Ilha da Armona is an island in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, off the coast of the city of Olhão. Actually, that’s the name of the western side of the island, as the eastern is known as Ilha da Fuseta. It’s 9km (almost 6 miles) long and 1km (over half a mile) wide, and has just 800 homes. This was originally a fishing community, but many residents now work in the tourism industry.
The name is of Celtic origin, but it was not inhabited until the 20th century. Many of the houses, mostly built in the 1970s, are now summer homes, while others have been turned into cafés and restaurants. There are no hotels (you have to stay in Olhão), but highly-rated bungalows can be booked for overnight stays (see below).
The homes are concentrated by the pier with the ferries that link it to Olhão, and the rest of the island is one long beach. Many people do stay sunbathing on the sand and swimming in the calm waters by the harbor, but the main beach is on the other side of the island.
Cars aren’t allowed here, so to reach this beach you have to walk down the partially-paved main street and follow a 1.5km-long (about 1 mile) boardwalk, which protects the dunes. You might want to stop at the supermarket to buy water and snacks, although there are a couple of restaurants right on the beach.
The fine white sand stretches for kilometers and is very clean. So is the sea, with clear, shallow, and usually calm waters. The beach has been given a Blue Flag certification, so you can expect quality and safety. Most people tend to stay on the western end, where there are lifeguards, wicker parasols and loungers, as well as equipment rentals for water sports, such as paddleboarding.
If you continue walking east (to the left when facing the sea), it becomes deserted, even in July and August. Many people end up sunbathing nude here. In fact, the Portuguese Naturist Federation classifies it as an unofficial nude beach. On the dunes, you can see different kinds of wildlife, from chameleons to different species of birds. If you want peace and quiet, surrounded by natural beauty and away from the more crowded Algarve, this is the destination for you.
Beach for: Couples, Naturists
Bar or Restaurant: Yes
Parking: Yes (in Olhão)
How to Get to Ilha da Armona
Ferries to Ilha da Armona depart from the pier in Olhão (at the end of Avenida 5 de Outubro, not far from the famous fish market) every hour in the summer, and less frequently at other times of the year. Tickets are bought from the ticket booth at the pier before you board. The ferry has a covered and an outdoor seating area, and its scenic journey takes about 15 minutes.
Beaches by Ilha da Armona
If you enjoy really long walks by the sea, you can go all the way to Ilha da Fuseta, on the eastern end of the island. That beach can also be reached by boat from the fishing village of Fuseta to the east, while ferries from the city of Faro to the west take you to Ilha Deserta, a literally deserted beach, which is one of the best in the region. Other ferries in Olhão go to Ilha da Culatra and Ilha do Farol, which are similar to Ilha da Armona.
Hotels by Ilha da Armona
Orbitur Ilha da Armona
This is the only place to stay on the island. It’s a series of bungalows with two bedrooms, and although it is budget accommodation, it’s highly rated for cleanliness and the bungalows do have private bathrooms. They’re also equipped with a kitchenette, and there’s a supermarket nearby where guests may buy groceries. Staying here gives you the chance to admire the sunset on the island, as the last ferry usually departs at 8:30pm in the summer and the sun sets some time after that.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Orbitur Ilha da Armona
Real Marina Hotel & Spa
If you prefer luxury, stay at this 5-star hotel on the Olhão waterfront, a short walk from the ferries to the island. The rooms have balconies and are bright and spacious, and some face the sea. The outdoor pool also overlooks the sea, and there’s also an indoor pool, connected to the spa. At the two bars and two restaurants, guests can enjoy a variety of drinks, and local or international cuisine.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Real Marina Hotel & Spa
A 10-minute drive from the ferries pier is this complex of six villas with two, three or four bedrooms. These villas are quite beautiful, mixing the contemporary and the traditional, and with fully-equipped kitchens. All guests have access to the outdoor swimming pool. It can be a good value if you’re traveling as a family or in a group.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Villas Marim
Those on a budget will want to stay at this hostel located in the heart of Olhão, by one of its landmark churches and within walking distance of the pier. It’s named after the stork nests seen on the church’s rooftop, which you can almost touch from the terrace. There are dorms with shared bathrooms and double rooms with private bathrooms.
SEE PRICES, AVAILABILITY AND MORE DETAILS HERE: Stork Hostel