Near the far Eastern end of the Algarve is the beautifully unique town of Tavira. Exuding charm, history and character, glimpses of its Moorish history and role as a trading port can be found everywhere. Today, tourism is the major industry however you could easily become lost in time along the banks of the tranquil Gilão River, in its many (21+) churches or just admiring the unique architectural features of the colourful Portuguese houses on its narrow cobbled streets.
We have heard such good things about this town that we had to see for ourselves. So along with friends we drove the approximately 120 km from one end of the Algarve to the other. It was a beautiful sunny October day (like most here this year) and as soon as we wriggled into a parking spot along the river we knew that we would enjoy this town.
The streets and alleys of the old town were inviting and we explored a few before stopping for lunch in a small sunlit square. We had passed a mix of Indian, Portuguese and Italian restaurants offering inviting pratos do dia (plate of the day) and the smell of curry, grilled sardines and piri-piri chicken wafting through the air called to our empty stomachs.
Tavira’s origins date back to the Phoenicians who created a large urban settlement here in 800 BC. The Moorish occupation of Tavira began in the 8th Century and continued until 1242 during the Reconquista. Salt, dried fish and wine were important exports from the town as it became a major trading port. Like most of the Algarve, Tavira was decimated by the earthquake in 1755 when most of its buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.
An architectural feature unique to Faro and Tavira are the four-sided hipped roofs which show an Oriental influence. The scissor-shaped design allows for more airflow in the rooms making them cooler in the summer and warmer in winter. These can be seen in many of the photos from around the town.
We were only in Tavira for lunch and a few hours of sightseeing but it was plenty to whet our appetite for more of this beautiful town. Like so many of the other towns and cities in the Algarve, Tavira offers much more than beaches, holiday rentals and golf courses (not that there is anything wrong with those).