The best independent guide to Tavira
The best independent guide to Tavira
The Praia do Barril is one of the finest beaches of the eastern Algarve, and makes for a fascinating excursion from Tavira.
Barril beach not only provides pristine white sands and crystal-clear sea waters, but also an insight to the fishing heritage of the region. The beach was once the location of a small tuna fishing community, and the remnants of this bygone industry have been transformed into the beach’s tourist facilities.
The most notable feature of the Praia do Barril is the Cemitério das Âncoras (Anchor Cemetery), a rusting memorial to the abandoned fishing community. In the sandbanks where the boats were once hauled, hundreds of anchors used by the fishing fleet have been placed.
The Praia do Barril is a great location for a beach day, but it is also a fascinating place to visit.
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Once at the beach are good tourist facilities, including three beach restaurants (Snack Bar Ancoras, Blue Beach Bar and Barril Beach Café), beach shops and clean public toilets.
Barril beach is safe for children, with soft sands, calm sea waters, and is supervised by lifeguards during the summer season. Sunshades and parasols can be hired for €12 per day, but during the peak months, they sell out and need to be pre-booked.
The Praia do Barril faces a southeasterly direction and away from the powerful Atlantic waves and winds. This means the beach is not really suitable for surfing, but is free from prevailing sea breezes.
Close to the footbridge is a large car park (€8 full day), but many visitors attempt to avoid this cost by parking on the local roads, which quickly fill up in the summer. There is a limited bus service from Tavira (Monday to Friday only), and details are given at the end of the article.
In the sand dunes behind Barril beach is the Cemitério das Âncoras, a symbolic memorial to the near extinction of bluefin tuna within the Algarve, the loss of traditional fishing methods and a community. The 203 rusting anchors were placed in the sands in 1964, when the tuna fishing community at Barril was finally abandoned, and tuna fishing livelihood became unsustainable.
The large number of anchors did not reflect the size of the former fishing fleet, but the complexity of the net structures needed for Bluefin Tuna fishing. The traditional and sustainable tuna fishing techniques created a maze of nets, into which the adult fish would be ensnared.
At Barril 80 fishermen and their families would live during the tuna fishing season of May to September. The rise of industrial fishing severely depleted the tuna stocks (72% reduction in the eastern Atlantic in just 40 years) and made the less invasive fishing techniques uneconomical.
Today there are almost no Bluefin Tuna in the seas off the Algarve coastline, and the fishing huts have been repurposed for the Algarve’s primary industry, tourism.
Barril beach is connected to the mainland bridge by a miniature railway, and a single ride costs €1.50 with a journey takes around 15minutes.
The 1.3km miniature railway was originally used to haul supplies to the fishing community and the prized tuna back to the village of Pedras D’el. Today the mini-train has been given the appearance of a steam train and is the best means to travel to the beach.
The Praia do Barril lies within the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. These saltwater mudflats, tidal lagoons and sandbar ecosystems are an important habitat for birds and small aquatic life. The region is populated with numerous wading birds (Egrets, Ibis and Spoonbills) and is an important resting point for birds migrating between Europe and Africa.
The waterways are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of seahorse (long-snouted and short-snouted seahorse), and there are even rare Pond Turtles. Protected species include the breeding grounds of the Purple Gallinule, while the barrier-sandbar islands are one of the few native locations of the European Chameleon.
The “natural park” designation also safeguards traditional methods of shellfish fishing, and limits the extent of tourist development along the coastline.
Insight: To the untrained eye the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa may seem quite sparse, but look at the mudflats at low tide to see them teeming with crabs.
Barril beach extends for 5km in a northeasterly direction to the Praia de Tavira beach, where it is possible to catch a ferry back to Tavira (check ferry times before starting). This could be extended by hiking from Tavira to Barril via Santa Luzia and then following the beach to Praia de Tavira for a scenic 11km route.
There is a cycle path between Tavira and Pedras d’El Rei, and is an enjoyable route with no hills and passes through Santa Luzia.
It is 5km from central Tavira to the footbridge at Pedras d’El Rei. There is an infrequent bus service between Tavira to Pedras d’El Rei (number 105) that runs Monday to Friday, but there are no departures at the weekend. A single bus ticket costs €2.35 and the latest timetable can be seen on the Eva bus website:
(the timetable states 2012 but was correct in February 2020).
All of the time tables can be seen on the Eva website:
A taxi from Tavira to the entrance of the beach would cost €7.00-9.00, but few taxis pass the beach for the return journey. Uber is always an alternative to a taxi, and prices are comparable.
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