Escape Huge Crowds On Your Trip To The Algarve At This Underrated, Beautiful Island

Once a hidden gem of European travel, Portugal has seen a surge in popularity among tourists and expats alike in recent years. But while you can expect certain areas, such as Lisbon and Porto to be packed with tourists, the country still has its fair share of hidden gems. For example, the Tróia Peninsula is a perfect hidden gem beach located just a 90-minute drive outside Lisbon. There are also the Azores islands, one of which offers unique wine made from volcanic vineyards.

And, although the Algarve, at the very south of the country, is certainly a top vacation hotspot in Portugal, it still has areas that don't attract hordes of crowds. (Sunbathing in peace on a beautiful beach? Yes, please!) Case in point, Tavira: a picturesque town that provides an authentic Portuguese experience. In addition to beautiful beaches, it also boasts a rich history and culture, as well as stunning architecture and natural beauty alike.

The beaches of Tavira

Unwinding and relaxing on Tavira's gorgeous beaches is, of course, a major draw. The most popular option is Praia de Tavira (also referred to as Ilha de Tavira), known for its golden sands and crystal clear waters. The small island lies just off the coast and is accessible by ferry, which only takes 10 minutes!

"Come here to enjoy the endless expanse of fine white sand. Great for all types of sports, some cafes not far away. Crystal clear and refreshing blue water for swimming. The best thing is that here you can get away from it all and enjoy the peace and tranquility," wrote a reviewer on TripAdvisor. "There is plenty of space for everyone to have their own privacy. Easily accessible from the city on a short, pleasant boat trip."

For a more secluded beach, head further along the coast to Barril Beach. You can reach the shore by crossing a charming pedestrian floating bridge where you'll then find a footpath to the seaside. Once home to a vibrant fishing community, you can also experience the Anchor Graveyard, a unique memorial of the old fishing anchors once used by the island's inhabitants. The beach is extremely serene and has gorgeous natural surroundings — it's the ideal place to just get away from it all and enjoy a swim in the ocean or read a good book on the beach.

Take in the history and culture of Tavira

Tavira is also rich in history and culture. Although it may be difficult to tear yourself away from the beach, it's well worth it. Be sure to visit Tavira's historic center, where you'll find narrow cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings decorated with traditional Portuguese tiles (azulejos). The town's landmarks include the Roman Bridge which spans the Gilão River and dates back to 1663, and the 13th-century Tavira Castle, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area and is free to enter.

Tavira's rich cultural heritage is evident in its museums and galleries. To delve into the town's history, visit the Municipal Museum where you'll learn all about Tavira's Roman origins and its Moorish past and maritime traditions. It also houses a gallery, Palácio da Galeria, that art enthusiasts will love, which showcases contemporary works by local and international artists.

For a taste of traditional Portuguese culture, check out the schedule at the Tavira Municipal Auditorium. The auditorium hosts performances such as concerts, theater productions, and dance shows throughout the year. And if you're planning a trip to Tavira, always make sure to check the local events calendar for festivals that celebrate everything from music to food to folklore. For more on beaches and beach towns in Europe, check out the best camping beaches in Europe.