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Tavira Portugal Guide - Fully Updated for 2016!

Tavira is the hidden gem of the Algarve, the holiday destination that many tourists seek but never find. The cobbled streets, pretty harbour and historic centre makes Tavira the quintessential Algarve town, while the infectious unhurried pace of life has barely altered in generations.

 

Surround Tavira are some of the finest unspoilt beaches of the Algarve, protected from development by the Ria Formosa national park. For the more intrepid visitor Tavira is an excellent location from which explore the entire eastern Algarve and this is all possible via the inexpensive regional railway. During the evenings the delightful historic centre comes alive with tourists and locals alike dining on freshly caught fish, which is served at one of the many excellent open air restaurants.

Gilao River and fishing harbour

The Gilao River and fishing harbour

There is a lot to love about Tavira and it makes for the ideal holiday destination for tourists who want more than just beaches or cheap drink from their holiday. Tavira is one of our favourite destinations in the Algarve and this guide will provide an introduction to this special region.

Highlights of a holiday to Tavira

Beautiful unspoilt beaches that are only a short ferry ride from the town centre.

Tavira portugal beach

The empty beaches of Tavira Portugal

Relaxed evenings in the pretty historic centre; eating wonderful seafood dishes and drinking locally produced wines

Tavira nightlife

A glass of Sagres beer and the busy evening streets of Tavira

The traditional Portuguese character of the historic centre, which is filled with ornate churches, tradition houses and remnants of Tavira’s history.

Tavira castle

The castle and historic centre of Tavira

The inexpensive and reliable public transport, which allows the whole eastern Algarve to be explored as day trips.

Tavira train

The regional train connects all of the towns of the eastern Algarve

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 has fewer tourists than the central Algarve, providing visitors with a more authentic Portuguese experience.

Tavira Ria Formosa National Park

The view from the castle over the Ria Formosa National Park

Tavira is situated along the banks of the slow-flowing Gilao River, which flows into the shallow mudflats of the Ria Formosa National Park; a haven for migratory birds and sea life. Beyond the lagoons and waterways are the sandy stretches of Ilha de Tavira; the location of the region’s finest 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 Praca da Republica, the heart of Tavira Portugal

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.

Tavira Weather

Tavira Average weather

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.

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 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 churches

Tavira has over 36 churches!

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.

Olhão portugal

The fishing port of Olhão can be visted as a day trip

The two recommended day trips are to Faro and Vila Real. Faro as it is a large 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

vila real

Vila Real can be visited as a day trip from Tavira

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 prices are dramatically inflated during the summer months. Always book hotels well in advance for the best prices, and for a guide of the best hotels in Tavira please click here.

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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