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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.