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TAVIRA



Tavira, referred to in guide books as the ‘Venice of the Algarve’ is one of the most authentic towns in the Algarve and definitely worth visiting.

Historically, Tavira was an important harbour town and there are still remnants from Moorish, Phoenician and Roman occupations. There is a lively fishing trade along the river front, though far less than when Tavira was known for its huge tuna fishing fleets, the anchors of which can all be seen lodged in the sand at Barril beach.

The beautiful centre of Tavira is situated on the banks of the river Gilão. The town has a seven arched Roman bridge that spans the river and is the focal point of the town.  Tavira was virtually rebuilt in the eighteenth century after the famous earthquake of 1755 destroyed most of the buildings. The impressive church of Sta. Maria do Castelo has a gothic portal and stands on the site of the former 13th century mosque and most of the 37 churches have beautiful tile work within. There are many examples of Renaissance and Manueline architecture including the arched doorway of the Misericordia church.  The 13th century castle walls border the medieval centre of town, encompassing tranquil gardens and a Camera Obscura. From there your eyes can scan over the rich tapestry of peaked rooftops to the estuary leading through the mosaic of salt pans and far out into the Atlantic.

There are many highly recommended fish restaurants, which serve locally caught shellfish and fresh fish dishes, enjoyed with a glass of ‘vinho verde’, the ´green` sparkling wine which is typically Portuguese. Numerous cafes and restaurants line the river, public gardens and quiet squares, offering an array of traditional patisseries and fresh fish dishes.

Tavira beaches make up part of the Nature Reserve of the Ria Formosa, which comprise six unique barrier islands protecting a system of salt marshes and tidal mudflats, each fronted by white sand beaches that spread as far as the eye can see. An unspoilt haven for nature lovers, walkers and bird watchers.

Few places in Europe have so many Blue Flag beaches in such a concentrated area, you can enjoy the boat and miniature train river crossings, many of which are operational throughout the year.

Inland and set in rural countryside 7 km north of Tavira is the waterfall of ‘Moinhos da Rocha’. A series of wooden decks and bridges skirt a leafy ravine sheltering the crystal clear waters of a small stream. This culminates in a low but impressive waterfall that empties into a small lake. Further up stream are the other beautiful cascading waterfalls of ‘Pego do Inferno’, both pretty places for picnics and having a dip!

There are seasonal festivals of live music, street theatre and open air cinema interspersed with various fairs. One of the main festivals is Sâo Joâo on the 24th of June, when Tavira is decorated in paper flowers, host carnivals and processions with late night sardine- eating and street dancing!

For any other information about local festivals or activities, please have a look on the following website.  http://cultura.cm-tavira.pt/index.php?mlingua=en&pagina=

Or visit the tourist office at Rua Da Galeria nr. 9, Tavira.

 

CABANAS AND CACÉLA VELHA


Cabanas is a touristic fishing village, an 8 km drive away from Tavira.

A pretty wooden promenade borders the small estuary, dotted with colourful fishing boats on one side and small houses, cafés and restaurants on the other. Across the river is the beautiful beach of Cabanas, a white sand island which links the natural archipelago that is part of the Ria Formosa National Park.

There are regular, small fishing boats that ferry people from the village to the Island in just a few minutes. The island is about 7 km long stretch of white sandy beach. During summer months there are seasonal beach cafés where you can buy refreshments.

On the main street of Cabanas there are plenty of bars and excellent sea food restaurants. During the summer there are traditional fishing festivals and craft markets with local bands playing Fado and Portuguese music and offering a really typical taste of the life in the Algarve.

Cabanas is very close to the golf course of Benamor and Quinta da Ria, which are both top quality courses with spectacular scenery.

A beautiful walk between the verdant countryside and the estuary will bring you to Fabrica, with its popular restaurant and river ferry crossing and further on to Cacela Velha. This highly picturesque white washed village is a reminder of how the Algarve must have looked half a century ago.  Perched on a cliff top, this hamlet offers exhilarating views of the coast, wetlands and Oyster beds below.

Cacelha Velha hosts an annual Moorish craft festival and banquet during the summer.

 

SANTA CATARINA


A small rural market town nestled in the hills north of Tavira and south of São Bras de Alportel. Santa Catarina is surrounded by small villages within beautiful settings of Mediterranean woodland and scrubland, which reflect the changing seasons, rural lifestyle and indigenous wild life…an ideal environment for Walking, Horse riding, Bird watching and observing nature.

Winding brooks and fields of wild flowers can be enjoyed from January through to July. Spot wild Terrapins basking in the sun on river beds, Otters and Kingfishers among the verdant riverine vegetation and wild Oleander and Thyme.

On higher ground one can have great panoramic views of the ocean and valleys beyond, flushed with Cistus, Eucalyptus, Rockrose, Cork-Oaks and Wild Olive trees along old rural paths flanked by typical vegetable plots and Dryland Orchards.

During summer and autumn months, the countryside bares its rich clay earth and the hilltops offer respite from the heat with gentle sea breezes and shade from the majestic Carob, Oaks and Maritime Pine trees. This typical Mediterranean woodland is home to a variety of flora and fauna including Golden Orioles, Turtle Doves, Bee-Eaters, Iberian hares, Red-legged Partridge, Genets and Wild boar. Santa Catarina hosts a local farmers market on every fourth Sunday of the month. Here you can sample traditional barbeque chicken and buy locally produced woven baskets, honey, chouriço, fruit and vegetables amongst an array of other things.

There are several local restaurants offering good value traditional cooking. Restaurant O Monte is perched on a hill in the valley of Umbria - the owner and chef, Anna Lidia, serves generous courses of daily dishes, specializing in wild game.

Meander through the timeless villages of Corte do Vidreiro, translated as the glass cutters’ village with a resident glass maker who exhibits and sells her wares. Sample local ‘Firewater’ Aguadente in the tavern of Varzeas do Vinagre and take up the opportunity to ride horse-back through the hills of Aceifão with a local guide who can show you some off the beaten track attractions. The higher points of Agua da Tabuas and Mesa da Cume offer great view points and nature reserves with many walking paths, also leading to a couple of great restaurants, namely, Mesa da Cume and Bemparece.

 

FARO


The city of Faro is the capital of the Algarve and main doorway for tourism, however, Faro is also a beautiful and historic town of its own accord.

Faro was constructed in the Moorish era, but during the earthquake of 1755 most of the old buildings were destroyed.  Within the old city ‘Cidade Velha’ you can visit theGothic church of Sé, in amongst cobbled streets and white washed buildings set within sturdy town walls. The main appeal is the clock tower which you can climb up for superb views over the surrounding coastland. Another church worth visiting is the Largo do Carmo, which has a chapel built from human bones and skulls … not recommended for the faint hearted!

Faros’ commercial part of the city is pedestrianized and is a haven for shoppers. While the nearby ‘Forum Algarve’ shopping centre is a great last minute drop-in for gift purchasing before catching your plane.

Culturally Faro, Loulé and further west offer a wide selection of festivals, concerts and events during the summer months.

 

SANTA LUZIA


Known as the ‘capital of the octopus,’ Santa Luzia is an earthy working fishing village home to a number of very good seafood restaurants, charismatic cafés and a solid community of fishing families. A palm-fringed estuary with colourful fishing boats fronts a kernel of atmospheric cobbled back streets and tiled houses.

Santa Luzia is part of the six unique barrier islands of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, which is one of the most important wetlands in Iberia. These tidal wetlands and salt-marshes shelter various fish, reptiles and wading birds, including the rarest species Purple Galinule.

 

Spot Fiddler Crabs, Avocets, Spoonbills, Herons and the rare swivel eyed Mediterranean Chameleons on the path trails leading to Barril beach or Terra Estreita beach.

Walk across the causeway near Pedras D’el Rei to the nostalgic miniature train that drives to and fro over the salt-marshes to the beautiful white, duned sand beach of Barril. This service functions all year from 8am to dusk and a path alongside takes 10 to 15 minutes to walk.

Once on Barril beach you can have refreshments in the cafés that once housed the fishing families who spent the summer working the tuna fleets. The anchors lay on the dunes as remnants of this abandoned livelihood.

Alternatively, from the village, you can catch a small ferry boat across the lagoon to the thinnest part of the island ‘Terra Estreita’ where there is a funky beach café and miles of deserted beach.

Santa Luzia is host to a traditional fishing festival in august, where locals compete in maritime games, stalls flank the riverfront and open air concerts fill the night…fun for all the family.

 

OLHÃO


The main indusry of this bustling town, 15km from Faro and 20km from Tavira, is the catching and processing of fish.

Beside the river in the centre of Olhão are two large indoor markets with a delightful array of fresh produce, especially fish brought in from the port next door.

The warren of narrow streets and flat roofs lend a North African feel to the old town and the landscape.

Olhão harbor is protected by two islands with superb Atlantic facing beaches ‘Ilha da Culatra’ and ‘Ilha da Armona’, both reached by charming ferry rides from the dock near the market place.

The islands are between 10 and 20 minutes boat ride away from the mainland and house a tiny community of residents but mostly summer huts and holiday homes.There is a very popular seafood festival during august with live music and hundreds of different ways to eat shell fish!

 

FUZETA


An active fishing town with a picturesque river front dotted with colourful fishing boats and wooden cabins alongside the walkway, where the fisherman sit and mend their nets.

Ferries run to the island of Fuzeta and there is a small beach with café at the end of the riverwalk, ideal for small children.

Every first Sunday of the month there is a flea market spread out from the riverside to the town.


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