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Tavira Day Trips and Excursions to the Eastern Algarve

The eastern Algarve combines historic towns, traditional heritage and stunning beaches, to create a fascinating region, that is just waiting to be discovered during your holiday. Tavira is a charming Portuguese town and is ideally positioned in the centre of the Eastern Algarve, making it a great base from which to explore the region. This guide will detail the best day trips from Tavira, along with the nature parks and beaches of the Eastern Algarve.

Recommended day trips and excursions from Tavira

Day Trips from Tavira

Vila Real de Santo Antonio – A pretty town that boasts a grandeur beyond its size or status, and which, at the direction of the Portuguese nobility, was constructed in just two years as a centre for 18th century fishing. The town lines the banks of the Rio Guadiana (overlooking the Spanish border), and is filled with baroque houses, relaxed cafes and family run shops.

Vila Real de Santo Antonio portugal

The Praça do Marquês de Pombal in Vila Real de Santo Antonio

Faro – A bustling city with a delightful historic centre, a pretty harbour and busy pedestrianised shopping streets. Within the city there is a varied selection of sights and attractions, which can easily fill a day’s sightseeing. Faro is the best location from which to explore the Ria Formosa Nature Park, as numerous boat tours depart from its harbour.

faro portugal

The historic centre of Faro

Santa Luzia – A small fishing village that specialises in the fishing of octopus. The fishing fleet uses techniques that have not altered in generations and are based around clay pots, which can be seen stacked along the harbour front. Santa Luzia is the perfect location for a lunch (or dinner) of octopus since its restaurants, which line the harbour front have perfected the cooking of this tricky delicacy.

Santa Luzia portugal

The fishing fleet of Santa Luzia

Castro Marim – A traditional Portuguese town that is sandwiched between two heavily fortified castles. The older 14th century castle was an important religious stronghold for the Order of Christ, while the 17th century castle guarded the Rio Guadiana estuary.

Olhão – A busy fishing port and working town. Along the harbour front promenade is the largest fish market in the Algarve, which is housed in a North African inspired covered market. The charming historic centre is filled with restored fishermen’s houses and excellent seafood restaurants.

Olhão market

Olhão's North African inspired market

Monte Gordo – Modern but characterless resort town that has a wonderful beach. During the summer, Monte Gordo has a lively holiday atmosphere and a buzzing nightlife.

Note: each of the day trips is explained in detail later in this article.

Nature Parks

Parque Natural da Ria Formosa – Salt water lagoons and mud flats between Faro and Tavira, which is a haven for migratory birds and a fragile marine ecosystem. The nature park also helps preserve the traditional fishing communities and limits the tourist development on the tranquil sand bar islands, both of which would have succumbed to mass tourism if not protected. The Ria Formosa nature park is best explored by boat tours, which depart from Faro, Olhao or Tavira. For our guide to a Ria Formosa boat trip which departs from Faro please click here.

Ria Formosa

The waterways of the Ria Formosa Nature park

Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real de Santo Antonio – Salt marsh wetlands between Castro Marim and Vila Real. There is a permanent population of flamingos and is a great location for bird watching. Salt is collected from the marshes using classical drying methods and there are a number of hiking routes around the salt lakes.

Mata Nacional Litorais de Vila Real de Santo Antonio – Cooling pine forests and sand dunes south of Vila Real, which open out on to the vast and deserted beach of Praia de Santo Antonio. This maybe be the lesser of the regions nature parks but it is a great place for a peaceful walk or to simply escape the summer time crowds. Unfortunately, a car is needed to get here or it is a long walk from Vila Real.

Mata Nacional Litorais de Vila Real de Santo Antonio

Unique Monument

The Cemitério das Âncoras - Over one hundred rusting anchors placed in the sand dunes behind the Praia do Barril, as a memorial to the former fishing community which once resided here. These anchors are not from the fishing boats, but were used to secure the complex fishing nets used instead for Tuna fishing.

Cemitério das Âncoras

The Cemitério das Âncoras

Best Beaches for Day Trips

Praia do Barril – Scenic beach, which was once a tuna fishing community. The fishing huts have been converted into shops and cafes, while the rusting anchors form the Cemitério das Âncoras.

Cabanas – A calm and unhurried resort town with a pretty beach that is always much quieter than Tavira.

Monte Gordo to Manta Rota – This vast beach is the largest of the eastern Algarve, just try to ignore the huge white apartment blocks of Monte Gordo.

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

tavira beach

Our suggested order for day trips

This is our suggested preference for the day trips from Tavira:
Faro - Vila Real - Praia do Barril - Santa Luzia (half day) - Castro Marim - Ria Formosa boat trip – Olhao – Monte Gordo

Do I need a rental car to explore the Tavira region?

A rental car allows for the complete freedom to explore but there is no need for a hire car to explore the eastern Algarve. Tavira is one of the largest towns of the region and has regular bus services and is served by the Algarve regional railway. This railway connects all of the major towns worth visiting with an inexpensive but infrequent service.

Day Trip to Faro

Faro is historic city that is often sadly ignored by many tourists visiting the Algarve, but there is a lot to see within this fascinating city. Faro contains a delightful historic centre, which include the ruins of a castle, Se cathedral and bishops’ palace. The historic centre is encircled by ancient city walls that date from the Moorish era and are entered via an elaborate city gate.

Faro portugal

Faro is a pretty traditional city

Faro is the gateway to the Ria Formosa Nature Park, a series of saltwater lagoons that are a haven to migratory birds and small marine life. The best method to discover the nature park is via one of the boat tours that depart from the Faro Marina.

Faro also boasts excellent shopping and one of the strangest sights of the Algarve, the ghoulish Chapel of Bones. Tavira is connected to Tavira by the regional railway and there are 10 daily departures in each direction with a single costing €3.15. For a guide to Faro please click here

Day Trip to Vila Real Santo Antonio

Vila Real is situated on the very eastern edge of the Algarve and the town boasts a grandeur that does not reflect its size nor status. Vila Real was constructed at the zenith of Portuguese wealth and power and the town mimics the splendour of central Lisbon. The small town is centred around the Praça Do Marquês De Pombal plaza, with baroque houses and shops lining the avenues.

Vila Real portugal

The central square of Vila Real

Vila Real was the vision of the Maques of Pombal who founded the town and over saw its rapid two year construction as an important fishing and industrial town. Today the town has a sleepy and relaxing atmosphere and is a pleasant excursion from Tavira. Another popular activity of Vila Real is cross the wide Rio Guadiana by ferry into Spain. For a guide to Vila Real please click here.

Santa Luzia

Santa Luzia is a small fishing village that specialises in octopus hunting, using traditional methods that have developed over generations. This Portuguese delicacy is brought in by the fishing fleet early every morning and traded in the central market, before being served up in the family run restaurants that overlook the harbour. During the day the colourful fishing boats are moored along the harbour front of the peaceful village.

 Santa Luzia

The fishing fleet of Santa Luzia

Santa Luzia is a small village, and only requires a short visit to fully explore, therefore is often combined with a visit to Praia do Barril. Santa Luzia is connected to Tavira by a purposed built cycle path and is suitable for all abilities. Visitors can also choose to walk from Tavira, which takes around 40 minutes. For a guide to Santa Luzia please click here.

Barril Beach and the Anchor Cemetery

One of the most interesting monuments of the Eastern Algarve is the Anchor Cemetery, a rusting memorial to the tuna fishing communities and livelihood that has long since been abandoned. The Anchor Cemetery comprises of over one hundred anchors that were used to secure the tuna fishing nets, and these have been placed in the sand dunes that line the beach. The Anchor Cemetery is located on Praia do Barril beach, one of the best beaches within the Tavira region and the area makes for an enjoyable half-day excursion from Tavira.

Cemetery Of Anchors Tavira

The Praia do Barril beach offers pristine sands and crystal clear waters; ideal for relaxing under the glorious Algarve climate, while the fishermen huts have been converted into beach bars and restaurants. The Praia do Barril is connected to the mainland by a miniature railway, and this was originally used to transported freshly caught fish and supplies between the fishing village and the mainland.For a guide to Barril beach please click here

The Ilha da Tavira

The pristine sand spit of Ilha da Tavira serves is the main beach in Tavira and is definitely worth a visit. The beach has golden sands and clear, but surprisingly cold, waters and attracts a diverse section of people, from Portuguese tourists to locals. There are great tourist facilities on the island, including numerous cafes, shops and even a campsite.

Ilha de Tavira

The Ilha de Tavira beach

The island is connected to Tavira by a regular and inexpensive ferry service. The beach extends for the length of the island and deserted sections can be just a short walk away. For more active visitors, the beach extends across to Barril Beach and the Anchor Cemetery. This is a 40 minute walk. For a guide to Tavira Beach please click here.

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