The Ria Formosa lagoon is a system of barrier islands that communicates with the sea through six inlets. Five of these inlets are natural and have mobility characteristics. The sixth is an artificial inlet that was opened with the purpose of allowing easier access to the port of Faro.
Presently the main inlet of the system is the Faro-Olhão inlet, which was artificially opened. The process started in 1927 but only in 1952 were the engineering works completed and it assumed the present configuration.
Within the Ria Formosa system, different and sometimes antagonistic uses may be found. Part of the system is a Natural Park but Ria Formosa also plays an important role in the region’s economy. Beyond the tourist use the system also supports other economic activities like seafood farms (including grooved carpet shell harvesting) and the port of Faro.
The Ria Formosa is also a designated Natural Park of over 170 km² and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods.