The Algarve, in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, has seduced thousands of foreigners for decades. Fans of sun, golf, Mediterranean cuisine and villas with swimming pool and sea view, they head for Portugal determined to have a dream holiday and, often, end up buying a house and staying there forever. But no destination in the eastern Algarve is as fascinating as Tavira, a small town in the municipality of Faro that stretches along the River Gilão, reaching the sea via the Ria Formosa, one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal.
The beaches are the main calling card. Along the 18 kilometres of coast, there are six beaches - Praia do Lacém, Praia de Cabanas de Tavira, Praia da Ilha de Tavira, Praia da Terra Estreita, Praia do Barril and Praia do Homem Nu -, all with thin white sand, calm transparent blue waters and temperatures that can easily reach 26 degrees Celsius. Even in autumn, diving in this sea of the Atlantic Ocean is an experience that has no equal elsewhere.
In the hot summer months, despite the crowds, it is possible to find the tranquillity required for rest. Especially if you visit Ilha de Tavira, eleven kilometres of untouched nature, with guarded beaches, surrounded by dunes, certified with the Blue Flag, which can be reached by boat, from the pier of Quatro Águas or the Tavira waterfront, in the city centre. They are safe beaches, perfect for families with children, for swimming and walking. And for eating fresh fish. Praia do Homem Nu, which has no access other than through Praia de Tavira or Praia da Terra Estreia, lives up to its name by allowing nudism.
However, for many visitors, the beach of choice is Barril, near the village of Pedras D'el Rei. It's not hard to understand why. In addition to the paradisiacal attributes of all the other beaches, there is a truly unique view of the Anchor Cemetery. There are about 250 ancient traps used between 1867 and 1966 for tuna and sardine fishing, which now lie there, all lined up, like works of art perched on the golden sand. It is possible to see, but it is not possible to touch, as this is protected heritage. You can't look for houses or apartments there either, because the scenery is completely unspoilt. Investors find their real estate fortune two kilometres away from the area.
It will be fair to ask if the collection of beaches is the only feature that makes Tavira an inescapable Algarve destination. It isn't. Besides the long sandy beaches, there are endless fields of orange and almond trees and a range of experiences that, at any time of year, make visiting Tavira a must and an unforgettable experience. Like discovering the saltpans of Castro Marim, the fauna and flora on a bicycle ride, with the gentle wind blowing in your face. Or visiting the village of Cacela Velha, part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, on a tuk tuk tour, and getting to know the historical city centre, the whitewashed houses, the castle, the tower, the walls, the churches, the bridge and the streets full of traces of the Arab presence. Or opting for a canoe or kayak trip to photograph the many marine species and migratory birds. And never forgetting the opportunity to play a round of golf at one of the many award-winning resorts. You can always, also, just stroll hand in hand through all these romantic settings, which are breathtaking, especially in the late afternoon, at sunset time. And contemplate the landscape from one of the many café terraces built there.
The icing on the cake: if you don't want to stay just in Tavira, you can now get to know the whole Algarve in one go, in a simple way. The region has created a tourist transport pass (on sale at the 20 tourist offices of the Algarve Tourist Region), which gives access to all the "Vamos Algarve" bus lines. The pass is valid for three days (35€), or seven days (45€), and includes the Aerobus service, which links Faro International Airport to the city centre, as well as to Albufeira, Lagoa, Portimão and Lagos. There is no limit to the number of journeys. So, take the opportunity to stop by the LUXIMOS Christie's International Real Estate office and fall in love with the dream properties the agency has for sale in the Algarve.