Tavira

Algarve Luxury Villa Holidays
Algarve Luxury Villa Holidays

View over Tavira
   

Location

Our villa overlooks Tavira, being set on a hillside on the site of the old Quinta de Perogil (quinta meaning farm). It has stunning views to the hills on one side and on the other you have a bird’s eye view over Tavira and down to the sea.

History

Tavira is our favourite town in the Algarve, and is certainly one of the most attractive. It dates back to around 2000 BC, and sprung up along the banks of the river Gilão (as it’s known downstream of the Roman bridge but, confusingly, the Sequa upstream of the bridge).

The Roman bridge, thought now to be Moorish in origin and dating from the 11th century, was rebuilt with the majority of the town after the 1755 earthquake. It spans the river and joins the two sides of the town. Most of the buildings along the river date from the 16th to 18th centuries, having survived the earthquake, and are now within the conservation zone.

The Algarve was occupied by the Moors between the 8th and 13th centuries and much of Tavira’s architecture reflects this Arab influence. Ruins of the Moorish castle remain, and you can climb up the ramparts for fantastic views over the town to the sea.

Moorish domination of Tavira ended in 1242 when Dom Paio Peres Correia, somewhat cheesed off when seven of his best knights were killed during a truce, overthrew the Moors and retook the town. His tomb, with those of his seven knights, can be found in the church of Santa Maria do Castelo, which was built on the site of an old mosque.

Tavira used to have a thriving tuna fishing industry, starting in the days of Moorish occupation, and in the 17th century the busy port shipped wine, salt, and dried fish. The Hotel Albacora (now a museum celebrating the history of tuna fishing) used to be a tuna factory and there were cottages for the tuna fishermen and a school for their children. Over-fishing and changes in the tuna’s migratory patterns have almost wiped out the industry and the silting up of the port has reduced its importance.

Salt, however, is still produced in the salt pans round Tavira and Flor de Sal – the Beluga caviar of the salt world – is renowned for its purity and flavour.

Things to See and Do

Churches feature heavily in Tavira, though the number seems to vary depending on whom you ask. I think it was 37 at the last count.

One of the most striking, and well worth a visit, is the Igreja da Misericórdia. The narrow Rua da Galeria leads up from the Avenida to the church’s rather impressive arched portal. The church was originally built in 1541, though some rebuilding was done after the 1755 earthquake. It is considered to be the most important example of religious architecture from the Renaissance period in the Algarve. Its façade was crafted by André Pilarte, a famous master mason, and the interior contains 18th century azulejos showing the works of the Misericórdia.

Another church of interest is the Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo. This is the one next to the castle ruins, whose Gothic clock tower you can see if you are sitting at Bar Anazu (our favourite café and a real suntrap, on the north side of the river close to the Roman bridge). The original church is thought to have been built on the site of an old mosque during the 13th century and was Gothic in style. The 1755 earthquake wreaked its havoc though, and much of the church was destroyed. The then Bishop of the Algarve, D. Francisco Gomes de Avelar, ordered its reconstruction and the architect Fabri Francisco is responsible for its current neoclassicist styling. A few of the original Gothic features remain, including the doorway of the façade, the clock tower, and the side chapels. You can also see the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correia and his seven faithful knights here.

The castle was built by the Moors on, rumour has it, the site of a Roman fort that had itself been rebuilt by the Phoenicians in the 8th century. It was strengthened by King Dinis in the 13th century, but much of what remains is the result of a 17th century rebuild. It would have had seven towers originally, but now all that remains are three towers and walls on three sides. Inside the walls is a lovely garden with walkways, and the trees and shrubs are helpfully labelled. You can climb the steps up most of the walls and towers if you’re not scared witless (as I am) by the lack of anything to hold onto and the views from the top are stunning. You can see over the ‘quatro aguas’ rooftops of the town, over the river, and out towards the Ilha de Tavira and the sea. The castle and its garden are free to enter and are open until 5:00 p.m. every day.

As you leave the castle gates, you may notice the old water tower (Torre Velha) to your right. This has been rescued from demolition and converted into a camera obscura by an Englishman, Clive Jackson, who also owns and runs the observatory at Malhão. A cunning combination of lenses, mirrors, and a motor projects an amazing real-time view of the town and surrounding areas (including a glimpse of our Alto do Perogil complex!) onto what looks like a satellite dish laid horizontally. By changing angles and distances between mirror and lens we get a 360 degree tour of Tavira and its history and architecture. The talk lasts about 15 or 20 minutes so at 3.5 euros (concessions available) is relatively expensive, but it’s well worth it. I’ve been twice already and will certainly go again. It’s closed on Sundays and is, obviously, only open during daylight hours.

What’s Nearby

There’s a lot more to the eastern Algarve than wonderful beaches.

Most people land at Faro airport, drive off to their resorts, and never give the capital of the Algarve another thought. It’s only a half hour drive from Tavira, though, and worthy of a day trip at the very least.

Santa Luzia is a lovely little town just 10 minutes down the coast from Tavira. It’s known as the octopus capital and has some great restaurants.

The fishing town of Olhão has a quite different style of architecture to Tavira and is not very touristy. It lies between Faro and Tavira and is approximately a 20-minute drive from Tavira.

Loulé is an attractive market town with remains of a Moorish castle and a Gothic church. One of the local industries is dried fruit production and there is a museum in the town devoted to this.

Vila Real, on the Spanish border, used to be a small fishing town and was originally founded by the Phoenicians. It lies on the banks of the Guadiana river and you can take the ferry over to the town of Ayamonte.

If you fancy a drive into the hills, Cachopo is a good place to stop for coffee. Very typical of an Algarvian mountain village, there are shops selling the local products and there is a small museum dedicated to the traditions of the region.

Moncarapacho is a small market town with a beautiful church and small museum, and nearby Fuseta is the launching point for the ferry to the island of Armona.

Cacela Velha is a tiny hamlet that the world seems to have passed by.

Go to the Top of the Page

 

Map of Eastern Algarve
The Bridge and River at Tavira
Tavira Summer Fiesta
View from the Castle
Algarve Chimney
The Avenida, Tavira
View from Alcaria do Cume
 

 

Station Cottage, Trent Lane, Weston-on-Trent, Derby DE72 2BT
Contact: Norman or Tanya Clare, tel: 01332 705552,
All images are copyright Tanya Clare and may not be used or reproduced without permission.
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