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Tavira along with Lagos is one of the most architecturally attractive towns in the Algarve and its origin dates back to around 2.000 BC. During the occupation of the Algarve by the Moors this town was considered of great importance due to its fishing industry. Dom Paio Peres Correia took it from the Moors in anger in 1242 after seven of his principal Knights were killed during a period of truce. In the 17th Century the port in its river was of considerable importance, shipping produce such as salt, dried fish and wine. Like most of the Algarve its buildings were all virtually destroyed by the earthquake of 1755
The town has since been rebuilt with many fine 18th Century buildings along with its 37 churches. A Roman bridge links the two parts of the town across the River Gil„o. The church of Santa Maria do Castelo is built on the site of a Moorish Mosque and in it is the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correia and his seven Knights. Its original economic reliance on the fishing industry has now been surpassed due to the change in the migration patterns of the tuna fish. The population is in the region of 20,000 inhabitants supporting a military base whilst the surrounding area is still very rural and undeveloped. This is now changing due to the demands of the tourist industry and opening of golf courses in the near vicinity. The beach for this town lies past the salt pans and is reached by a ferryboat that takes the visitor to the sandy-bar island known as Ilha de Tavira.
Near to Tavira is Cabanas and Pedras del Rey, both small beachfront villages catering specifically for the tourist. It is in the latter that there exists an olive tree that is said to date from the 17th Century and probably the oldest one of its type in Portugal. It stands 7.70 metres high and its girth is 11.80 metres. In the small village of Luz de Tavira there is one of the finest examples of Manueline craftsmanship around the southern door of the Parish Church. Santa Luzia gets its name from a shipwrecked Italian effigy of the Virgin Mary and is a very small unspoilt village with a fort. Near to the Torre de Aves there is the remains of a Roman villa. To the east of Tavira and overlooking the sea is the still original traditional village of Cacela-a-Velha used by the Phoenicians and later becoming the possession of the Knights of Santiago in 1240.
We stayed at Tavira the first time we ever visited the Algarve in 1999. We loved it's authentic feel, and the restaurants were superb. Development is taking hold now, but definitely worth a visit