Charming eastern Algarve pearl

old town

Churches, Castle, River, Moorish old streets.

Tavira considered a pearl of eastern Algarve. Ancient moorish old town, one of the biggest in Algarve, you can walk a long time by its old streets. Old town is divided by river in its middle, few bridges connect two parts of the town. Usually, I enjoy the walk by the river bank from one side to observe the other opposite bank.

There is a small park (Jardim Público de Tavira) which goes along the river in the centre of Tavira. In the hot summer day, one can catch the green shade and relax around beautiful trees and flouwers.

On the other side ofthe river there is other green square (Jardim da Alagoa), surrounded by cafes. Small island to stop and take a sit.

Tavira is also known for numerous churches (around hundred) and a medieval castle. From the walls of the castle, locally known as Castelo de Tavira, there are beautiful views on the town. One can climb the walls and the towers. The castle interior is now organised into a small nice garden. During the day time castle can be visited for free.

Old market of Tavira (Mercado da Ribeira), which located near the river, bridge (Ponte das Forcas Amadas) and the park is quite an interesting building. Now Tavira has a new town market (Mercado Municipal de Tavira), where you can find fresh vegetables and fruits. It locates a little bit further from the center. The old market now became a tourist attraction, is used for town fests, has few cafes inside and souvenir shops.

Tavira island

Visiting Tavira one can also take a boat or ferry to “Tavira Island” to spend some time near the ocean. There are 2 places from where the ferry goes to the island. Here are schedules and prices for both.

There is a ferry, which goes from the center, nearby old market (Mercado da Ribeira). The trip with this ferry will take a little bit longer, around 30 min.

Another Ferry port is a little bit far from the center – 25 minutes walk, but worth it. Location of the port itself is very nice and calls Quatro Aguas (translates as “four waters”). Its surrounded by water channels and Ria Formosa lagoon. This port is better for people with cars, as in the center of Tavira its hard to find a parking place. In  Quatro Aguas there is a lot of space and parking is free.

There are also private boats, tours, taxis all around Tavira, which propose their service. Level of the comfort of those companies is higher, but also the proposition is more expensive. Usually, prices are max low, as there is a big competency and Portuguese salaries are comparatively small.

Tavira island has all basic support facilities, like restaurants and toilets, and are supervised during the bathing season. Island even has trees, which is rare for lagoon of Ria Formosa Park.

Part of the island to which most of ferries and boats come surrounded by Ria Formosa lagoon, which basically represented by waters located between islands and the mainland, goes from Faro till the village of Cacela Velha (around15 km from Tavira). This kind of location brought to the waters a lot of birds and animals, rare plants. Ria Formosa now has a status of Natural Park and is under government defence. Views there varies a lot dependently on tides: changing from sea view in high tide to dozens of small islands in low tide.

other beaches and destinations around Tavira

Cabanas de Tavira, Santa Luzia, Barril beach.

  Nearby Tavira there is a touristy village Santa Luzia. In past, it was fisherman settlement on the front of Ria Formosa Lagoon. Now on the shore you can walk a nice wooden way path, surrounded by a lot of cafes and boat tours companies with various propositions. The cheapest way to get to the beach in Santa Luzia is a ferry boat to Tavira island, costs around 2 euros round trip. It brings people in another place on the island than a ferry from Tavira. This beach has less infrastructure, but in terms of nature is as nice. First 150 meters of beach can be full of people in season, but if you walk more maybe it willbe even totaly empty.

Santa Luzia locates less than 3 km western of Tavira. You can even walk there in around 40minutes from the center of Tavira.

1,5km further west by Ria Formosa front located a bridge, which leads to Barril Beach (Praia do Barril). In this case, you don’t need to take a boat, because there is a nice bridge, after which you can take a small touristy train to beach or walk 15 minutes through the island. Barril beach also locates on Tavira island and walking along the ocean shoreline you can get to other beaches of the island, but its quite long, and walking on the sun is enjoyment not for everyone.

There is an interesting attraction on the Barril beach – anchors cemetery. Anchors were used for catching nets of large and powerful Bluefin Tuna. Today cemetery of anchors is a symbolic memorial to the decline of the tuna and the abandonment of this way of life. There is no anymore Bluefin Tuna in the seas of the Algarve.

The beach is safe for children, with calm and clean waters, and is supervised during the summer season. There are a lot of cafes, some shops.

Cabanas de Tavira.

Village 6 km to the east from Tavira. Train station locates a little bit far from the village main part, so its better to come with the bus, car or taxi. There is also a road to bike from Tavira to Cabanas, through “Salinas- Ciclovia de Tavira“.

Cabanas village with population a little bit more than 1 thousand people became a touristic spot with hotels, boat companies and a lot of cafes facing the Ria Formosa Nature Park. Cabanas reminds Santa Luzia village but has luxury hotels. You can find all kinds of boat excursions here, group tours and private rides.

Opposite the village locates Cabanas island, a neighbour of Tavira island. Island is quite long, around 6 km, clean, with beautiful blue water and a lot of space.

travelling to and from Tavira

How to get to Tavira and day trips from the town

How to get to Tavira?? (click on blue text to get more info)

  • Train goes from Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Faro or even straight from Lagos. Check the schedule here. Tavira has 2 train stations Tavira and Porta Nova, both equaly close to the center.
  • Bus. Check Eva Bus company for busses around Algarve. There are also companies like Alsa and Rede Expressos, which going further, for example to Seville or Lisbon.

Day trips:

  • Olhao. Town has the largest fishing port in the Algarve and it’s widely known as the “Capital of Ria Formosa”.  Olhao has ferry to 3 amazing islands with villages there: Armona, Culatra, Farol.
  • Fuseta. Authentic village with easy access to the islands. A little cubic white village Fuseta, located between Olhao and Tavira. Going down to the sea by traditional and new houses. It’s easy to relax and be caught in a calm atmosphere. Fuseta situated on the bank of Ria Formosa, as nearby town Olhao, but here things are different. Right in the town, there is a beach with sand and blue still water. Fuseta is something special in terms of waterfront. Usually, Ria Formosa meets us with wild waters, which are not good for swimming. But here the coast is excellent to have classic beach time and to do water sports. Fuseta have 2 train stations: Fuseta and Fuseta-A. Both are very near the village center.
  • Faro – the capital of Algarve. Around 30 min on the train away.In day time except visiting the old town and castle, it’s also nice to walk on the front of the Ria Formosa, which isn’t always very organised, but beautiful. One can enter marina at the train or bus station, after in the very new center where locates Faro port with yachts and near old castle walls.In port or in the same castle walls its nice to catch a ferry or boat tour to nearby islands or just to see Ria Formosa, its nature, and maybe even go to the ocean.
  • Vila Real de Santo Antonio – Town on the border with Spain, where you can take the ferry through the river and be in Spain in 15 minutes. Has a nice beach and pleasant nature reserve near it. Vila Real is the most southwestern town of Portugal. From one side of it is the ocean, from another is a wide river, which makes a natural border with Spain.