Praia do Barril – the complete guide
Praia do Barril is one of the best beaches to visit in the area of Tavira. The beach is basically an extension of Ilha de Tavira and is known for its bizarre anchor cemetary with over 100 rusting anchors in the sand.
Watch it in HD
To see what Praia do Barril looks like, watch the short video below.
Praia do Barril is located about 5 kilometres from the town of Tavira. It is situated on Ilha de Tavira. There are actually three beaches on the island:
- Praia da Ilha de Tavira (in the east). This is the most popular beach of the island.
- Praia da Terra Estreita (in the center). This beach is more quiet and has fewer facilities.
- Praia do Barril (in the west).
In this article we will focus on Praia do Barril.
The sand on Praia do Barril is very soft and white. It feels very nice on the feet. The beach is also very clean.
The water is clean and deep blue. In general, the waters near Tavira are usually warmer than in the western part of the Algarve. Still, the Atlantic Ocean can be surprisingly cold. On a hot summer day it can be very refreshing to just jump in the water though.
Praia do Barril is mostly visited by families with children and tourists. In general, Praia do Barril is not very crowded. It is actually one of the most quiet beaches in this area of the Algarve. Only near the entrance point it can get a bit crowded during the summer. However, the beach is very big and provides enough space for visitors that are willing to walk a couple of minutes. Even in the peak of summer, you can have the beach all to yourself if you walk a bit.
Praia do Barril is a big beach, quite long and wide. The beach stretches for many kilometres in both directions. There are no cliffs or high dunes on the beach. This means that there is no shelter from the wind on a windy day. Fortunately it does not get windy very often here.
Back in the days, life on Praia do Barril revolved around tuna fishing (bluefin tuna). The beach had a small tuna fishing village. There were about 80 fishermen who lived here with their families, during the tuna fishing season (which lasted from April to September every year). In the second half of the 20th century, the bluefin tuna moved to other waters, which started the decline of the tuna fishing industry here. Nowadays, there is no more bluefin tuna in the waters of the Algarve. The beach started focusing on tourism instead. The old buildings that were used by the tuna fishermen are now converted into restaurants, bars and other facilities. Praia do Barril combines a beautiful beach with the charm of an old fishing village.
On Praia do Barril you can see the remains of the former tuna fishing village. There are more than 100 rusting anchors in the sand, arranged in rows. There is also an old tuna fishing boat near the beach. This fascinating sight is known as the anchor cemetary (in Portuguese: Cemitério das Âncoras) of Praia do Barril. It reminds us of what the local economy of this area was about, in a time before tourism.
The anchors were actually not used to secure boats. Back in those days, tuna was caught with huge fishing nets, forming a big maze that funneled the tuna into the capture nets. These anchors held the nets in place.
The whole island stretches for about 11 kilometres. When you are on Praia do Barril, the beach stretches for many kilometres in both directions. This makes it a perfect place for a beach walk along the sea. The further you walk, the less people you will see. After walking for more than 15 minutes, you will probably be almost alone on the beach.
Travelling to the Algarve this year? Dont’ forget to bring the Marco Polo Travel Guide.
Near Praia do Barril is an official nude beach. From Barril you can find the nudist area by walking about 2 kilometres east (to the right side).
How to get there
There are two main ways to reach Praia do Barril.
From Pedras d’el Rei
This is the easiest way to visit Barril beach. Go to Pedras d’el Rei. To get there by car, exit the N125 near Luz de Tavira and follow the signs to Santa Luzia and Pedras d’el Rei. Otherwise, enter the following address in your GPS: 8800-531 Aldeamento das Pedras d’El Rei, Portugal. You will find a large car park (paid), where you can leave your car. However, many people park their car for free next to the road leading up to the bridge. After parking, you have to walk over a bridge that crosses the waters of the Ria Formosa.
After crossing the bridge, you will see a train station. Now you have 2 options: take the train or walk. The train ride takes about 8 minutes and the journey is a bit more than 1 kilometre. Walking this part would take about 15-20 minutes. If you are carrying bags, it might be better to take the train. Also, children usually love the train ride. A train ticket costs about € 1,50 for a single fare. The train station was initially built to support the tuna fishermen back in the days.
The train (or walking) journey goes through the natural park of Ria Formosa. You can admire wildlife (mainly birds) and vegetation along the way. The area is great for birdwatching. There is also a type of crab (in Portuguese called Bocas) that suddenly hides in the mud when you pass by. Along the way you can smell the vegetation, which is very refreshing. There is a distinctive smell, quite similar to curry, which comes from a small flower, with the name perpétua-das-areias (in English: shrubby everlasting).
From Praia de Ilha de Tavira
Another option is to depart from the main beach of the island, Praia de Ilha de Tavira. From this beach, you can go for a long beach walk directly to Praia do Barril. This walk takes about 45 minutes. Another option is to take a boat from this beach, which will take you straight to Barril.
Our favourite restaurant right on Praia do Barril is Museu do Atum. This restaurant is located right on the beach. It actually is a restaurant and museum combined. Inside, you can learn more about the history of the beach and see old pictures of the tuna fishing era. The food is actually very good as well. There are other restaurants/bars nearby, like Barril Beach Cafe and Blue Beach Bar, but these placed get mixed reviews and are not recommended.
Back on the mainland, there are many good restaurants in the area of Pedras d’el Rei/Santa Luzia. Santa Luzia is a small town in the municipality of Tavira, and is actually known as the capital of squid. You can have plenty of original squid dishes there. Our favourite restaurants in this area are:
- Polvo & Companhia Restaurante. This is one of the best squid/octopus restaurants in the Algarve. If you want to try the local octopus specialties, go here.
- Casa do Polvo Tasquinha. This is another superb squid/octopus restaurant. It has many original dishes and great service.
- Vincent Restaurant. This restaurant offers tasty Portuguese food, including several fresh fish dishes. Great food in a lovely setting.
There are no hotels on the island, but there are several good hotels on the mainland. Our favourite hotels in the area are:
- Flamingo Beach House. This holiday home in Santa Luzia is situated right in front of the waters of the Ria Formosa natural park. It offers a very good value for money. Also highly rated.
- Santa Luzia Green Apartment. This apartment is situated in a nice and quiet location in Santa Luzia. Only 1,6 kilometres from Barril beach. The apartment is particularly liked by couples.
- Tavira Monte. This country house is situated on the outskirts of Tavira. It has a swimming pool and the owners will make you feel very welcome. This house is great for families as well as couples.
Or check out below for other hotel options:
Praia do Barril is a great place to spend your day. However, there are many other great things to do on other days during your stay in the area. For example you can take an olive oil tour or visit small picturesque towns that show another side of the Algarve. Below you can find our recommended tours in this area.
Praia do Barril – Facilities
There are several facilities on Praia do Barril, including restaurants, bars and shops. Here you can eat local dishes. Make sure to try tuna here, which once formed the center of the local economy of this area. During summer, the beach is supervised by lifeguards. There are also a variety of water sports available here, including sailing, kayaking, jet skiing and stand-up paddle boards. You can rent sunbeds on this beach, although the prices are higher than on many other beaches in the Algarve.
Facilities in Praia do Barril:
- Restaurant: yes
- Bar/club: no
- Toilet: yes
- Shower: yes
- Water sports: yes
- Sunbeds: yes
- Parking: yes
- Lifeguards: yes
- Blue flag beach: yes