Spanning both banks of the River Gilão, Tavira is one of the most picturesque towns in the Algarve
Explore the timeless elegance of this charming riverside town crammed with 16th - 18th century buildings.
Stroll across the seven-arched Ponta Romana, the low arched Roman-era bridge spanning the Rio Gilão, which flows through the centre of historical Tavira and links the two parts of the town.
In the Old Town, walk among numerous traditional white-washed houses with iconic red roofs and see archways dating to the Moorish period.
Visit the remains of a hilltop Moorish castle, the Forte de São João da Barraå, built in 1670 to protect Ria Formosa, and enjoy panoramic views overlooking Tavira.
Tavira is famous for its large number of religious monuments and churches, including the Igreja se Santa Maria do Castelo, the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Graça and Igreja do São Paulo.
Pop into the Igreja da Misericórdia de Tavira – the most notable building of the Renaissance era in the Algarve.
The church was built between 1541 and 1551 in the Renaissance style, with three naves and ceiling supported by eight columns. Its decoration features a set of blue and white tile panels from the 18th century.
And don't miss the Mercado da Ribeira – the charming and charismatic market of Tavira – with its double entrance gates of wrought and cast iron, decorated pediments, cornice and balustrade.
After a morning exploring the Old Town, unwind on the unspoilt beaches of Ilha de Tavira (Tavira Island), which lie just a short ferry ride away – perfect for a day trip.
Tavira is also an ideal base to explore the extensive wetlands of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, which stretches along 60km (37mi) of coastline between Manta Rota and Vale do Lobo.
Take a birdwatching tour or follow the 3.2km-long São Lourenço nature trail and the Quinta do Lago pathway to get close to the salt marshes and freshwater lagoons.
In this undulating region of shimmering freshwater lakes, sand dune islands, marshland and umbrella pines, look out for an assortment of flora and fauna including the rare purple gallinule marsh hens, flamingoes and the unique web-footed Portuguese water dog.
The park headquarters is located at Quinta de Marim, around 3km (1.8mi) east of Olhão and about 27km (17mi) east of Tavira. The park office offers all the information you need to get the most from your hike through the wetlands.
While the town of Tavira lacks beaches, the nearby Ilha de Tavira (Tavira Island) offers a very long and wide golden-sand beach.
Ilha de Tavira stretches for about 11km (7mi) and varies from 150m to 1km (0.6mi) in width. The island is part of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.
Ilha de Tavira is divided into three different beach areas: Praia da Ilha de Tavira (in the east) is regarded as the main beach (photo), Praia da Terra Estreita (in the center) is a quiet less-crowded beach, with little infrastructure, and Praia do Barril (in the west) is known for its anchor cemetery and old tuna factory.
Backed by sand dunes, the beaches on Ilha de Tavira offer clean, soft sand. The sea water is calm, clean and crystal clear, but is very cold, even in the peak of summer.
Ilha de Tavira is perfect for a long beach walk: from the main beach to Praia do Barril takes about 45 minutes walking. Two kilometres further, lies a nudist beach area – one of the best nude beaches in the Algarve.
Facilities on Ilha de Tavira, include lounge chairs and parasols for rent (about €15 a day), toilets and showers. Lifeguards patrol the beach during summer.
While there are restaurants and beach bars on the island, many people bring their own drinks and snacks. Several water sports are available, including jet skiing and banana boats.
Praia do Barril is typically uncrowded and is known for its anchor cemetery consisting of more than 100 rusting anchors in the sand. The anchors originally held huge fishing nets, forming a large maze that funneled the tuna into the nets.
Praia do Barril is a long and wide beach stretching for kilometres in both directions. Even in the peak of summer, you can have a section of the beach all to yourself.
Behind the beach, sit some old buildings previously used by tuna fishermen that have been converted into restaurants, bars and other facilities.
Getting to Ilha de Tavira: A boat ferry leaves hourly from the centre of Tavira, on Rua Jose Pires Padinha, during the summer season, from June until September. The trip – through Parque Natural da Ria Formosa – takes about 20 minutes and costs €2 for a round trip.
Alternatively, you can take a ferry or water taxi from Quatro Águas, about 2km (1.2mi) from Tavira. The trip takes about 10 minutes and costs €2 for a round trip by ferry, and up to €20 for a single trip by water taxi. The ferry service runs all year.
If you plan on visiting Praia do Barril, try going to Pedras d’el Rei in Santa Luzia, around 5km (3mi) from Tavira. Once there, you can walk on a floating bridge over the Ria Formosa, then take a cute train (only during high season) which takes about 8 minutes for the 1km ride. Or you can walk to Praia do Barril, which takes about 15-20 minutes.
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Anytime is good to visit Tavira (and the Algarve) – the coast sees little rain and lots of sunny days throughout the year including winter – but for the best weather, visit Tavira between June and October.
The peak holiday season in Tavira is July and August; these are also the hottest months of the year, with the temperature averaging 28°C (82°F) and but often reaching the high 30°Cs.
The months of spring (March to May) and autumn (October and November) are typically warm and – while perhaps too chilly for swimming – are excellent for sailing and land-based activities such as golf.
More information about weather on the Algarve …
Tavira is located about 3km (1.6mi) inland from the coast, around 38km (23mi) west of Faro and about 70km (43mi) east of Albufeira.
The most convenient route to Tavira is by air to Faro International Airport (FAO), also known as Algarve Airport, located 4km (2.5 mi) west of Faro, and around 42km (26mi) west of Tavira.
Faro – the provincial capital of the Algarve and the largest city in southern Portugal – is located 45km (28mi) east of Albufeira and 309km (192mi) southeast of Lisbon.
Taxis and buses run frequently between the airport and Faro city centre, taking around 7 minutes.
Taxis and hire cars are available at the airport. A bus service operates every 30 minutes from the airport to Faro train station at Largo da Estação for connections to Tavira and other destinations on the Algarve.
More information about how to get to the Algarve…
Latest update: Tavira Honeymoon Guide: 22 December, 2019
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