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Santa Luzia, Algarve, Portugal
Santa Luzia is a small fishing village that makes for an enjoyable relaxed holiday destination or interesting day trip from Tavira. Santa Luzia is famed for its octopus, which is caught using traditional methods by the fishing fleet and then served up in the family run restaurants that line the harbour front.
The fishing fleet of Santa Luzia
Santa Luzia overlooks the lagoons and waterways of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, which is a haven for migratory birds and small marine life. On the seaward side of Ria Formosa are some of the quietest beaches of the Algarve and these pristine beaches can be reached by small ferries that depart from the harbour. This guide will provide an introduction to Santa Luzia for both visitors considering a holiday or day trip to this pretty and characterful village.
What is there to do in Santa Luzia?
The main attraction is the village itself. Santa Luzia is a traditional Portuguese fishing village, which remains authentic and untouched by the influences of tourism. The colourful fishing boats return early in the morning and this is the best time to visit the fish market, where the last night’s catch is displayed and sold.
Tourists seeking some time on the beach can also visit the Praia da Terra Estreita, which is easily accessible by ferry. This beach is part of the Ilha de Tavira sandbar, which offers visitors an unspoilt, stunning shoreline. The Praia da Terra Estreita beach is regarded by some as the best beach in the region and is always quiet, even at the height of the summer season.
The stunning Praia Terra Estreita beach
For those seeking some nature, the village is positioned on the edge of the Ria Formosa Natural Park; a series of protected mudflats and lagoons designed for migratory birdlife. During the summer there are boat tours and bird watching tours around this area.
Santa Luzia is only a Village
For those visitors planning a holiday or even a day trip to Santa Luzia should realise that it is a very small village, with only a hand full of restaurants and a small harbour front.
As a day trip, it could be combined with Barril Beach and the anchor cemetery or have an extended lunch in one of the excellent seafood restaurants. Santa Luzia is also situated on the Algarve Cycle Path (the Ecovia do Litoral) and can be easily included as part of a bike ride or short hike from Tavira.
The seafood restaurants of Santa Luzia
As a holiday destination Santa Luzia is idea for tourists looking to experience a unique, traditional Portuguese way of life in a very calm and peaceful setting. Santa Luzia is far removed from the crowds of tourists who visit the central Algarve but is still within walking distance (40minutes) of Tavira a major resort town.
Travel to Santa Luzia
Santa Luzia is only 3km southwest of Tavira and can be easily cycled or hiked to (see section later on in the article). There is an inexpensive bus service which departs from Tavira bus station, and only takes 10 minutes to travel to Santa Luzia. A single ticket cost €2.30, with a return costs €4.60 and the ticket is purchased from the driver on the bus. This bus route also continues to Pedras D’el Rei, which is the location for Barril beach. For the latest time table please see the Eva bus website:
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Santa Luzia Beach, The Praia Da Terra Estreita
Santa Luzia is situated behind the sandbar of Ilha de Tavira. Extending the length of the sandy island are some of the best beaches in the region. The beach closest to Santa Luzia is called Praia da Terra Estreita, which is accessible only by ferry from the harbour. The frequency of ferry services is seasonal (regular departures take place from May until mid-September) but there are also water taxis for those who miss departures or are visiting in low season. An adult single ferry ride is €1.50 and a return is €2.00.
The beach just a short walk from Terra da Estreita
To the east of Praia da Terra Estreita is the Praia de Tavira; the most developed section of island, while to the west is the Barril Beach and the Cemetery of Anchors. Both beaches can be reached on foot from Praia da Terra Estreita and takes around 30 minutes. Praia da Terra Estreita is always much quieter than Tavira or Barril but there are only basic facilities available. It is recommended to head to Praia da Terra Estreita in peak season to escape the crowds of beach goers.
The Cemetery of Anchors at Barril Beach
Santa Luzia and Octopus (Polvo)
No visit to Santa Luzia is complete without sampling octopus (Polvo in Portuguese), a delicacy adored by the Portuguese. This dish is extremely difficult to cook but the village has mastered the fine art and is a speciality of the restaurants that line the harbour.
The fishing fleet of Santa Luzia use traditional and sustainable methods of fishing for the octopus which have barely altered in generations. The fishing technique uses clay pots that are lowered onto the seabed and the unwitting octopus are tempted to swim in but are unable to escape. During the day these clay pots can be seen drying along the harbour front or piled up on the fishing boats.
The octopus boxed and ready for sale…
The otherwise sleepy harbour comes alive each morning when the octopus catches are brought ashore and sold in the local market. Tourists who miss this spectacle can also taste this local delicacy at one of the village’s restaurants, which overlook look the colourful fishing fleet.
Cycling and hiking to Santa Luzia
Santa Luzia is only 3km southwest of Tavira and can be reached easily along the Algarve Cycle Path, which is perfect for those wishing to explore at a leisurely pace. This route has been purpose-built, following the quiet R151 road, and is perfectly safe for those of all cycling abilities. Bikes can be hired from either Tavira or Santa Luzia.
The route is also suitable for hikers and takes around 40 minutes to walk. More adventurous hikers can also extend the route and continue on to Praia do Barril beach (5 hours). From here it is easily possible to walk the length of the beach to Ilha de Tavira and catch the ferry back to Tavira
Interesting facts about Santa Luzia
Origin of Santa Luzia: The village was named ‘Saint Lucy’ following the recovery of a holy relic by a local fisherman, which had been lost out at sea during a storm.