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Tavira Portugal Guide - Fully Updated for 2019!
Tavira is an ancient Moorish town that has retained its unique character and heritage to become one of the finest resort towns of the Algarve. The town extends along the banks of the Gilão River and is a delightful mix of traditional Portuguese architecture with deep-rooted Moorish influences. Tavira is a joy to explore with its plethora of historic buildings and decorative churches, all of which are set around charming plazas and pretty cobbled streets.
Tavira is a great destination for a beach holiday as to the south of the town are the pristine beaches of the Ilha de Tavira. These beaches are some of the least developed of the Algarve, being protected by the Ria Formosa Nature Park.
The evenings in Tavira are spent alfresco dining in the charming historic centre, eating delicious freshly caught fish and socialising with new friends over a bottle of locally produced wine. Tavira is no dull historic relic, as hidden away in an old factory is Ubi, one of the finest clubs of the Algarve, where banging tunes can be danced to till the sun rises.
Tavira’s relaxed and unhurried ambience makes it a great location for families or more mature visitors seeking a calm holiday destination. For the more active visitor, there are numerous cycling paths, long hiking routes, excellent golf courses and kilometres of waterways waiting to be discovered by kayak.
There is a lot to love about Tavira, making it the ideal holiday destination for those tourists who want to combine beautiful beaches with an immersion in Portuguese culture. This guide will provide an introduction to Tavira, which is one of our favourite towns of southern Portugal.
Highlights of Tavira
So why a holiday to Tavira?
Tavira is located on the eastern side of the Algarve, approximately 30 km east of Faro and 25km west of the Spanish border. This region of the Algarve attracts fewer tourists than the central or western Algarve, and provides visitors with a more authentic Portuguese experience.
Flowing through the centre of Tavira is the Gilao River, which meanders into the shallow waterways and mudflats of the Ria Formosa National Park; a haven for migratory birds and sea life. Beyond the Ria Formosa lagoons is the Ilha de Tavira, a sandbar island which is the location of Tavira’s pristine beaches.
Tavira is considered to be one of the most scenic towns of the Algarve; lined with cobbled streets, historic buildings and traditional Portuguese architecture. Tavira also offers stunning beaches that are only a short ferry ride from the town centre. The town has an excellent range of authentic restaurants and family-run accommodation options that are suitable for all budgets. A stay in Tavira is guaranteed to provide visitors with a laid-back slice of Portuguese culture, even in the height of summer.
Who should visit Tavira Portugal?
Tavira is a mature and unhurried destination, which is ideal for the more independent tourist who wants to experience local culture and cuisine. Tavira is suitable for families but it is a long distance from the popular family water-parks and theme-parks, which are situated in the central Algarve region. Tavira is not designed for groups looking for a vibrant nightlife and a loud drinking scene.
When to visit Tavira?
The height of the tourist season is from June until the end of August but the weather is suitable for spending time on the beaches from early May until the end of September. During the height of the tourist season hotels do sell out and accommodation and flights must be booked well in advance. Spring and autumn are great seasons to visit the region, with long bright days but without the intense summer sun or summer time crowds. Winters in the Algarve are mild and unpredictable, with an equal number of sunny days as wet or grey days. Tavira is a major town with a large permanent population, so outside of the tourist season most restaurants and cafes will be open.
The average weather of Tavira
Does Tavira have good beaches?
The beaches in this region are quite simply stunning and, with 7km of pristine sandy shoreline to choose from, which never gets overcrowded. The main beach is the Praia de Tavira, which is at the western edge of the Ilha de Tavira Island, and is connected to the town by an inexpensive ferry service.
Further along the Ilha de Tavira are the beaches of Praia do Barril and the Praia de Terra Estreita which are much more peaceful. The Praia do Barril is the most picturesque beach of the region, the beach was a former tuna fishing community and today the huts have been transformed into restaurants and cafes while the anchors that held the complex series of nets have been placed in the sand dunes as a permanent memorial.
Related articles: Tavira beach guide - Praia do Barril
Tavira and Southern Portugal for 2019
The whole of the Algarve is expecting a sell-out year for 2019, and this follows the outstanding year of 2017. With all of the political instabilities around the world, people are flocking to the Algarve as it offers a safe, inexpensive holiday destination that is suitable for all. The Algarve is capitalising on this increase of tourism with new businesses opening, hotels extending their season and significant investment in the region, such as the refurbishment of the airport.
This increased popularity of the Algarve means that Tavira will have a sell-out 2019 - if you are seriously considering a holiday to Tavira or southern Portugal our advice to you is to book your flights and accommodation now. The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms (in Cascais/ in Lagos / in Albufeira), and by altering the date to your holiday, the map will display current prices:
Tavira for a week’s holiday?
Tavira is more than just a simple beach holiday destination; there is a varied selection of sights and activities within the eastern Algarve region to fill a 1-week holiday. An extended holiday could include the many interesting day trips to the surrounding region, while for the more adventurous, bikes could be hired for cycling along the coastal cycle path or a round of golf could be played at one of Southern Portugal’s wonderful golf courses.
Related articles:1 week in Tavira
Tavira as a base to explore the Eastern Algarve
Tavira makes for a great location from which to explore the eastern side of the Algarve. Popular excursions from Tavira include the octopus fishing village of Santa Luzia, the working port of Olhão, the sleepy town of Vila Real or the historic capital of Faro. From Vila Real it is even possible to cross the Guadiana River by ferry and visit Spain and the town of Ayamonte.
The two recommended day trips are to Faro and Vila Real. Faro is a large urban city, with an extensive history and a pretty walled Old Town with castle and solid walls. Departing from the harbour of Faro are tours of the Ria Formosa natural park and ferries to the deserted sandbar islands that lie south of Faro. Vila Real was constructed in the 18th century as a centre for fishing and was ideally situated on the banks of the slow-flowing Guadiana River. This charming little town has a grandeur not found within the Algarve and does not reflect the size or importance of the town.
The regional railway passes through Tavira and this provides regular and inexpensive connections to all of the popular day trips including Faro, Olhão, Monte Gordo and Vila Real. This also means that visitors can explore the much of the region can be explored without the use of a rental car.
Related articles: Vila Real Introduction - Faro Introduction
Faro Airport and airport transfers
The nearest airport to Tavira is Faro airport, 35 km to the west. Faro airport has connections to the whole of Europe, and all of the low-cost airlines have regular services. For onward transfer from the airport to Tavira either pre-book a transfer or take public transport. Never just hire a taxi from the airport as this will be very expensive. The most reliable and highest regarded private transfer company in the Algarve is Yellow Fish Transfers, and the price of a transfer to Tavira is €43/86 (transfer/return), click here to visit their website and to book a transfer. (The link opens new window)
To travel from the airport to Tavira by public transport requires a bus from the airport to Faro train (or bus) station and then a train (or intercity bus) from Faro to Tavira. Public transport in the Algarve does not continue late into the night so if arrive late pre-book a transfer or consider spending a night in Faro before heading to Tavira. Faro is a surprisingly enjoyable city for a short stay.
Related articles: Faro airport to Tavira
Tavira Cuisine Specialities
Many of the specificities dishes of Tavira are focused around the fresh catch of the sea and include; tuna, swordfish, red mullet and stone bass and are often served with rice, salads and chips. A delightful meal to share is Cataplana; a shellfish stew served in a copper pan. Locally produced wines are inexpensive and a great accompaniment to any meal. Generally, Portugal is a very cheap holiday destination; with food, drink and transport significantly cheaper than many other European holiday destinations. Tavira is also less commercialised than the central Algarve and is therefore slightly cheaper.