Tavira, Algarve Guia de Viagem
- Beautiful historic city in the tranquil eastern Algarve
- Well-preserved ancient architecture and sights
- Authentic local eateries, pastry shops, and bars
- Beautiful views along the riverside promenades
- Beaches are less developed than the central Algarve
- Thriving Portuguese character has resisted becoming overtly touristy
- Beaches lack the typical Algarvian cliffs and are outside of town
- Bus tours can swell the daytime population
- Long drives to central and western Algarve towns
What It's Like
In some ways, Tavira is like the eastern Algarve counterpoint to Lagos in the west. Here, you'll find the Algarve's historic charms both embracing and resisting the incessant onslaught of tourists from northern Europe. And yet, it all remains eminently friendly, with plenty to see and do for travelers who choose to make their way to this remote corner of the region. The area was initially settled around the eighth century B.C., and remnants of its ancient past are still visible, particularly in the Roman bridge that cuts spectacularly across the estuarine Rio Gilao, linking the eastern and western parts of town.
Tavira is tailor-made for aimless wandering. Streets are lined with boutiques, traditional Portuguese restaurants, pastry shops, and funky little boutiques. Winding your way up the hills on the west side of the river leads to stunning sights like the Castelo de Tavira, which holds beautiful gardens and is surrounded by centuries-old churches and cobblestone streets. Back closer to the river, on both flanks, you'll find outdoor cafes whose tables bustle day and night with travelers and locals taking in the views and sipping beer and wine. You can also cap your night off with live classical music at Igreja da Misericordia, in the old town.
Unlike Lagos and many of the Algarve's other most famous towns, the beaches here aren't easily accessible. In fact, you'll need to hire a boat to reach any of the shores nearby. Don't expect the typical dramatic cliffscapes that characterize the beaches of the western Algarve either. Instead, mile upon mile of undeveloped barrier islands provide a relaxed and peaceful beachfront for travelers who don't need blaring music and beachside service along with their abundant sunshine.
Where to Stay
Most of the hotel options in Tavira are clustered within the town center, which makes for great days spent exploring the ancient streets and scenery. While there are hotel options closer to the sea, none sit directly along the beach. Water shuttles do depart from the town center, making beach trips relatively easy for those staying in town. Campsites are available on Praia da Ilha de Tavira -- the closest beach. The Vila Gale Albacora is a historic option that overlooks Ilha de Tavira, for those who'd like to be near the shore. Generally speaking, Tavira is a 30-minute drive from Faro, which is home to the Algarve's main airport. It will take up to an hour to reach Albufeira by car.