Tavira and the Ria Formosa
Tavira is one of the most beautiful and charming cities in the Algarve. Permeated with Muslim and Christian heritage, the city reflects the presence of the countryside and the sea. It finds the perfect balance between water and earth, between calm and frenzy.
This is the place where traditions persist, people are genuine and history marks its presence in daily life. It’s where you can enjoy the beach and the sea, the fish and seafood but also the tranquility of the Ria Formosa Nature Park.
Come along and discover Tavira with us. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit with you!
The city and its history
Located 2 km away from the sea. Its history is directly related to the development of its harbor and the inherent activities linked to the sea and the river. There is evidence of human occupation of this territory since 8 b.C.
With the Muslim invasion, the city gained new energy and the walls were reconstructed, the production of ceramics and tiles was developed. Tavira was a prolific city when the Christians reconquered it, in 1242. The churches were reconstructed, new business with foreign countries was established (thanks to the harbor). Tavira also played an important role as a support for the conquered territories in the North of Africa.
In the second half of the 16th century, with the Spanish domain, the Gilão river siltation, the abandonment of some North African cities and the Restauration war, the city went into decline. At the same time, and it might seem a contradiction, new buildings take shape: convents in the plain architecture style. Austere, sober, formal and stripped of any decorative style.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, stability started gaining territory in Tavira. With the Third Orders, the construction of churches and chapels spread, giving work to the inhabitants. Apart from the construction, the decoration of these buildings was very important. Tavira’s baroque architecture is very rich.
The 1755 earthquake affected Tavira. The reconstruction plan included a military hospital and military headquarters. In 1776, Marquês de Pombal founds a tapestry factory in Tavira but it didn’t last for long. In the 1800s tuna disappears from the coast. Fishing activities are harmed and the population has no work. The countryside sustains the city. With the Liberalism came Mercado da Ribeira (the Market) and the Jardim Público (Public Garden).
With the railway line, the city started to expand. New public buildings were installed (the jail, the slaughterhouse, the cemetery). Electric lighting was also installed. The city started growing in the 20th century. On the outskirts, canned fish plants were built. Tavira was up and running again.
For all these reasons you’ll find plenty of Muslim and religious heritage in the city. From the buildings to the cuisine, from handcrafts to the traditions.
Ria Formosa and the Nature Park
A series of saltwater lagoons and waterways that continuously change due to the movement of winds, currents, and tides. This is just the basis of Ria Formosa. Extending from Faro to Tavira, this is a sanctuary for wildlife (especially birdlife and aquatic life).
Ria Formosa was classified as a Natural Park in 1987. It’s a safe haven for wildlife but it also protects the small fishing communities (that use traditional and sustainable fishing methods). Without the support of the Natural Park, both the communities and the methods would disappear.
The Ria Formosa Natural Park has a wide variety of habitats that you can observe on a visit: dunes, barrier islands, tidal flats, islets, saltpans, water lagoons, woodlands and agricultural areas. All of them hold an impressive diversity of flora and fauna. From mammals to reptiles, through birds and amphibians, insects, cephalopods, crustaceans mollusks and fish, the Ria Formosa is the home for a panoply of species.
Bird watching is one of the most interesting activities to embrace at Ria Formosa. You can find waterfowl and wader birds from Central and Northern Europe for the winter, and the resident species: spoonbills, herons, guinea gooses, oystercatchers, guinea fowls, black-necked grebes, bar-tailed godwits and black-headed seagulls.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus – Easily recognized by it´s long and curved bill.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta – Similar to the Cattle Egret this bird can be seen only in wetlands where it captures small fishes.
If you’re a fan of birdwatching, don’t miss the chance to observe the Purple Swamphen, one of the rare species that find shelter at Ria Formosa. This bird is also the symbol of the Park. Along with the flamingos, this bird is one of the main attractions for those who go birdwatching.
Ria Formosa is a reserve with enormous scientific value, as well as cultural, social and economic importance and its preservation is indispensable. All activities related to fishing, seafood, saliculture, and aquaculture are essential to the preservation and balanced development of this Natural Park.
This is the Algarve. There are plenty of beaches to choose from. And some of them look like they were taken from a travel magazine. Take the time to explore Tavira. Its a picturesque and charming city, considered to be one of the most beautiful in the Algarve region. Enjoy the atmosphere and the food. Go on a boat tour on Ria Formosa, observe the wildlife and witness clam and mussel picking with traditional methods. Tavira offers the perfect balance between city life and nature.