Tavira is one of the most elegant and beautiful towns in the Algarve with it's origin dating back to the late Bronze Age 1,000-800 BC. If you are interested in history you will enjoy a walking tour of the town as there is lots to explore.
In the 7th century BC the inhabitants of this area were the fabled Tartessus-possibly of Celtic origin.
In the 8th century BC it became one of the first Phoenician settlements in the Iberian West.The Phoenicians created a colonial urban centre here with massive walls at least 2 temples and 2 harbours.At the end of the 6th Century BC it was destroyed by conflict.
During the time of Caesar the Romans created a new port some 7km from the town of Tavira named Balsa. As Balsa grew in size Tavira became a secondary passing place on the road between Balsa and Baesuris(present day Castro Marim)
Moorish occupation of Tavira between the 8th and 13th centuries left it's mark on the agriculture, architecture and culture of the area. That influence can still be seen in Tavira today with it's whitewashed buildings, Moorish style doors and rooftops. The Moors built a castle, 2 mosques and a palace. After a recent archaeological study it appears that the impressive 7 arched 'Roman bridge' originates from a 12th Century Moorish bridge.During this time Tavira established itself as an important port for fishermen and sailors.
In 1242 Dom Peres Correia took Tavira back from the Moors in a bloody conflict during which the population of the town was decimated. Christians were now in control of the town and though most Muslims left the town some remained in a Moorish quarter known as Mouraria.
By the 17th Century the port was of considerable importance, shipping produce such as salt,dried fish and wine. The earthquake of 1755 which reached a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale caused extensive damage in Tavira and throughout the Algarve with it's shockwaves and tsunamis. The earthquake is referred to as the Lisbon Earthquake due to the terrible effect it had on the city, although the epicentre was some 200kms west-southwest of Cape St.Vincent in the Algarve.
The town has since been rebuilt with many fine 18th century buildings along with 37 churches. It is a fascinating place to explore with it's winding narrow cobbled streets and pastel coloured houses with distinctive tiled roofs lining the river Gilao.The Castle walls border the medieval centre of the town encompassing a tranquil garden.If you are lucky enough to be there in spring you can see the jacaranda trees in bloom.Climb to the top of the walls and Tavira is spread out below you, a rich tapestry of tiled rooftops stretching away to the mosiac of saltpans before reaching the blue Atlantic ocean.
You can take your pick of historic churches to visit some are open to the public every day while others are by arrangement. Beside the Castle is the church of Santa Maria Do Castelo where you can view the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correla and his 7 knights who were murdered by the Moors.You can climb up to the bell tower and there is a fine view of the town and river.
Tavira's economic reliance on the fishing industry has declined due to the change in the pattern of migration of the tuna fish. Tourism is developing with the creation of new golf courses attracting more visitors but it has escaped the high rise development of other parts of the Algarve and has retained it's traditional Portugese charm.
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