Beauty and the beach-the best of both in the Eastern Algarve

By Johanna Bradley, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Tavira.

Overall rating:4.4 out of 5 (based on 7 votes)
Recommended for:
Activity, Beach, Family, Budget, Mid-range

One day a gurgling waterfall surrounded by luxuriant oleanders,the next an endless sweep of golden sand. Countryside and beach co-exist beautifully here and you're absolutely spoilt for choice

The Eastern Algarve is not so well manicured as its sophisticated western neighbour, but that is very much a part of its charm. It's every bit as beautiful and the variety might surprise you. It's also extremely good value for money. This guide features two highly contrasting areas a short distance apart. Many, equally inviting others await exploration, so why not head east from Faro airport?

Tavira is one of the Eastern Algarve's loveliest towns, with a beautiful riverside location. A surprise to many is that you only need to follow the winding river out of town a short way to be in idyllic countryside. Pego do Inferno (Hell's Pool) used to be a popular spot with the locals. Sadly the bridge and boardwalks were burnt out by forest fires in an unusually hot Summer a couple of years ago. Don't let this put you off exploring the area. You can still take a lovely walk and it's surprising how swiftly nature has restored the landscape.

How to get there

From Tavira the road to Cachopo (N397) follows the River Sequa, winding past a sea of bamboo canes and orange groves. This is ideal cycling terrain. Keep a sharp eye open for a left turn after 4km, signed Moinhos da Rocha. Following this you will cross over a bridge down at water level. Turn right and continue till you come to a small pumping station on a right hand junction. Right here will bring you to a parking area.

Now for the fun! Retrace your steps along the road and at the corner head up the red earth track, with lemon groves on your right. After a good kilometre you will pass Quinta Bonita on your right. At the next junction, take the track bearing left downhill and the cascades are on your right. If you're lucky and the oleanders are in bloom, it's a lovely place to linger, or have a picnic. After a paddle you can return the same way or carry on across the ford. A left on the tarmac road and another at the next crossroads will bring you back to the car park, 2.5km overall.


And now, as they say, for something completely different. 5km to the east of Tavira lies former fishing village Cabanas. Part of the Ria Formosa nature reserve, Cabanas is also blessed with a glorious beach. With its new boardwalk making the most of the views across the lagoon, and backed by numerous bars and restaurants, Cabanas is becoming a stylish place to be. Reaching the beach can be an adventure- you need to take to the water. Small 9 or 10 person ferries zip backwards and forwards to the island. The boatman will help you in, but you might still get your feet a tiny bit wet- just one of those endearing rough edges I so love about this part of the world.

Once on the island you follow the boardwalk out past a well-positioned beach café, with great views back to the mainland or out to sea. The beach disappears off into the distance so no problems finding a quiet spot. If you enjoy a good walk, turn left and you will eventually be rewarded by the sight of the village of Fabrica, far away across the lagoon. High on the hill, the church and fortress of Cacela Velha- a tempting venue for another day. Low tide sees the locals wading in the lagoon, collecting shell life for supper or for sale.

O Monte- Quinta Velha Village- a fine dining experience

Cabanas is situated off the coast road, E125. After passing through Conceicao and over the railway tracks you come to one of the older developments, Quinta Velha Village, a former olive tree farm. Recently given a new lease of life by young architect Claudia and her partner Tito, it is home to a special restaurant, O Monte. The décor and old stone walls are beautiful, attention to detail is paramount and the food is beautifully presented. I love the pasta and fish dishes, from 12 euros, and the wine selection is superb. (Qt Old Cabanas, Cabanas de Tavira 8800-591 tel 915 384 220)   

Where to stay

In the small and friendly category, Calcada Guesthouse (Calcada D. Ana 12, Tavira 8800-803) is beautifully situated alongside the Iron Age city walls of Tavira.  There are just six immaculate en-suite bedrooms, from around 70 euros, and a lovely roof terrace, where you are eye to eye with the characteristic tessoura-tiled rooftops.  Andy and Tamsin will give you all the assistance you need in finding your way around, and free WiFi is included, of course.

Along the coast road E125, about 7km from Tavira, you come to Luz de Tavira and luxurious Villa Campina. (Sitio da Campina, Luz de Tavira)  A boutique style hotel, each room has a private terrace overlooking the gardens.  There is a saltwater pool with wonderful surrounds, and bicycles are available for you to explore the area.  It comes highly recommended.

Nearer to Cabanas, Hotel Casa Vale del Rei (Almargem,8800-053 Tavira, tel 281 323 3099)  is another hotel with the personal touch. It's a "come again" kind of place, perfect for relaxation, barbecue and microwave being provided in the lovely grounds. The images on the website are extremely seductive and no breakfast comes more highly recommended.  7 ensuite doubles cost from 80 euros per night.

If you're not familiar with Tavira, my guide will give you plenty of food for thought.

Numerous budget airways fly into Faro, including Easyjet, Jet 2 and Ryanair.    

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More information on Beauty and the beach-the best of both in the Eastern Algarve:

Johanna Bradley
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
Average: 4.4 (7 votes)
Total views:
First uploaded:
9 July 2010
Last updated:
1 year 26 weeks 4 days 9 hours 28 min 38 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Activity, Beach, Family
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range
Free tags / Keywords:
walking, countryside, cycling, lagoons, finest restaurants, unspoilt beaches

Johanna recommends


Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Calcada Guesthouse
2. Vilacampina
3. Hotel Casa Vale Del Rei

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Community comments (10)

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Johanna

Thanks for introducing me to a part of Portugal that I don't know at all. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the food, especially the baked Camembert with figs, that sounds amazing!

Personally I'd have broken some of the longer paragraphs up since I believe it helps the reader to retain information in smaller chunks, but overall a great read


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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I always have a soft spot for the area around Tavira as I first picked up the travel bug in these here parts many years ago.

Lovely write up Johanna and you demonstrate that even within the "tourist trap" of the Algarve it is very easy to make your own discoveries. Hopefully your review will encourage others to also catch that oh-so expensive, time consuming but eye-opening lust for travel.


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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

A clever, witty title that ensured I read the guide - and I am so glad that I did. I don't know the area at all, but the content and style seduced me into wanting to go very soon.

If you can make somewhere called "Hell's Pool" sound attractive, you must be doing something right!

Great descriptions of food/restaurants, and your guide avoids cliches, which makes it personalised and thus very real.

A final paragraph at the very end to just 'sign off' the guide would have been welcome, but that's just a personal preference. You say you have a tendency to 'go on' - but here's one reader who could have read a bit more - thanks.

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Thanks Murray. Something else I should maybe point out- like a lot of places the Algarve had way more than its usual share of rain this past Winter (I'm told one this bad only comes along every 100 years so that's manageable isn't it?). In consequence the rivers/falls,etc have been pretty full, but to see Pego at its very best Spring/Autumn are probably preferred. We were there early June.

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Wow! Such a rich and detailed guide. Absolutely everything is there to help a reader replicate your journey. Equal doses of inspiration and practical information. This is one of those guides you can see people printing off and taking with them on their own journey to the area. I love the description of Mesa do Cume. Wish I could go there for dinner tonight!

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Everything I wanted to know, Johanna. The Eastern Algarve certainly looks good from the pics. A great opening made me want to dabble the old toes in hell's pool, and I do like circular walks, very satisfying!

Quinto da Fonte de Bispo sounds nice, and can obviously be very reasonable.

One more thing you could tell me - are the Portuguese drivers as bad as their painted? Not that I couldn't give them a run for their money!

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Many thanks Myra- erratic and inconsistent paints the best picture, but I've known worse (me for instance!)

1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

This is alluring guide provides a pleasent overview of an area you seem to know well.
I like the way you tempt the reader with your description of Hell's Pool and Cabanas then provide simple directions to get there and even what to eat!
As this is a less well know tourist area, it would be helpful to know whether a Portuguese phrase book is a must have accessory, and whether the roads provide easy driving conditions. Apart from that very enjoyable.

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Hi folks- thanks for the nice comments. Richard- sorry, I'm hopeless with fonts n all that. I just don't think about them- will try harder. Kathy- good point. I was going to include this in the guide but I'm inclined to go on for too long anyway. Cabanas is very tourist friendly and you won't need the phrasebook. If you go to Pego and Moinhos da Rocha it might be useful if you get lost(I'm very good at that!) but most people will help you anyway. The driving we did in a small hire car and it's no problem unless you're a very nervous driver. Once you're in the hills it's very "uppy-downy" but it's all surfaced roads.

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Johanna, I thought the title and the opening summary paragraph were great and really drew me in, as did the pics. I think I preferred your description of the "beauty" to the "beach", possibly because I didn't know about places such as Hell's Pool!

Don't forget to make use of the "heading" fonts when editing your guides to make them a little easier on the eye.

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