Tavira is very seductive, and from the streets along the River Gilão to the castle walls from which you have the best view over the town, it makes you want to discover its hidden corners and unlock its secrets. There is a certain oriental charm in this town, in its “scissor” truss or hipped roofs which are outlined against the sky in a unique way and its latticed timber doors that shelter homes while still letting air and sound in, a heritage from the Arabs who inhabited the region.
Tavira straddles both banks of the river in an intricate design of narrow streets and white houses that call for an unhurried stroll. The Jardim do Coreto (Bandstand Garden) is the liveliest area, where people wander around savouring an ice cream and the fresh air, especially at night when shows and other events bring additional life to the area. Here you will find the Mercado da Ribeira which, after its original function as a market finished, is now devoted to entertainment and leisure.
The town’s charms continue as far as the Ria Formosa (Formosa estuary) which you can reach by following the road alongside the River Gilão, flanked by the white salt pans, where you can admire birds like the black-winged stilt, the flamingo and the pied avocet. At its end, at Quatro Águas, you can take the boat across to the beach on the spit of sand that separates the lagoon from the sea. There are 11 kilometres of beach here, including the beaches of Tavira Island, Terra Estreita, Barril and Homem Nu, where you can rest after this packed tour. Discover the best beaches in Tavira, Algarve, south of Portugal.
1. Praia de Cabanas
The unspoilt island beach in Cabanas, Ilha de Cabanas-Mar (or ‘Praia de Cabanas’ or ‘Ilha de Cabanas’..or simply, ‘Cabanas Beach’!) is 7 kilometres long boasting beautiful white sand and perfect tranquility for sunbathers.
Boats to the island run from throughout the day from April to October, tickets costing as little as €1 euro return per person. Ilha de Cabanas-Mar has its own café-bar, showers and toilet facilities, sunshades to rent and water sports such as windsurfing, sailing and jet-skiing. It is a supervised beach during the season.
2. Praia do Barril
The beach is located on the centre of the island of Tavira and it’s characterized as a fine white sand tongue. From this beach you might observe the beautiful landscape of Caldeirão as well as the marshes, Ria Formosa saltworks and even the Tavira dunes. To get to this beach you should catch the touristic train and then follow a pathway which will take you to the Praia do Barril beach.
This is one of the most calm beaches in Algarve and its waters are calm and offer perfect conditions for bathing. This beach is usually sought by the nudist community and the westernmost part of the beach is considered one of the few legal nudist beaches in Portugal.
3. Praia da Ilha de Tavira
Located on the eastern side of Tavira Island, next to Barra do Cochicho, this beach is right in front of the town of Tavira, in Algarve. The access to this beach is by boat, from the Quatro Águas Dock, but as it is a short trip some people prefer to do it swimming. The dock is on the Gilão River and here you’ll be able to find an artisanal fishing fleet.
This side of the island has more population than the rest and on it is possible to find some summer cottages, a camping, tourist facilities and bars located on the sandy area. It also has local infrastructures to practise water sports, as well as cruises to the Ría Formosa Estuary. The warm, quiet waters of the estuary side are good quality ones, so they are perfect for children to play.
4. Praia da Terra Estreita
The Praia da Terra Estreita Beach, well-known also like Praia de Santa Luzia Beach, is located of the east side of the island of Tavira. It is a sand strip less than 50 metres width with an easy access by boat. In this short trip will be able to see the fishing creels to fish octopus, as well as numerous artisanal fishing boats.
Its sandy area is more quiet and desert than the neighbouring beaches of Barril and Tavira Island, so you will have the chance to enjoy relaxing moments in here. You will also be able to contemplate pleasing spikenard tuberoses and enjoy warm baths on the sea. On your way back to Santa Luzia you’ll find a littoral avenue with lots of restaurants and pubs where you will be able to enjoy delicious seafood and yummy fish plates, like the estupeta de atum (tuna salad).
5. Praia do Lacém
This small lagoon beach is surrounded by farmland, amongst allotments, vineyards and dryland orchards. The beach is reached by a small cross-country footpath which accompanies an occasional stream, along which there grows some thick riverside vegetation, with reed beds and lots of brambles. The beach itself is quite narrow with some low-lying sand dunes where the main plant is European beachgrass. The predominant habitat is, in fact, the salt-marsh, and the smell of the sea and the mudflats is intense.
Beyond the narrow branch of Ria Formosa, you will find Cabanas Island, very thin and low in this area and only covered with some small grasses (sea couch), not offering any great resistance to the advances of the sea. Here you can observe various shorebirds calmly scouring the mud with their long beaks in search of food. If you have a private boat, you can cross over the branch of the Ria Formosa and reach the sand barriers of Cabanas or Cacela.
6. Praia do Homem Nu
Known locally as Praia do Homem Nú “Naked Man Beach”, this sea beach is known for the practice of nudism and naturism. It occupies the western end of the Island of Tavira, between the official naturist area Barril beach and Fuzeta boat canal, a distance of more than 4 kilometres. Already in the mid-eighties this beach had high demand from naturist and nudist lovers, mainly British, German and Dutch.
In the nineties, regular attendance was consolidated, and the beach began to appear also in national and international LGBT guides. However, during the last decade, the beach gradually lost its popularity to Cacela Velha Beach and even the Spanish neighbour Nueva Umbria in Lepe. One of the determining factors for this change of habits is the difficult access to the beach, which is made from Barril Beach, walking towards the west end of the island.