Ilha da Tavira, like Culatra, is one of the sand barrier islands of the Ria Formosa. It is 11 kms long but only 100-150 ms wide and is home to some of the best beaches in the Algarve. In the summer, tourists flock to its beautiful beaches. In winter, you can practically have the place to yourself! Unlike Culatra, there is no real year-round population here – it is principally a beach resort destination so in winter it is a very different place!
The best way to get to Ilha de Tavira is by taking the little ferry over from Quatro Aguas, reached by a causeway across the salt marshes from the beautiful and historic town of Tavira – just follow the signs. The short ferry ride drops you on the north side of the eastern-most end of the island from where it is an easy stroll to the beach by way of a cluster of bars and restaurants all eager for your business. There’s a good campsite here too – very popular in the summer with local Portuguese families. You can also get to the island from a couple of other points further West along the coast and there is (apparently) a nudist beach.
The beach is spectacular – 11 kms of white sand and gently sloping beach lapped by crystal clear waters. Praia da Ilha de Tavira – as the eastern end beach is known – has a full range of beach facilities in the summer months and has won best beach prizes but walk a few minutes West and you will have no trouble finding a deserted stretch of sand. Go in winter and you can walk for miles and not see a soul. The light sparkling on the water is breathtaking.
WHAT TO DO ON ILHA DE TAVIRA (in Summer)
Park your car or walk to Quatro Aguas and take the ferry over to Ilha de Tavira (€1.50 return). Stroll through the trees towards the beach, stopping for a beer at one of the beach bars on the way. Relax on a sunbed, swim in the crystal clear sea, walk for miles along white sandy beaches. Have lunch at one of the restaurants under the pine trees – Seafood rice is a speciality – or picnic under the trees on the north side of the island. End the day with a few sundowners before taking the ferry back or bring your tent and stay a few days!
WHAT TO DO ON ILHA DE TAVIRA (in Winter)
Walk for miles and miles along completely deserted, beautiful, peaceful beaches, paddle in the crystal clear water. Have lunch or a beer if you can find somewhere open. Chill! Breathe! Relax! Bring a picnic, a blanket and a book and you can have an amazing day here feeding the sparrows and watching the sun sparkle on the sea. Don’t miss the last ferry back!
WHAT I DID
I visited Ilha da Tavira in the middle of January on a beautiful, sunny and warm day. There were 5 people on the boat over – me, two Scandinavian tourists and the 2 men running the boat! It’s a short hop over – 10-15 minutes and for all of that time you have a great view of the north side of the island which, unlike Culatra, is covered in pine and other trees.
I had been here in September when it was a bustling little resort with bars and restaurants bursting with people and music. This time I only saw about 10 people all day! There is nothing to do except walk so I walked. It is unbelievably peaceful, the beach stretches endlessly into the distance and the sun sparkles on the sea. I found a bar (Sal) where the owners were doing some renovations and they made me a toasted sandwich and a beer which I drank in the company of sparrows so brave they sat on my leg!
I loved it here. I took the ferry back feeling utterly peaceful and relaxed. On a sunny day there is no better place. Next time – I’m bringing my tent!
My next island will be Ilha da Armona – the last of the Ria Formosa islands (for now!)