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Tavira, The Town (click to view photos) - Official guide to Tavira

The Algarve has been inhabited since ~4,000BC and Tavira was founded ~400BC.  Phoenicians, Romans, Crusaders ruled Tavira before the emergence of modern-day Portugal.  The first two have largely been obliterated by time but there are many fine examples of Moorish and Crusader architecture in Tavira.  However, the cobbled streets of the old town are dominated by the graceful mansions and townhouses (many with fine stone doorways emblazoned with armorial crests) which date from rebuilding after a 1755 earthquake.

For centuries, Tavira and the Eastern Algarve were the favoured holiday destination for wealthy Portuguese and Spaniards.  The Western Algarve was “invaded” by northern Europeans in the 1950’s.  Tavira, which did not see a similar influx until almost 30 years later, learned from the mistakes in the west and today is one of the best preserved cities of the Algarve.

Street theatre and concerts, fairs, exhibitions, a film festival, ballooning, aerial displays, etc are regular events and much of the town is pedestrianised.  Wining and dining ranges from an abundance of street cafes and inexpensive restaurants to the elegant (and expensive!) splendour of the Pousada do Convento da Graça.  The absence of disco bars and lager louts makes family parties feel at home but there are a few lively discos for those who believe the night is still young at 4am!  The New York Times recently “discovered” Tavira – see http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/travel/the-other-algarve.html?pagewante&_r=1&.

A commuter train connects Tavira with the other Algarve coastal towns from the Spanish border to Lagos in the West.  Local buses connect to the interior villages, express buses ply to Lisbon, Seville, etc, and bike rental shops thrive.  Bikes are an excellent means of exploring the neighbouring beaches or the Ria Formosa Nature Park (one of the “seven natural wonders” of Portugal) which surrounds Tavira – you can go bird-watching, butterfly-chasing, cycling, wandering, etc.  The nearby Ilha da Tavira boasts 12km of some of the finest white strands of the Algarve – you can always find a quiet spot and there is even a remote naturist beach.  Loungers, umbrellas, etc are available for hire on the island and there are numerous bars, restaurants and cafés, also massage.

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