The Eastern Algarve: Portugal's Hidden Gem

The Eastern Algarve is well worth a visit during any trip to Europe and can offer a different perspective of Portugal's southern coastline.

The southern Algarve coast is one of Portugal's biggest tourist destinations. It is full of beautiful beaches like Praia da Luz, turquoise waters, and exclusive resorts.

While most visitors generally gravitate to the beaches and resorts of the central Algarve region, both the east and west coasts have unique experiences to offer visitors, especially those looking to escape the crowds, take in a quiet sea view, or explore a more quintessential Portuguese town.

The eastern Algarve is a charming region that is less trafficked than the central Algarve and is home to picturesque towns like Tavira as well as secluded island beaches and a boutique hotel for just every taste.

Here are the highlights of the Algarve's beautiful and unspoiled eastern side!

Tavira: Your Home Base in the Eastern Algarve

Tavira is a beautiful, traditional Portuguese town located along the Gilao River and is a great place to stay while exploring the eastern Algarve coast. As it is much calmer than other areas of the Algarve, it's the perfect destination for a relaxing holiday. It's only 30 minutes away from Faro and the airport and in Tavira, there is plenty to see and do.

The easiest way to get to Tavira and explore the Algarve is to drive, but you can also take the train from Faro if you're not planning to rent a car. As there is no direct connection from Faro airport, however, you'll first need to take the bus or a taxi to the train station in the Faro city center. Some popular hotels in Tavira that make for an ideal home base include Hotel Vila Galé Tavira and Ozadi Tavira Hotel.

Unlike some of the Algarve's larger resort towns such as Praia da Rocha, Tavira is a wonderful holiday destination rich with Portuguese culture and history with several amazing beaches nearby.

Tavira has maintained its historic centre and is home to over 20 historic Portuguese churches. Also worth a visit is the castle of Tavira, a Moorish fortress dating back to the Middle Ages that offers stunning views of the area including the nearby national park.

Day trips on the Eastern Algarve

Santa Luzia

Once you've explored the old-world streets, plazas, and amazing cafes and restaurants that Tavira has to offer, take a day trip to the small fishing village of Santa Luzia, near the Ria Formosa Natural Park, and only 3 kilometers (about 2 miles) from Tavira. It's possible to walk or bike the distance from Tavira to Santa Luzia, but taking a bus is another inexpensive option for those who prefer a less active route. Be sure to check out the cemetery of anchors, we’re sure you won’t see anything like it anywhere else!

Cacela Velha

A short trip from Tavira, Cacela Velha is an old Moorish fishing village that offers a glimpse into Portugal's history. There aren't many tourist amenities in the town apart from a few restaurants, but here you'll find the remains of an eighteenth-century fort with stunning sea views as well as a beautiful beach with sandbars that you can walk out to when the tide is low.

Vila Real de Santo Antonio

Vila Real de Santo Antonio is a small town located along the Guadiana River, which marks Portugal's border with Spain. This easternmost Algarve town is filled with charming cafes, restaurants, and markets, and you can even take a ferry across the river to the Spanish town of Ayamonte if you're feeling adventurous. For a round of golf on award-winning golf courses, head to the exclusive Monte Rei Golf and Country Club north of Vila Real.

Eastern Algarve Beaches

The beaches of the eastern Algarve are unlike those of the rest of the region as most of them are located on islands in the Ria Formosa park and can only be reached by boat trip. Some of the best beaches on the eastern coast are located on Tavira Island, but there are other areas along the coast with where you can find some sand and sun.

Tavira Island has three beaches: Praia do Barril, Praia da Terra Estreita, and Praia da Ilha de Tavira. Ilha de Tavira beach is the main beach of the island. To get there, take a short boat ride through a saltwater lagoon from either Tavira or Santa Luzia.

Instead of the characteristic sea cliffs that surround most of the Algarve's beaches, Tavira Island is known for its sand dunes and also offers water activities such as jet skiing. There are several great restaurants on the island serving fresh local seafood. There are no hotels located on the island, however, so it's ideal for camping or a day trip from Tavira.

Farther down Tavira Island to the west, you'll find Praia do Barril. This beach is a rather long walk from Praia da Ilha de Tavira and is most easily reached by train or by walking from the mainland.

Praia da Armona, on the next island over, is another secluded beach that is well worth a visit while in the eastern Algarve. It is accessible by ferry from the town of Olhao, as is Praia da Ilha da Culatra, located on the westernmost island in the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Although the east coast of the Algarve is not as popular for tourists, it is home to some of the prettiest towns and beaches in the region. If you're looking to explore historical Portuguese villages and secluded, beautiful, Algarve beaches, you don't want to miss the stunning eastern Algarve!