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Tavira >  Google™ Map Sep 2009  Tavira Coat of Arms

tabira Arabic (the) hidden. Population - 26,167.

Portugal Flag Portugal > Algarve

Sep 2009

Tavira Coat of Arms

With the mercury nudging 40°C in the shade on the balcony of your barracks, you're going nowhere in this heat.

Tavira - Mercury Rising

That layer under the t-shirt is unable to provide the most basic form of prevention against 'man-spotting' so you'll spend the best part of your first afternoon on the Eastern Algarve in an air-conditioned shopping 'mall' the size of the Metrocentre.

Tavira - Gran-Plaza
Tavira - Ponte Romana

You won't be tempted down to the 'traditional' town of Tavira until sundown and although the bridge over the Rio Gilão is reportedly Roman, recent repairs mean it's more MCMLXXXIX.

  Tavira Garden (Estrada Nacional)

Self-catering accommodation with a balcony that's way too big and way too hot. Twenty minutes from town but you're more likely to be staying in with some Madagascan prawns.

  Tavira Gran-Plaza (Rua Almirante Cândido)

Shopping 'mall' with a cinema in it and a supermarket where you can gawp at giant prawns. They're Madagascan, mind you, so don't be taken in by Rick Stein banging on about how good the local seafood is.

Yes, it's known that's what he said when in Lisbon but you get the general Portuguese point? Oh! Don't forget to take advantage of some very competitively priced stationery.

Acclimatisation complete, the Praça da República looks like this in the daytime. As does most of the town with a lot of decorative tiles on display both sides of the river.

The guide books describe Tavira as 'traditional' because, well, it doesn't really cater for British boozehounds of an evening.

Most of the attractions are old and architectural with what remains of a castle and churches ranking highly.

It's the kind of place to do a day trip to, be intimidated by some religion, 'Sssh!' and cover up those shoulders, then return to your 'all inclusive' to gorge on platefuls of Piri-Piri.

  Restaurante Imperial (Largo Dr. José Pires Padinha)

There's a traditional Portuguese recipe porco à alentejana or pork and clams if you'd rather where it's claimed that roaming pigs had access to the shoreline.

This an attempt to disguise the fishy-tasting meat and while that bit is being bought, the contents of these clams were the size of a lentil and it would have taken two hours to consume the fiddly lot.

If it's the beach you're after, Tavira's ranks as one of the best along the Algarve but there's a bit of a palaver involving a boat across to an offshore island spit.

Praia da Ilha de Tavira
Tavira - Rio Gilão

Don't leave it too late coming home, however, or you'll find yourselves barging with the other bathers to bag a seat back.

Alternatively, you could head for the far end of Santa Luzia, three miles south-west of town, where a mini choo-choo, not shown, will chug you the mile or so over the salt marsh to the Praia do Barril.

Near Tavira - Salt Marsh

It's the same bit of sand as the Praia da Ilha de Tavira but either way, it's an awful lot of effort just to get your ankles wet.

It's not known if these rusty anchors have been arranged as artwork or some kind of diminishing dune prevention but they were left abandoned on the beach when all the tuna disappeared in the 1960s.

Tavira - Praia do Barril

As for the mini choo-choo, what's that you ask? Obviously!

Six or so miles east, Cacela Velha is an old fishing village that's managed to remain free of any redevelopment.

Near Tavira - Cacela Velha

There's not a great deal apart from some blinding work on the whitewashing and most of the cars are here for the beach only that expedition involves a cliff path as well as a boat before bathing.

What this place does provide is a sense of the scale of the Ria Formosa National Park.

Cacela Velha - Ria Formosa National Park

It just about starts here and stretches 30 miles south-west to Faro. Mostly marsh and wetland it's all protected by the offshore barriers that serve as the local beach providers.

This is being understated a bit and they're said to be some of the best beaches in the world. Careful though if you've come here as a naturalist, keep an eye out for the naturists.

Now, that's enough to put anyone off their Piri-Piri!