently on the island and they live mainly from fishing and tourism. There is a beautiful walkway that takes you right through the village and through the “dunes” to the other side of the island (the ocean). 

Praia da Armona Ría.

This is the part that faces the mainland and the river. This is where you arrive with the ferryboat. It is also is the part of the island where you will find a few little bars, restaurants and shops. But don’t stop there, I definitely recommend you also visit Praia da Armona Mar, where you can enjoy peace, space and unspoilt nature.

Praia da Armona Mar.

This beach is on the other side of the island overlooking the ocean. The beach is absolutely stunning, it’s wide and stretches as far as the eye can see. From here you can take a fantastic walk to Ilha da Fuseta on the other side of the island. However, the ocean on this side is a lot colder and often wilder so if you want to swim you are better going to Armona Ria.

Beach Armona Mar

Ilha de Culatra en Ilha do Farol.

The next island is Ilha de Culatra. This island is 6 km long and about 1000 people live here permanently. The island consists of 2 parts, Culatra and Farol.

Culatra (on the north shore) is a small fishing village mainly inhabited by fishermen. It is a cute little village with only a few restaurants and a small supermarket, everything you need to survive for a few days. On Calutra there is also a beautiful lagoon where sailing boats regularly drop anchor. Well, that is another dream…….. one day I will also be anchored there 😊.


Farol (in the west) is a small village with a tall lighthouse (Farol means lighthouse in Portuguese). This part of the island is sometimes called Ilha do Farol (Farol Island). This name suggests that it is a different island from Ilha da Culatra but it is acturally just a different part of the same island. Culatra and Farol are the only villages on the island, if you are going to do any walking be sure to check the distances! You have been warned ……. there is no Uber.

And, when you arrive in Farol, after a nice long walk on the beach you can have a nice dinner at “A do João” (see previous post) or just relax with a drink, some snacks and a great view at “Maramais”.

Before we leave the islands I would also like to introduce you to “Barco Casa” your little apartment on the water. Here from your “own” boat, you can enjoy the peace and space of the Ria Formosa and the magnificent feeling of being at one with nature.  It is definitely a unique experience. For more information about “Barco Casa” click here : House Boat in Ria Formosa, Algarve – Barco Casa Portugal

Santa Luzia

I could talk about these islands for hours and hours but now it is really time to take the ferry back to the mainland. We travel on to Santa Luzia, a charismatic and authentic fishing village 2 km west of Tavira. Santa Luzia is famous for its squid fishing. The fleet of this little village specialises in sustainably catching squid using terracotta pots. Sometimes the less “charming” plastic cages are used but these are also sustainable.

During the day these pots are left to dry on the quay and on the fishing boats as the squid catch is always at night.  In my humble opinion there is no better place to enjoy all kinds of delicious squid dishes than in Santa Luzia. On the quay you will find several fish restaurants, my recommendation is that you go to “Casa do Polvo Tasquinha” as we all had a great meal there and the service was fantastic.

Santa Luzia

The village was named “Santa Luzia” after a local fisherman recovered a relic of Saint Lucia that had been lost in a storm at sea.

Before I take you to our next and final stop in Estoi, I would like to point out the salt production in Tavira. When driving from Santa Luzia back to Tavira you will occasionally see white mountains in the distance. These are the so-called “Salinas” of Tavira. The famous sea salt “Flor de Sal” is extracted here. An indispensable ingredient for a delicious grilled fish or a real Portuguese salada!


Less than 10 km from Faro and the coast you will find the charming town of Estoi. This town is well worth a visit if you are in the area as it is probably too small for a day trip. The town has the usual mix of cobbled streets and whitewashed houses and it has a very relaxed atmosphere. One of the main attractions is the Palácio de Estoi.

Palácio de Estoi (The palace of Estoi)

The Palácio de Estoi is a short walk from the town’s main square.  If you come by car you can park in front of the palace. The Palácio de Estoi is now a luxury hotel (Pousada) but gives visitors free access to several rooms, the café and the gardens. The beautiful classical statues, the fountains and, of course, the wonderful view are really worth a visit.

Jardim do Palácio de Estói (the Palace Gardens)

In the lower palace gardens, you will find an impressive staircase decorated with beautiful blue “Azulejos”, and a small orchard. These famous Portuguese Azulejos (tiles) keep showing up …….. I feel a new article coming up 😀. It’s very clear that these beautiful gardens were inspired by the gardens of Versailles.

I will spare you the whole history of the palace but if you want to know more then you can click on this link for more information. Palácio de Estói: a pink house with a colourful history – Portugal Up Close   And while you’re in Estoi, you might as well visit the “Villa Romana de Milreu”, the ruins of a first-century Roman villa.

From this relaxed and romantic place I say goodbye and hope to take you soon on another adventurous trip through Portugal.

And of course as always a big thank you for Alyson Jones for correcting my English so wonderfully!



This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)


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