The best independent guide to Tavira
The best independent guide to Tavira
The eastern side of Algarve is a fascinating region offering historic towns, charming villages and stunning beaches.
Tavira lies at the heart of this region, and is a wonderful holiday destination, combining an authentic Portuguese experience with world-class tourist facilities.
The location of Tavira means that it is the ideal base from which to explore the eastern Algarve, and there is inexpensive public transport covering the entire region.
This guide will detail the best day trips Tavira, along with information about the nature parks and beaches of the eastern Algarve.
The best day trips from Tavira are: 1) Faro 2) Vila Real de Santo Antonio 3) Olhão 4) Castro Marim 5) Monte Gordo 6) Santa Luzia 7) Cabanas
The 5 beaches are: 1) Praia de Monte Gordo 2) Praia de Santo António 3) Praia do Barril 4) Praia da Ilha Deserta 5) Praia de Tavira
The nature parks: 1) Parque Natural da Ria Formosa 2) Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim 3) Mata Nacional Litorais de Vila Real de Santo Antonio
The map below shows the location of these day trips and beaches. The best day trips are shown in blue, the 5 best beaches are marked in yellow, and the region's nature parks are shown in green.
Faro is a historic city, which has a delightful walled old quarter, a pretty harbour and bustling pedestrianised shopping streets. Highlights of Faro include the Gothic Se cathedral, the ghoulish bone chapel and the decorative Arco da Vila gateway.
Departing from Faro harbour are boat trips to the Ilha Deserta (the Deserted Island) and boat tours of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. There is a direct train from Tavira to Faro, and the city has ample to fill a day of sightseeing.
Related articles: Faro Introduction
Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Vila Real de Santo Antonio sits on the banks of the mighty Rio Guadiana, overlooking the Spanish border. The town has a grandeur beyond its size, and the centre is lined with impressive Baroque architecture.
As part of the day trip, it is possible to cross the Guadiana River by ferry to the Spanish town of Ayamonte. There is a direct train from Tavira to Vila Real.
Related articles: Introduction to Vila Real de Santo Antonio
Santa Luzia is a traditional fishing village, which lies along the waterways of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, and specialises in the fishing of octopus.
A trip to Santa Luiza is often combined with a visit to the Praia do Barril beach, which was once a tuna fishing community and the setting of the Cemitério das Âncoras.
Related articles: Santa Luzia - Praia do Barril
Cabanas is a peaceful resort town that is a favourite with retirees and long stay visitors. The harbourfront is lined with relaxed cafes and restaurants, where patrons spend all day, enjoying the unhurried atmosphere of the town.
There is a ferry which crosses to the beaches on the Ilha da Cabanas. If you seek a relaxing day, then Cabanas is the destination for you.
Olhão is a busy fishing port, which boasts a rich fishing heritage. Contained within the town is the largest fish market of southern Portugal, a scenic harbour front, and a historic centre filled with traditional fishermen’s houses. From the harbour are ferries to the Ilha da Culatra. Olhão has a working atmosphere but is a likeable town.
Monte Gordo is a modern and lively resort town that sits on the largest beach of the eastern Algarve. In the summer Monte Gordo has a bustling holiday atmosphere and buzzing nightlife, but is without the Portuguese charm of other destinations.
Related articles: Monte Gordo guide
Castro Marim is a heavily defended town on the eastern side of the Algarve, which protected Portugal from Spanish aggression. There are two castles in Castro Marim; a 14th-century castle constructed by the “Order of Christ” as their religious stronghold, and a 17th-century fort that guarded the Rio Guadiana.
Parque Natural da Ria Formosa
The Parque Natural da Ria Formosa is the saltwater lagoons and mudflats between Faro and Tavira. This region is a haven for migratory birds and protects the fragile marine ecosystem, which would have succumbed to mass tourism if not protected.
The natural park designation also helps preserve the traditional fishing communities (such as the Ilha da Culatra) and sustainable fishing techniques used by them. The Ria Formosa is best explored by boat tours, which depart from Faro, Olhao or Tavira.
Related article: Ria Formosa boat trip from Faro
The Cemitério das Âncoras
The Cemitério das Âncoras (Anchor graveyard) comprises of over one hundred rusting anchors that have been placed in the sand dunes behind the Praia do Barril beach. These anchors are a memorial to the former tuna fishing fleet which was based on the Praia do Barril until the 1960s.
If you are on holiday to Tavira, we would recommend visiting the surrounding region in this order:
Faro - Praia do Barril & Santa Luzia - Vila Real de Santo Antonio - Olhão - Cabanas - Castro Marim - Ria Formosa boat trip - Monte Gordo
Related articles: 1 week in Tavira
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