We’ve mentioned the Ludo Trail more than a few times on this blog, and we thought it was about time we gave it a dedicated page! Why does it deserve its own page? Well, it’s a simple, short, and easily accessible place to have a closer look at the Ria Formosa and some of its wildlife. It might just be one of our favourite places for an introduction to the Ria Formosa, nature and bird watching in the East Algarve.
The Ludo Trail
As a quick introduction the Ludo Trail. It’s is a 7km graded trail through the western end of the Ria Formosa in Faro. It can be completed in approximately 3-4 hours, but it doesn’t need to be completed to meet some wildlife. As soon as you start the trail, you’ll have the natural lagoon on one side of the path and on the other side brackish water and man-made saltpans. For this reason, you don’t even need to complete the full loop to get your experience! So, those with young children, or accessibility issues, or just short on time, can still get a feel for the lagoon and its wildlife.
How to Find the Ludo Trail?
The Ludo Trail is really simple to find and easily accessible by public transport from Faro. To get there by bus, you’ll need to depart from the city or the beach, Faro. It’s the no.14 or the no.16 bus that’s operated by Proximo. It’s the same bus that loops from the city centre, to the airport, and Praia de Faro. So, you can combine a short hike with a beach trip too! A single ticket costs €2.35, and it has its own stop called Ludo – the last stop before the beach. If you’ve got your own transport, or you’ve taken a taxi, parking is available alongside the main road and most people just park alongside it. The road is officially called the M527-1, and parking is available on both sides.
Completing the Ludo Trail
You’ll pass through a small access gate, that blocks the trail off for vehicle access and be greeted with a couple of informational signs. The official trail is 7km long, but you can extend it, or shorten it. The long version effectively takes you to Quinta da Lago and the village of São Lourenço. On the São Lourenço side is a bird hide, but if you don’t fancy the long version of the hike there’s still lots of opportunity for wildlife spotting within a short stroll.
For the first km or so the path is nearly straight. On the right side you have brackish water (a mixture of freshwater runoff and salt water) and on the left the natural lagoon. They offer different environments, and different flora and fauna. After this first km you’ll have the option to take a righthand turn or continue straight ahead. If you take a righthand turn this will lead you to the manmade salt ponds. A favourite foraging place for the flamingos that can often be found here. If you continue straight ahead, you’ll meet São Lourenço and the São Lourenço Trail. It’s an alternative trail that starts in Quinta de Lago and has the previously mentioned bird hide on its route. The two trails overlap in some sections. As it’s a loop, taking either of these options will eventually bring you back to our starting point.
The Wildlife on the Ludo Trail
With different habitats, you’ll be able to find a wide variety of wildlife across them. Year round, it’s not uncommon to see small numbers of Greater Flamingos. Although they’re much more common in bigger flocks from October to March. In the muddy waters of the lagoon you’ll find a variety of wading birds foraging like the Spoonbill, Kentish Plovers and Black-winged Stilts. While in the brackish waters its quite common to see a variety of ducks and coots. The northern section of the trail takes you alongside some scrubland and small sections of pine forest. Amongst the pine trees that edge the lagoon you might get to see Hoopoes, Azure-winged Magpies, European Woodpeckers, and if you’re very lucky the wonderful Bee-eater.
Know Before You Go!
There is very little shade on the trail so sun cream and a hat is essential during day time hours. So is plenty of water if you plan on completing the full loop. Our favourite time to go is during sunrise or sunset. It’s the best time for wildlife activity but also a high point for insects and mosquitoes. A good insect repellent is a must if you plan on visiting during twilight hours.
Exploring the Ria Formosa
If you enjoyed the experience of walking around the Ria Formosa on the Ludo Trail, you may want to head to Faro and book a boat trip. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a kayak and explore the waterways on your own. The kayaks are exceptional for birdwatching, allowing you to stealthily enter the smaller channels making very little noise. Although if you’re inexperienced, you may want to leave your cameras behind! Kayak rental can be organised in both Faro, and on Praia de Faro.
Visiting Faro and Praia de Faro
Unlike some of the more pristine beach resorts in the Algarve. Faro and its beach Praia de Faro are a bit more subdued. Both are seen as more local experiences than tourist destinations. for those that like their experiences a little more authentic this makes them perfect though! Within Faro you have a whole host of cultural attractions, including several museums, interesting monuments and lots of historic streets to explore. The view of the Ria Formosa and the city from its cathedral is just superb. Praia de Faro also shouldn’t be missed. It is a thin stretch of sand facing the ocean on one side and looking inwards towards the Ria Formosa on the other. It’s nearly 9km in length so there’s plenty of space for a more peaceful experience. If you’re looking for your more traditional beach experience. You’ll find lifeguards, sunbed rental, and a selection of bars in the central section.