In August 2016, my family and I went on a 5 week trip to Portugal and Spain. I wrote about my experiences in Lisbon in a previous blog post. You can check out my travel guide to Lisbon to see how that trip went.
Our next destination in Portugal was down south to the Algarve Coast. Stemming from the Arab word “al-Gharb” (the West), the Algarve is the southwesternmost point of the country. It boasts rocky outcroppings, gold sand beaches, and crystal blue water.
Originally our itinerary involved a 5 day stay in the Algarve in the town of Lagos. This would give us enough time to explore the neighboring towns of Faro, Albufeira, and Portimao. However, we cut our trip down to 2 days, because we ended up extending our stay in Sevilla.
I can say wholeheartedly that 2 days isn’t enough in Lagos. In fact, we only had one full day of exploration and relaxation since we arrived in the late evening the day before. However, the one day we did have in Lagos was certainly blessed with absolutely perfect weather and calm waters.
Lagos, much like the rest of the Algarve, is a calm, sleepy fishing town with a breathtaking coastline. The vibe and energy are very different from the capital of Lisbon. Lagos is small and intimate, with a laissez-faire attitude, and neighboring towns are only a half hour drive away. Whitewashed homes are clustered along steep hilled communities, and the scent of bougainvilleas permeates the breeze.
As the last leg of our journey before Dubai, Lagos is the perfect respite after an adventurous trip. The gold colored sandy beaches, warm breeze, and calm waters reminds me a lot of Greece. Despite being the farthest point of the country, this coastline is well worth the long journey.
My travel guide to Lagos gives you the perfect overview of what to do in this quaint seaside town.
We stayed in an Air Bnb while in Lagos. Our accommodation was incredibly spacious and clean. Air BnBs are a good choice in Europe, especially if you have a big family. Prices are very reasonable and are far cheaper than a hotel.
The only downside, however, was the fact that in the morning (from dawn till 11 am) we were subjected to the most annoying bird chirps ever.
I’m not talking about the cute bird chirps that calmly wake you up in the morning. I am talking about the abhorrent, loud, cacophonous disaster of hundreds of these birds (I think seagulls), just chirping away. Loudly. From early dawn well into the late morning. Even closing the windows couldn’t drown their noise out.
Since we only had 1 full day in Lagos, below are some the activities we did while there. Although we didn’t get a chance to explore the other towns, we did drive through them on our way in.
One of my friends visited the Algarve the year before me and said the one thing I had to do was take a Grotto (Boat) Ride. The Grottos are the rocky caverns and outcroppings that line the coast of Lagos.
These Grottos are magnificent! They also shelter the beaches from the rough Atlantic waves. As a result, the shorelines of the Grottos are home to warm, calm and often times secluded beaches. So secluded in fact that some beaches are only accessible by boat or by scaling down the side of a cliff!
Grotto rides coast about €25.00 per person, and they must be booked in advance. You can book a Grotto tour in the town marina/harbor area. There are a bunch of tour groups to choose from. I cannot remember which group we went with which is a shame, as our guides were incredibly funny and informative.
The tour lasts about an hour (there and back) and allows you plenty of opportunities to take photos and marvel at the sights.
After the Grotto tour, we had one thing in mind – to find this absolutely beautiful private beach we saw during the tour. Our guide told us that the beach is only accessible by boat. However, we saw some people scaling down the cliff to reach the beach. Naturally, we decided that we must do the same thing.
What we did not envision was a 24 km hike along the coastline. Yes. You read that right. We hiked along the Grottos to find the beach, and ended up covering about 24 km of coastline! The scenery is beautiful. An amalgamation of the ocean, the beaches, the grottos and coves below. It is easy to lose track of the kilometers when you are amongst natures most breathtaking vistas.
While you do not need to hike 24 km (although we practically hiked to the next town over), I do recommend taking the time to hike along the coastline and to enjoy the fresh ocean breeze.
During our hike, we found the sought after secluded beach. Well, we ended up passing it and then retracing our steps back. As I mentioned, this beach required us to scale down the side of the cliff in order to access it.
The cliff is steep, almost verticle and we were, of course, wearing improper footwear ( flipflops). There are barely any footholds, the rocks are loose, and we had our beach bags in hand. Despite the odds, we were determined to reach this beach.
It was scary and thrilling at the same time. At one point there is a complete vertical incline and you have to use a rope to scale down the side. However, once you get to the bottom, it is completely worth it. The sand is hot beneath your feet and water is a vibrant crystal turquoise. I felt as if we had stumbled upon a mini paradise.
After some time at this beach, we meandered our way over to another one a few kilometers away. What is perfect about Lagos’ particular piece of coastline, is that there is beach after beach to chose from.
Unfortunately, I did, however, find the water to be a bit dirty due to the debris and dirt brought in by the boats. It is sad to see that the water isn’t as pristine compared to other beaches I have been to. My only hope is that they recognize this problem and begin to rectify it soon.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Algarve is a cluster of small coastal fishing towns, all within a half hour drive of one another. If you have access to a car (or you can take public transit), I suggest going for a drive to explore the other towns and take in their sights and sounds.
In Lagos, we walked around the quaint town center, exploring the local shops and neighborhoods. Everything is well within walking distance so you won’t get lost. Lagos is very quiet in the local areas compared to the bustling town center. What I love about Lagos is how a majority of the streets are paved with tiny little stones and tiles, making up distinct patterns along the way.
While in Lagos, we ended up buying about 6 bottles of wine and a bottle of local honey sourced from flowers in the Algarve coast. It possesses a distinct sweet-floral palette that I thoroughly enjoy. So much so that I still have the bottle of honey today (it came in a small hand painted clay jar).
We ended up eating at an Indian restaurant later that evening since they had a TV. We were joined by diners from different restaurants to watch one of the final Euro cup games. It was the perfect way to end our trip. Together with different people from around the world united in their love for a game.
The easiest way to get around while in town is to walk. This is basically how you get around anywhere in Europe. However, to get to Lagos, we took a 7-hour bus ride from Sevilla. We purchased our tickets at the central bus station in Sevilla. Tickets are around €7-15 depending on the type of trip you take. For the most part the buses are comfy, however, they follow a strict schedule. The bus stops once for a bathroom break and that is it. Our driver refused to hold the bus for a moment so that my mom could go to the bathroom (we had stopped at the Faro airport for other passengers to get off, as this bus stopped at Faro then Lagos). Let’s just say he was not a nice person.
However the bus did have wifi (although it was spotty at times), and the scenery is nice for the most part, so the 7 hours does pass by fast.
Although we only had only a day, our time in Lagos was well spent. In fact, Lagos presented a day of adventures for us. There is nowhere else I have been to where I could say that I scaled the side of a cliff in only flip-flops (and jeans) to reach a private beach. The Atlantic breeze is refreshing, the ambiance is calm and relaxing. Everyone moves in a slow and deliberate fashion, with no need to rush for any immediate reason.
I highly suggest adding Lagos to your Portugal bucket list. This quaint seaside town will not disappoint you at all. In fact, I do not have many photos of Lagos because I was so lost in the charm of the town, and I guarantee that you will be too.
Until next time!