Tavira: A Proper Beach Trip
The Algarve is Portugal’s most Southern region. It’s known for dramatic cliffs, calm bays, and generally picturesque beaches.
The old Moorish town is much quieter, and even simpler. But for us, the relaxing nature of Tavira was it’s allure.
Will and I were meeting two of my closest childhood friends, Caitlin and Johanna. For different reasons, we were all in search of what we deemed a proper beach vacation.
Tavira is quaint. It has cobblestone roads and charming plazas.
Along the banks of the Gilão River, Tavira still has an active fishing port. But the present-day market now attracts more visitors.
Unfortunately, the historic center doesn’t have a beach accessible by foot. However, a short two mile ferry ride away are the beautiful beaches of Praia de Tavira.
The center of town felt a bit like stepping back in time. It’s one of the few places in the region that hasn’t been dramatically changed by tourist interests.
There’s a combination of classic Portuguese architecture with Moorish influences. Buildings are decorated with Renaissance and Baroque embellishments. However, it was the iconic colors that resonated. The azulejo tiles contrasted with the ever-present stark white walls.
Above all, it was the company who defined my time in Tavira.
I was with two of my very best friends, and we hadn’t spent time all together in over two years—since our wedding party.
For me, it was nothing short of a dream.
We had a nice, two-bedroom airbnb, about a ten minute walk from the downtown.
That first evening, we explored the area and picked up supplies for the week. We really did make our airbnb a home for the next few days.
We were thinking of taking a day trip, but instead invested in three full-on beach days. And it was fantastic. We basically recreated our ideal day, every day. Our routine started with a coffee at a local bakery.
Followed by creating a foolproof assembly line to pack sandwiches for a beach picnic. Dream team.
The ferry to the closest beach, Praia de Tavira, was super straight forward. It’s a 20 minute ride, two Euro roundtrip.
The beach itself lives up to the hype. It’s stellar. Located on the north-eastern side of the Ilha de Tavira, the popular beach is a sandbar island around seven miles along the Ria Formosa Nature Park.
We were treated to comically sunny days and clear refreshing water.
We setup a series of umbrellas to lay out all day.
We’d then head back to our airbnb for happy hour, always with vinho verde. We collected homemade accoutrements as the days went on from the local markets: fig jams and tomato chutneys.
After, we’d head out for dinner. It wasn’t difficult to enjoy a delicious meal in Tavira. Fresh seafood and inexpensive white wine were abundant. And each night got even better.
You can’t be in a rush, since table service can take over two hours. Your not only on holiday time, but Portuguese holiday time. Yet, once we were finally served, it was always delicious. Charred octopus, fresh sea bream.
The real treat came on day two. One of my former DC roommates, Claire, and her husband Aymeric were also on holiday in Portugal.
We met up with them briefly in Lisbon, but agreed we’d really catch up in Tavira.
We recreated the previous day. Coffee, same packed sandwiches, bought drinks on the beach.
But it was with Claire and Aymeric that we discovered the epic game that is…ocean frisbee. It’s exactly as it sounds, playing frisbee in the ocean. We played for hours. It was the best.
We stayed at the beach as late as we possibly could, but we had a reservation at a restaurant that we passed the evening before. We had happy hour again at our place, before heading to D’gusta.
It was essentially shared Portuguese small plates. We ordered the menu.
We started with with the chouriço assado, or grilled chorizo. It was the dish we saw the night prior that caught our eye. The flame became questionable at times, but it ended up being worth (Will’s) effort.
It was an experience. And I loved every minute of it.
The food, the sunset, and to share it with these people. It was some sort of bliss. Although we were going to part ways, the six of us vowed to repeat the following day. We all agreed, it was too good not to.
And so, we did. Bakery coffee, sandwiches, ocean frisbee.
Followed by happy hour and another delicious dinner.
And too many laughs.
It was a beautiful evening, so we ventured into the center of town.
We came across a questionably traditional form of Portuguese song and dance.
But were far more interested in the gelato. A lovely last evening.
It felt so bittersweet to end our time in Tavira. But it was with truly some of my favorite people in the world. And I left feeling nothing but fulfilled. It was a highlight of our year, for sure.