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 sits close to the Spanish border, only a short 30 kms (or 18 miles) in the Algarve region. Tavira has virtually remained unchanged. It’s origins date back to the 8th century. You will still find its traditional Portuguese characteristics and Moorish influences still evident. Just one of the reasons why this charming town is a hidden gem. 

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

About the Algarve region

In the eastern part of the Algarve you find 18,000 hectors of protected land. Its unique bird-filled lagoons and tiny islands make up the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.
Photo Credit: PortugalResident.com

Most of the Algarve is currently under massive rebuilding. Resorts, golf courses, shopping and restaurants are popping up everywhere. All to cater to the vast number of tourists who are flocking to this area. And, why not? Its year-round sunshine, soaring cliffs, unusual rock formations, turquoise water and golden beaches are what you will find on 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. This is where you will find Tavira. 

Let's explore Tavira

Tavira, Portugal - the hidden gem of the Algarve region.

Tavira is best explored by simply walking and meandering through its streets and alleyways. You will instantly be mesmerized by its charm and beauty. From the the latticework doors with door knockers in the shape of hands (a Moorish influence) to the Azulejo tiles. Almost all the buildings are whitewashed and feature bright yellow details. Simply let your feet lead the way.

Let your feet doing the exploring in Tavira, Portugal. A hidden gem in the Algarve region.
Let your feet doing the exploring in Tavira, Portugal. A hidden gem in the Algarve region.

Key attractions

1. Castle

Let your feet doing the exploring in Tavira, Portugal. A hidden gem in the Algarve region.

The ruined castle dates back to the Moorish era. Most of what now stands is a 17th-century reconstruction. You can walk along the fortified wall to a watchtower. This offers a complete panorama view of the waves of triangular orange rooftops with white chimney stacks. The interior contains a beautiful botanic garden.

2. Church of Mercy

The Church of Mercy in Tavira Portugal

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.

3. Church of Saint Maria

Church of Saint Maria in Tavira, Portugal

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.

4. Roman bridge

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

The 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’s 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

5. Street Signs

The street signs in Tavira, Portugal. Just another reason why this town is so charming. amPlanExperience.com

Everything is a little more special and authentic in Tavira. Even the town’s street signs are charming, aren’t they? Once you come upon them, they usually led you to a historic landmark. They are especially helpful as you are aimlessly wandering the old city.  

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

As a holidaymaker…

This city is an absolute gem. It offers travellers a diverse holiday. Whether you are looking to relax on the beach or wander a historic town. Tavira offers you both! 

Visit Tavira, Portugal, a pretty town close to the Spanish border.
Visit Tavira, Portugal, a pretty town close to the Spanish border.


  • 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.

  • Sarah Wilson

    Loved Tavira. Used to live in Portugal on the west coast and Tavira was my favourite town in the Algarve. Sad to say that the Brits have destroyed many of the other coastal towns and being a Brit, I’m allowed to say that, aren’t I? Anyway, it’s a gorgeous town 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      There are a lot of Brits in Portugal. There must be a good reason why! What’s there not to like? Thank you Sarah.

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