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Tavira Portugal Guide - Fully Updated for 2018!

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.

Gilao River tavira portugal

The Gilão River and historic centre of Tavira

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.

Tavira portugal beach

The empty beaches of Tavira Portugal

Top Things to do in Tavira

• Relaxing on the stunning beaches of the Ilha de Tavira, which are only a short ferry ride from the town centre.

• Explore the remnants of the Moors era, including the castle, the ancient city walls and the mosques that were converted into churches.

• Enjoy relaxed and social evenings in the pretty historic centre, while eating delicious regional dishes and drinking local wines.

• Hire a Kayak (or join an organised tour) and explore the waterways of the Ria Formosa Nature Park, with its diverse bird and aquatic wildlife.

• Discover all of Tavira’s 36 varied churches, ranging from Gothic to Renaissance, and from ornately painted to fully adorned in azulejos tiles.

For a guide to the things to do and see in Tavira, please click here.

Tavira nights

A good night in Tavira starts with a cold Sagres beer!



Top things to do while on Holiday in Tavira

• Visit the small octopus fishing village of Santa Luzia, where traditional methods are still used to catch the octopus, which is cooked to perfection in the harbour front restaurants.

• Have a beach day at the Praia do Barril, the setting for the strangest memorial of the Algarve, the Anchor Cemetery, and discover the heritage of the region.

• Hire a bike and cycle along the coastline cycle path or the quiet back roads to discover traditional villages and undiscovered beaches.

• Have a day trip to Faro, with its historic walled centre, pleasant shopping streets and the fascinating but creepy bone chapel.

• Visit the town of Vila Real, a centre for 18th century fishing, which was constructed with a grandeur that does not befit its size or status.

For a guide to Tavira day trips and sights of the eastern Algarve please see this article.

Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo tavira church

The Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo church

The setting of 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.



So why a holiday to Tavira?

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.

portugal Praca da Republica tavira

The river front in Tavira

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.

Fishing boats on the Ilha de Tavira

Fishing boats on the Ilha de Tavira

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.

Tavira Weather

Tavira's Average weather



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.

Cemetery Of Anchors Tavira

The Cemetery of Anchors on the Praia do Barril Beach

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. . For a guide to the beaches of Tavira please click here.

Tavira and Southern Portugal for 2018

The whole of the Algarve is expecting a sell-out year for 2018, 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 2018 - if you are seriously considering a holiday to Tavira or southern Portugal our advice to you is to book your flights and accommodation now. For a guide to the best hotels in Tavira please click here.


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 surround 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. For a suggested itinerary for 1 week in Tavira, please click here.

tavira portugal Roman Bridge

The Roman Bridge 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. For a guide to the day trips from Tavira please click here.

Is Tavira and the eastern Algarve expensive?

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. The main expense for a holiday in the Algarve will be the cost of the accommodation and flights, always book these as far in advance as possible to secure the best prices.

vila real

Vila Real can be visited as a day trip from Tavira

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)

Tavira train station

The train is the best way to travel from the airport

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. For a guide to travelling from Faro to Tavira by train please click here.

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.



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