Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com

Tavira – the Hidden Gem of the Algarve

Do you want to visit one of the prettiest towns in the Algarve? Look no further than Tavira. This charming town, situated less than 30 kms (or 18 miles) from the Spanish border, has virtually remained unchanged, where its traditional Portuguese characteristics and Moorish influences are still very much evident.

Most of the Algarve is currently under massive rebuilding. Resorts, golf courses, shopping and restaurants are popping up everywhere to cater to the vast number of tourists who are flocking to this area for its year-round sunshine, soaring cliffs, unusual rock formations, turquoise water and golden beaches. That describes the west side of the Algarve region (west of the Faro airport).

In the east, you find 18,000 hectors of protected land, bird-filled lagoons and the islands of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa and authentic fishing villages.  The Ria Formosa lagoon is a system of barrier islands that connect the sea through 6 inlets. This is one of the most important areas for aquatic birds in Portugal, hosting on a regular basis more than 20,000 during the winter period. As well as being an important stop-over point in the migration routes between Europe and Africa. This part of the Algarve has less hotels, less tourists and it is where life definitely slows down. 

Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Photo Credit: PortugalResident.com

Tavira is best explored by simply walking and meandering through its streets and alleyways. You will be mesmerized by its charm and beauty – the latticework doors with door knockers in the shape of hands (a Moorish influence), the azulejo tiling; and the whitewash buildings with coloured borderlines. That was my favourite part – simply letting my feet lead the way.

Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com

And, while wondering the city, I came across some of the main attractions that this charming town is known for. Be sure to check out…

Castelo (or Castle)

The ruined castle dates back to the Moorish era, and most of what now stands is a 17th-century reconstruction. You can walk along the fortified wall to a watchtower linking the wall by a staircase to climb for a complete panorama view of the waves of triangular orange rooftops with white chimney stacks. The interior contains beautiful botanic gardens.

Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com

Igreja da Misericórdia (or Church of Mercy)

The Renaissance church was built between 1541 and 1551. The details of the wonderfully carved arched doorway and Portuguese coat of arms is believed to be the work of the local architect and stonemason, Andre Pilarte, who also worked on Lisbon’s Jeronimos Monastery.

Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com

Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo (or Church of Saint Maria)

A 13th century church originally built in Gothic style, it was severely damaged by the 1755 earthquake and needed to be rebuilt. Of the original elements, the doorway and clock tower.

Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Another charming part of Tavira are the street signs (to the left). The Church of Saint Maria is on Largo Abu-Otmane.

Ponte Romana (or Roman bridge)

This seven-arched bridge that spans the slow-flowing river of Ria Gilão is thought to be from Moorish times in the 1100s, although most of the structure had to be reconstructed in 1667. It is a pedestrian-only crossing bridge that offers benches in small cut-out niches making it a perfect spot to take in the city’s historic streetscape.  

Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com

Tavira also has a beautiful beach, although we didn’t visit it, it is said to be one of the nicest in this area. 

Now back to my wandering…and taking in more of this charming town, where life seems to slow down a bit more than the rest of the Algarve region. 

Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com
Tavira - the Hidden Gem of the Algarve | DreamPlanExperience.com

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  • Heather

    Tavira is absolutely beautiful. So much personality and charm. I have to admit that it reminds me a lot of some places I went in Morocco like Asilah which is on the northern coast with Spanish influence so that makes sense. Also, reminds me of a couple places in Greece I visited too. I love those charming alleyways! These are the kinds of towns I like to wander and get lost in just like you said!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      The town is a mix between Portuguese character and Moorish influence, so I can see why you saw the resemblance to some of those places. It is the best town to get lost in and hope you might find yourself there one day soon. Thank you for your comment Heather!

  • Tania Muthusamy

    Tavira looks so pretty and indeed a real gem. I haven’t heard of it before. But I love finding places like this that aren’t well known and touristy. Would certainly enjoy spending a couple of days here.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for stopping by Tania and your comment. Our home base was not far from this town, and we certainly enjoyed a few dinners coming in for the evening as well as spending an entire day here wandering around. So there is a lot to see to spend a few relaxing days here for sure.

  • Candy

    I would love to visit this charming town. I am a huge fan of cobblestone (although they hurt my feet after a while), as they add so much character to the streets. The church and castles are amazing and I love that everything has remained the same. This place is such a gem!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Candy for your comment. Completely agree with you about the cobblestone streets – it limits your footwear options! Glad you think this place is a hidden gem too!

  • Alice L. Ford

    Portugal is one of my favorite destinations, I love the charming towns and cities. The Algarve is stunning and I am always telling people to go there. I hope that this little town stays just as small and charming as it is now.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Agree! I believe that east side of the Algarve is meant to remain untouched, therefore, less tourists and more charm! I loved Portugal and visited 3 regions and would love to explore more. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  • Sally

    Such a quintessential European town, exactly like you expect to see. We don’t really have such old castles here in Australia so its always a highlight of any European visit. Oh and the food of course! It doesn’t look as crowded as many other European towns as well which is definitely a plus.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Exactly – a quintessential European town that offers both a beach holiday within a historic town. And, if you love seafood, then you will be in food heaven! Thank you for your comment.

  • Mei and Kerstin

    We’ve been wanting to visit the Algarve for some time now, but still haven’t been. We went to Lisbon a few years back and loved the city as well as Sintra. The Algarve is not quite far away, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to travel there. Next time we’ll fly directly to the Algarve for a week! Your post has really inspired us to move up this destination on our bucket list!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. It pleases me to hear that this has inspired you to travel back to Portugal and add the Algarve region to your destination list.

  • Sandy N Vyjay

    Tavira seems to have emerged from the pages of fascinating history. So beautiful and quaint. The cobbled streets seem to lead to a fascinating time in the past. Love the churches, reminded me of the Churches we find in Goa, India. After all Goa too has a Portuguese legacy. Tavira is rightly the hidden gem of the Algarve.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Sandy. Yes, I understand that Portuguese influences can be found in many other countries which I find fascinating. I am glad you liked the look of Tavira and hope you might be able to visit it one day.

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

    Wow, the Ria Formosa lagoon reminds me a bit of Whitehaven Beach in Australia! The variety in the architecture is stunning, and you’re definitely right that Tavira has kept its traditional vibe. I’d love to go back to Portugal sometime soon and explore beyond Lisbon!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment Kevin. Definitely if you are to visit Portugal, try build extra time in to visiting other regions. We absolutely loved Lisbon, but also found that the other regions outside of the main well known city offering a more authentic experience.

  • Yukti Agrawal

    I love to visit hidden towns and beautiful quirky places that are not very touristic. I would surely go for this prettiest town in the Algarve – Tavira. Good to know that this charming town is situated less than 30 kms from the Spanish border as it must be having confluence of both cultures. Thanks for sharing lovely place.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for stopping by Yukti and for your comment. Yes, I agree finding places that are not on the radar for most is the best way to holiday.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It was very kind of you to leave such complimentary feedback.

  • Josy A

    Goodness Tavira looks beeeautiful! What a stunning area to relax, stroll around and take in the history. I especially love the look of the views from the Castelo. I already love Portugese food, so visiting these pretty streets and then chowing down on some tasty snacks sounds like heaven.

    Those bird-filled lagoons at the top of the post are gorgeous too! Are you allowed to swim there, or is it reserved for the birdies?

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks Josy, I am glad that you think this would be a place that you would travel to. The lagoons that are part of this side of the region offer beaches, but in most cases it requires a short boat taxi to reach them as there are many inlets. The birds tend to migrate to specific parts of the lagoon where there are less boats. We stayed about 15 minutes west of Tavira and they had a boardwalk in and around the lagoons and there was a lot of birds in this area as there were no boats or beaches.

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