The Magical Island of Tavira

May 12, 2021

For many Portuguese people a yearly trip to the Algarve is an absolute must, and now with many country borders closed, it´s maybe more popular than ever. My own first Algarvian trip was like a rite of passage and I still remember the day I first got in a car to drive down South – it was the day of June 7th 2016. I absolutely loved the Algarve, but took my time to claim my favourite spot. That, dear reader, is the magical island of Tavira – a stretch of land 11km long, with a width varying from 150 m to 1 km at its widest. Other than last year which was pretty unusual, I´ve been going to Tavira every single year. I am currently typing this from our rented villa in the city of Luz de Tavira and I resolved to take some pictures on this trip to show you what this magical place is all about. Full disclosure: I had written about this area on an old blog and will be using some text from back then again. But let´s get to it.

Once in the Algarve, my favourite way of getting to the island of Tavira is via the Pedras d´el Rei town. Pedras is a vacation town, with people renting out the tiny white houses during summer and everything left deserted during winter. I like to imagine a lonely little old man still mowing the lawn every winter as the town awaits the new season to commence.

What I love about Pedras are not just its numbered houses (going from one to >160) but also the fact that none of them has a garden. The whole terrain is common ground for all children to play football and all cats to nap in the sun on the world´s softest grass. Pedras is the purest embodiment of a community, of a neighbourhood taken to its extreme. It´s as if you don´t even need to ask someone for sugar, you could just reach out through the houses´enormous windows and get it yourself.

Pedras is a quiet little town. Its town pool lies in the middle of the soft grass, by some wonderful terraces and is guarded by a sharp looking lifesaver. He doesn´t just make sure that everyone is safe, but also that everyone seeking solstice in the pool is actually a member of the community. Everyone renting a house in Pedras gets a card that grants them access to the pool. During this trip, we only saw people sunbathing as the pool is probably closed due to the pandemic, but in past years, the pool is a super jolly space for all villagers to gather.

Now on to the island of Tavira! You´ll want to head to the tiny train station where a trolley resembling a children´s train picks you up and drives you to the Praia do Barril. The tiny train travels through the moor that separates Pedras from the beach, and after about a kilometer of savannah-like landscape it drops you off at the beach. You can catch a ride back anytime until 20:00 and a return ticket costs €2,60. Totally worth it, whether you´re 5 or 67 years old. If you´re anything like me or Sheldon, you´ll feel a constant need to say “choo-choo”. Alternatively, you can do this portion by foot, and especially during high tide marvel at the scenery around you.

Once on the Praia do Barril, you can go either left or right for 11 km and gather the most beautiful shells, do some windsurfing or enjoy some restaurants and bars along the beach. From there you can even see Portugal´s last city before Spain – Monte Gordo, a very touristy town next to the Spanish border. The water is a bit agitated, but oh so much warmer than the one in Lisbon so during summer it´s an absolute joy to swim in it.

If you don´t want to head back by train, you can actually keep walking until the Praia de Terra Estreita where you can catch a ferry until the town after Pedras, Santa Luzia. Stop there for an octopus dinner (their speciality) at the Capelo restaurant. And repeat that for a week, while you recharge. Tavira is a quiet place for a getaway, even though you do have some tourists (not even nearly as many as in Lagos or other areas of the Algarve though). I personally see it as a more local and unfussy type of a resort holiday from which I return with a full belly and a great tan. Well, this time I´m returning with a mild tan, as we´re having some rather cloudy days down here. But hey, a holiday, is a holiday.

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