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TAVIRA's town centre has changed little since its heyday in the 18th century, when merchants made rich by the trade in salt, wine and fish built fine mansions along its river banks. These now crumbling buildings bring an air of faded elegance to the town's laidback atmosphere. Strongly traditional yet with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, Tavira draws visitors back year after year from all over the world.

BEACHES
As with most of the eastern Algarve, the beach is only accessible by ferry. It's worth the 5-minute trip, though - wide enough to fit a couple of football pitches, 14kms in length, and with a superbly relaxed atmosphere it is rated by some as the best in the country. You can walk for miles on its white sands, hunt for sea shells, or just lounge around under the warm Portuguese sun. There are restaurants and bars on the beach, and watersports equipment for hire. A 20-minute walk west leads to a naturist beach.

ACTIVITIES
The eastern Algarve is a latecomer to the province's thriving golf scene, but the area now has three new courses with more on the way. The closest to Tavira - just 4kms away - is the Benamor, while the newer Quinta da Ria is 2kms further.
Attractions such as Zoomarine and the Big One Waterpark are within a 30-minute drive.
Some of the beaches in the area offer watersports equipment such as windsurfers and kayaks. You can also go horse riding, hiking, mountain biking, karting, bird watch in the Rio Formosa reserve, try some big game fishing or even stargaze in the nearby observatory.

GOING OUT
With dozens of restaurants to choose from you can enjoy inexpensive grilled fish in local cafes or dine in upmarket establishments with an international menu. Most bars only close in the early hours and Tavira and the towns around it do have some nightclubs, but if you like clubbing you'd probably prefer one of the more touristy towns west of Faro, like Albufeira.

EXCURSIONS
Tavira is in an excellent position to explore both the Algarve and western Spain. Drive north through the rolling hills and you'll discover ancient white-washed villages where life has changed little for 200 years. Head west and you'll find the sophisticated tourist resorts that characterise the Algarve, or the wild beauty of the west coast. You can take jeep Safaris into the countryside or cruise up the Guadiana river that divides Portugal and Spain. Seville is only 90-minutes by car or bus, and the charming Spanish border town of Ayamonte is only 25km away - a quick trip to sample some tapas and Andalucian culture. Ideally it is best to hire a car for your visit, though the public transport system is very efficient. To read more about daytrips in the area, click here