Cities & Villages
Architectural beauty in the eastern Algarve
- District: Faro > Municipality: Tavira > Parish:
- Population: 15.133
- Distances: Faro Airport 41 km, Lisbon Airport 301 km
- Tourist Info: Posto de Turismo de Tavira
Tavira is a city (cidade) and municipality (concelho) in the district of Faro (Algarve), the most southern region of continental Portugal. The story of this beautiful city in the eastern Algarve (Sotavento) is closely connected to the sea.
Tavira location and access
Getting to Tavira
Tavira lies at the mouth of the Rio Sequa, whose lower branch is also known as Rio Gilão. A few kilometres east of Tavira the lagoon landscape of the Ria Formosa begins, which extends beyond Faro. It is separated from the sea by a narrow barrier of islands, including the islands of Tavira and Cabanas.
The EN125, the main road in the Algarve connecting east to west, lies to the north of the city. Exit 16 of the A22 motorway soon brings you into the town via good access roads.
The train station of the Linha do Algarve, a single track line, runs through the city and has two train stations, one on either side of the river. The bus terminal of EVA Transportes can be found in the city centre, on the west bank of the River Gilao.
A ferry to the island in front, Ilha de Tavira, takes about ten minutes. The ferry pier is located at Quatro Águas on the edge of the lagoon.
Actual weather conditions and forecast for Tavira
Actual weather conditions may significantly differ in the various locations due to the winds on the Atlantic coast. Therefore we are publishing more specific and detailed weather data and 72h weather forecast for selected spots on the Algarvian coast, including wind speed and direction, altitude of waves and rating for surfers as a special service to our visitors interested in water sports. According to our own experience, and based on judgement of the locals, this is the most accurate weather information currently available for the Algarve.
Weather in Tavira
Hotels and holiday resorts in Tavira and surroundings
No doubt, the finest hotel in the city of Tavira is the Pousada Convento de Tavira. The former convent, situated on top of a hill overlooking the old town has been transformed into a small hotel with great ambience, combining modern comfort with the charm of carefully restored historical architecture. Pousadas de Portugal is a chain of smaller hotels, operated by the Pestana Group, located in places of special historic or romantic interest. The popular 4star hotels Vila Galé Tavira and Vila Galé Albacora are situated on both sides of the river Gilão, watering into the Ria Formosa at Quatro Aguas. The endless dandy beach on the Ilha de Tavira can be accessed by ferry boat within a few minutes.
Several km east of Tavira the holiday resort Cabanas de Tavira is located on the Ria Formosa with a range of holiday villas and apartments. The long sandy beach on the seaside of the island opposite the resort, Ilha das Cabanas, can be also accessed by ferry boat. Golfer will enjoy the nearby great golf courses Quinta de Cima and Quinta da Ria, both collocated with the Robinson Club, as well Benamor.
Tavira sports and leisure
What to do in Tavira
The main beach of Tavira Praia de Tavira lies on the seafront of Tavira Island, just a few minutes by boat from the pier at Quatro Águas. The long sandy beach has excellent facilities and you can find numerous restaurants and bars, just a short walk beyond the campsite.
At the mouth of the river, the small marina of Quatro Águas offers a variety of water sports. The name of the site (meaning “Four Waters”) comes from confluence of the River Gilão with two lagoons and the Atlantic Ocean.
Golf came quite late to the Sotavento area. Today on the outskirts of Tavira and just a few minutes away by car via the EN 125 are 3 interesting golf courses offering very different challenges: Benamor, Quinta de Cima and Quinta da Ria. Also in the area is the Monte Rei Golf & Country Club, one of the largest and most exclusive golf resorts in the Algarve.
Places of interest in Tavira
What to discover in Tavira
In architectural terms, Tavira is one of the most attractive towns in the Algarve. After the devastating earthquake of 1755, the city was rebuilt from scratch, so that the heritage of Tavira is still visible through this typical architecture of the 18th century.
The lower part of the city occupies a picturesque area on the banks of the River Gilao. From the Roman Bridge there is a stunning view of the river and the 18th century buildings. A small garden by the river connects the Praça da República to the old Market Hall. The streets in this quarter are very lively with restaurants and shops galore; sometimes it can be difficult to park.
To get to the upper part of the city you walk from the Praça da República via a narrow alleyway that goes through the historic Gate of D. Manuel which dates from 1520. Apart from this iconic gate, all that remains of the former Moorish citadel are a few fragments of the walls and massive towers. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful gardens and a panoramic view over the city.
The best view of Tavira is available from the Torre de Tavira. This was formerly the city’s water tower but it has now been turned into a Camera Obscura. From the darkroom at the top of the tower you can have a 360 degree tour of the city in real time. The well informed, multi-lingual, guide can give you lots of information about the history of the city.
The former Convento de Nossa Senhora da Graça (Convent of Our Lady of Grace) on the hill by the castle is a building that deserves special attention. After several years of it is now one of the historic Pousadas of Portugal.
Surroundings of Tavira
The surroundings of Tavira: Ria Formosa
A few kilometres east of Tavira a very popular holiday destination, Cabanas de Tavira, is situated on the bank of the Ria Formosa. Access to the large sandy beach on the seaside of the island in front, Ilha das Cabanas, is by boat. Between Cabanas de Tavira and the neighbouring parish of Conceição there is a campsite and on the EN125 in front of Conceição, Benamor Golf is located. East of Cabanas de Tavira the golf courses Quinta da Ria and Quinta de Cima can be found with the Club Robinson next door.
The seaside resort of Pedras d'El Rei is located west of Tavira. Pedestrians go to the island in front, Ilha de Tavira, via a pontoon. From there a train takes holidaymakers to the beach of Praia do Barril on the seaward side of the island. A local attraction is the Cemitério das Âncoras (cemetery of anchors), a testimony to times long ago when the fishing industry was one of the most important contributors to the economy of the Algarve. When fishing, mainly tuna, the fishermen attached their nets to these anchors on the ground.
The picturesque village of Santa Luzia between Pedras d'El Rei and Tavira is known as “Capital do Polvo”, i.e. capital of octopus, that is caught in the surroundings with baits in earthen pots. Polvo is a very popular local specialty offered in various preparations in the restaurants along the promenade.
An important part of the economy of the Ria Formosa is the extraction of salt from the evaporation of seawater. At the mouth of the Rio Gilão there are the largest salt pans in the Algarve. The salt extraction creates three different qualities: The top quality Flor do Sal, used in the haute cuisine, is known as the “White Gold of the Algarve”. The harvest of these fine crystal clusters formed on the surface of seawater has always been done manually, since two thousand years ago until the present day. The harvesting of Sal Tradicional, traditional salt for cooking purposes, is also done manually, whereas the ordinary sea salt that is extracted by machines is intended mainly for industrial use.
Inland in the municipality of Tavira is the parish of Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo, famous for the manufacture of roof tiles, floor tiles and bricks of both red and yellow clay, known as “Santa Catarina”, that are much valued as a traditional building material.
History of Tavira
The history of Tavira is connected to the sea
The first known origins of Tavira date from the late Bronze Age (1000 - 800 B.C.). In the eighth century BC, the region was one of the first Phoenician settlements in the Western Iberian Peninsula. In the parish of Santa Luzia traces of a Roman cemetery and also the only Greek inscription from the pre-Christian period in Portugal have been found.
As a result of the occupation by the Moors in 711, Tavira was part of the Caliphate of Cordoba and belonged to various emirates during the centuries that followed. The Castle of Tavira dates from that time. In 1242, Dom Paio Peres Correia and the Knights of Santiago regained the castle from the Moors and the fort was expanded and developed. The devastating earthquake of 1755 destroyed the castle.
From 1451, the fishermen of Tavira acquired the right to freely sell their fish. Tavira became a city in 1520 and was the most important port in the Algarve for the import of many goods arriving from the colonies. However, throughout the 17th century, Faro gained increasing economic importance as a port city, while Tavira lost its position as the river silted up.
During the 18th century, Tavira suffered the consequences of three earthquakes; the most devastating took place in 1755. The Marquis of Pombal, then Secretary of State oversaw the architectural renewal of the city. The many historic and religious buildings built in the Baroque style of that era create the unique charm to the city.
Municipality of Tavira
The municipality of Tavira encompasses the parishes of Conceição e Cabanas de Tavira, Cachopo, Luz de Tavira e Santo Estevão, Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo, Santa Luzia and the city of Tavira itself (with the parishes of Santa Maria and Santiago).
With an area of 600 square kilometres, the municipality stretches from the coast of the Ria Formosa until rural and forest areas in the hinterland of the Algarve. During the extremely hot and dry summer of 2012, vast forest fires in the district caused severe damage. In 2011, around 26.000 people were living in the municipality, slightly more than in previous decades.