Tavira has a delightful mix of beautiful buildings, cobbled streets and squares that keep the atmosphere of a traditional Algarve fishing village. The city is full of elegant buildings that exhibit the characteristic pyramidal roofs of Tavira. The river Gilão, which runs along the center of the city, amplifies its charm. An old bridge, allegedly of Roman origin, crosses the river and the best perspective of this bridge can be obtained from the Republic Square. This square, surrounded by the town hall and other splendid buildings, is prolonged by gardens, splendid places for a walk.
The nearby “Mercado da Ribeira”, a wrought iron building dating from the nineteenth century that hosted once the old central market, is another nice area to stroll around the shops and enjoy a meal or drink in its many restaurants and bars – a perfect opportunity to relax and taste the local specialties like razor clam with beans, octopus rice or tuna with onion sauce and tomatoes.
Just outside Tavira, prepare to be surprised by the brightness of the salt, which is a remote tradition of the area which produces one the most refined table salts from Portugal. In addition, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the Ria Formosa estuary – a vast network of canals, marshes and sandbars that are home to several species of migratory birds. The boats departing from Tavira offer scenic tours by these tranquil waters.
Truly a paradise for sun a sea lovers, two strips of sand, separated by canals and accessible by boat, form two islands of long stretches of dunes. The island of Tavira – the closest to the town – is located in the eastern part of the island and offers many amenities, including bars, restaurants and water sports. The beautiful, sheltered Barril Beach is to the west and has access via a picturesque tourist train that runs through the muddy banks and marshes of Ria Formosa. This short scenic tour offers a unique opportunity to admire the natural landscape and observe the hundreds of crabs along the banks of the river. The most secluded beaches are west of the island of Tavira or east of the neighbouring island of Cabanas.
Addressed as the octopus capital, the origin of this village dates back to 1577, and its name is an invocation to the Sicilian Saint of the same name, protective of the eye patients.
Santa Luzia was elevated to town on 13 May 1999. The nice and pleasant promenade, framed by the river offers several restaurants and taverns where you can enjoy the best seafood of the estuary as well as typical dishes like “estupeta de atum”. An invitation for a boat ride along the various water channels that serve as shelter to the sailing boats.
In front of Santa Luzia we find Terra Estreita Beach. The access to this extensive beach is made by small boats, especially in the summer period. Close by is Barril beach, ideal for families. The access to the beach delights the children, as it’s made by a small tourist train, whose tracks run through the sand dunes, showing the Ria Formosa in a unique way.
Cacelha Velha is located in a sandstone elevation just in front of the Ria Formosa and the sea, where you can see one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the eastern Algarve. For many the most beautiful part of the Ria Formosa, admirably preserving its charm and serenity. From the beautiful walled town of Cacela-a-Velha, built over a sea cliff with about a million years, you can contemplate the Ria Formosa and the barrier island where the beach is located.
Currently, as points of interest, you’ll find the fortress from the seventeenth century, a double eave building from the sixteenth century, some houses of traditional architecture from the eighteenth century, the medieval church, Islamic ruins, Roman furnaces and the remains of an ancient medieval wall.
The Olhão Market is a real experience starting with its traditional architecture presented in a four-story roof and four cylindrical glazed turrets with metal domes. Inside, indulge in the appetizing aspect of fruits, vegetables and dried fruits from the region. Admire the freshness of the fish, just caught and, by the way, with the reaction of the many foreign tourists who make pilgrimages there … The Fish Market has been used as a space for cultural events. It is an ex-libris of the town.
Saturday gains more life, when people come from the surroundings, small producers, who set up their market outside the building … Here the experience is unique, because bargaining is inserted in the landscape of Ria Formosa that a foot step away, extends to the islands and the sea.
Fishing boats supply the market daily, making it the most famous in the Algarve, when it comes to fish and seafood.
You can also see a replica of the caique “Bom Sucesso”, which on July 6, 1808, with only 17 Olhanenses on board, went to Brazil to inform the king of the expulsion of the French.
The Loulé Market was opened on June 27, 1908. The building was built according to a project by Architect Alfredo Costa Campos, from Lisbon, although the same project has undergone some changes. Here you can find a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, diverse handicrafts, gourmet stores and cultural events. Venture out to the stunning gypsy market and bargain for some prices.
The Environmental Education Center of Marim, which also houses the headquarters of the Natural Park of Ria Formosa, is a farm on the edge of Ria Formosa with about 148ac. There you’ll be able to spot different passerines, also several species of waterfowl in the pond and marshland, a refurbished tidal mill, archaeological remains, some recovered traditional houses among other points of interest; all in a restricted space representative of the most significant components of this natural protected area.
On the right bank of the Guadiana, the town of Castro Marim is a plateau of many vestiges that prove its occupation by different people since ancient times. It was populated by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and Arabs. It was conquered from the Moors in 1242 and received charter in 1277. Being close to the river, the sea, the plains, the mountains and bordering Ayamonte, Castro Marim was for centuries an important Algarve war court.
Around the castle, built by King Afonso III, one can contemplate an immense landscape of traditional salt pans. The connection of Castro Marim to the salt activity is strong and undeniable, making it almost impossible to determine the precise date of its inception. The exploitation of this resource, along with fishing and agriculture, is part of this region’s economy, greatly marking the local population’s way of living.
Visiting the traditional salt pans is an excellent opportunity to discover the knowledge used for centuries in salt extraction, a perfect symbiosis between the work of man and the will of nature. The wisdom of the tireless “salineiro2, which preserves this art and all of the traditional instruments, offers the two top quality products, perfectly engraved in the population of Castro Marim..
The people of Castro Marim, accustomed since ancient times to living with different people from the Mediterranean, exchanged products and practices, absorbed ways of being and doing, knowledge matured by the time that came to us through the artisans, living treasures that hold and transmit the immaterial heritage of Castro Marim, which preserve the memory of a people and a culture.
Visitors can also wave at some of the local women by their house’s porches while they concentrate on doing intricate bobbin lace. You can get to know men which with the wise hands, weave baskets with straw and reed, cane leaves and palm tree and watch them in the exercise of their chores.
All these assets are combined with the natural landscape of the municipality of Castro Marim, a territory with many charms to discover, that will dazzle all those who visit it.
Located west of the historic village of Estoi, 8km from Faro, the Roman Villa of Milreu reveals a continuous occupation from the first century until the eleventh century. Knowledge of history shows us that it has been inhabited by families of high social and political status, to which were provided the needs not only of a rural daily life, but also of a great recreational experience.
In the fourth century it was erected a religious building, lavishly decorated, which is still maintained nowadays up to the stringer of the vaults. This building was purely constructed for the owner’s usage. Christianized in the sixth century, the temple would also serve for worship in the Islamic period up until the eleventh century. Between the XVI and XIX centuries, over the private divisions of the old Roman house, a rural house was built with cylindrical buttresses.
The richness of this rustic villa is reflected in the significant volume of archaeological finds, as predominantly marine – themed mosaics, marbled coatings and various ceramic, painted stucco and decorative sculpture.
The picturesque village is located in a landscape which changes between the fertile Barrocal and the mountainous Serra do Caldeirão, near Loulé. It is also known as the most typical village of the Algarve.
The village is surrounded by fertile fields along the creek from the Alte stream, the same being a very popular destination for excursions. At the top of the hill one reaches the oldest part of the village with a wonderful view over the valley. From here you’re close to the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, with a remarkable entrance in the Manueline style. The architecture of the surrounding buildings is typically Algarvian, white wall houses, decorated with colourful tiles, traditional chimneys and streets paved with typical Portuguese pavement.
In the valley below the Alte stream there are two fountains, the Fonte Pequena (small fountain) and Fonte Grande (big fountain) and there are also beautiful surrounding areas with several restaurants, an outdoor stage and an area adorned by the shady old trees, great for a stop, or even to go for a walk. A monument in honour of the most
famous son of Alte, the poet Francisco Xavier Cândido Guerreiro, was erected here as well.
Querença is a typical village belonging to the municipality of Loulé, in Algarve’s Barrocal area, full of natural and architectural beauty and tradition.
This is region has had man occupation since ancient times with several people and different cultures calling this place their home.
The beautiful village spreads throughout the hill, where its hamlet of white washed typical Algarvian houses is located, with coloured bars and traditional lacy chimneys, forming a set of great beauty, where you can breathe peace of mind.
At the top of the hill lies the beautiful Church from the 16th century, with the astonishing Manueline doorway.
One of the greatest patrimonial assets of Querença is Fountain of Benémola, a place of great natural beauty, a symbol of Algarve’s landscape diversity and a must-visit spot.
This rural village is known for the quality of its agricultural products, with a special spotlight on the typical Arbutus brandy (medronho) and the tasty Chorizo which is celebrated each year at the famous Festival das Chouriças in January.
Ria Formosa Natural Park
Our proposal is a single visit to Portugal’s most extensive lagoon ecosystem. The Ria Formosa Natural Park is a unique natural reserve due to its continuous changing nature. Weather phenomena like the continuous wind movement, water currents and tides, alter Ria Formosa’s look in a steady pace.
A gift of nature with about 44,478 acres, which makes the transition between land and sea over 60 km from Algarve’s leeward coast, between the peninsula Ancão (to the west) and the beach of Manta Rota (to the east).
This wetland of international recognized value is a privileged habitat for fauna and flora. Flamingos, booted eagles, woodcocks and kingfishers are common birds around this area, but the park’s symbol is the purple swamp hen, a rare species which exists in Portugal and nests exclusively in these lakes. Another important inhabitant of the estuary is the chameleon, an endangered species in Europe.
A universe that you can only discover through the hiking trails, or aboard a boat on one of the many trips available across Ria Formosa. The chance of visiting numerous places like the salting tanks from the Roman era, and then unveiling some of the secrets of the forest or even seeing an ancient recovered tide mill at Quinta de Marim, make this a well worth visit.