Lagos, Portugal: A Trip to the Algarve Coast
Visiting Portugal's Southernmost Beach Town in the Algarve
By Isabelle Kagan
Lisbon greatly overshadows Lagos as the must-see vacation spot in Portugal. In fact, not many people have heard of Lagos when it comes to vacationing there. However this beautiful town has a lot to offer, whether it's activities, eats, or exploring the picture-perfect Ponta da Piedade.
The town is quaint and romantic; cobbled stone streets take you from one piazza to another, while its 16th-century naval walls separate the stunning beaches and cliffs and surround the town.
Upon arrival at the Faro airport, Lagos is about an hour train ride away. We hopped in a cab which took us to the train station, and bought tickets straight away, as there's not much to see around this part of Algarve. While there are definitely spots to visit in between Lagos and Faro, including the famous Algar de Benagil, transportation can be a bit of a pain, so it's a good idea to look into day or week bus and train passes to shuttle you back and forth, or car/vespa rental. Lagos, however, can absolutely hold your attention for a few days if transportation is an issue.
Strolling the Town
After checking into our hostel, we strolled around the town for a bit, admiring the architecture and looking for a place to eat. Lagos is small, but that doesn't detract from its charm.
Walking from one end of the town to the other would take an hour at best, so it's easy to orient yourself after a day of exploring. We settled on a place called The Garden for lunch, a very laid-back, eclectic restaurant that has a pet cat and 3 different types of sangria- red, white, and green.
After lunch, we crossed the marina and went down to the Meia Praha, the largest stretch of beach in Lagos. The sand extends for miles overlooking the city, so it's easy to find a secluded spot away from other visitors.
Visiting in early May, the weather was in the low 80's, yet the water was temperate and crystal clear. Meia Praha is the best beach to unwind and sunbathe if you're looking for something without large crowds and clearer waters.
For dinner, we stopped at one of the numerous cafes in the town center and ate delicious salads with a mix of vegetables and fresh fruit, a huge serving of seafood paella and of course ordered more sangria.
Lagos is a place to indulge yourself and order multiple courses, as the food is incredibly cheap, varied, and delicious. You will need your energy too if you plan on kayaking
Kayaking the Ponta
The next day, we set out to find a place to rent our own kayaks to explore the Algarve coast, as we didn't want to go on a group tour. If you walk along the marina, there are many stands to sign up with a group, and people will try and coerce you into choosing their program.
However many of these tours don't allow you to stop at each individual grotto and beach, so if you want to be able to control your own itinerary, it's important to rent your own kayak or paddleboard.
After doing some research we headed down to Praia Batata beach, where we found a place to rent our own kayaks. You can rent them for 1 hour up to 3 hour increments, depending on how many stops you want to make along the secluded beaches.
Without stopping, it takes about 30 minutes to traverse the coastline, so 2 hours is more than enough time to have a relaxing kayak session and make plenty of stops. For 2 kayaks and 2 hours, the charge is about 40 dollars.
Kayaking along the coast, you can stop along grottos and beaches unreachable by foot like Praia do Pinhao. Upon crossing the Ponta da Piedade, the waves start to get intense, so you will know when it's time to turn around.
Just be sure to stay along the coast, and always ensure your kayak is pulled onto the shore when stopping.
After a long day of kayaking, we went to a restaurant famous in Lagos for its burgers, called Nah Nah Bah. My partner and I agreed they were the best burgers we'd had in our lives, along with the crispy, garlic-aioli covered fries served on the side.
Lagos is also famous for its nightlife, and bar owners will even entice you to come in with discounted drinks.
We stopped by a place called the Three Monkeys, where they have a beer funnel challenge in which each patron can compete for their home country (only try it if you're an expert chugger!).
On our last day, after being inspired by seeing the beautiful caves by kayak and noticing small hikers on the top of Ponta da Piedade, we hiked up through the town to find the paths they had been traversing.
Paths to Hike
The paths are fairly easy to find, after walking along the winding roads for a bit, however, some are not clearly marked by signs. They are all interconnected, however, and upon reaching the end you will find tour buses and a small restaurant along the main stretch of cliffs. Be prepared for an awe-inspiring view!
Lagos is a small town, but the Algarve caves are truly a place of unparalleled beauty.
The next time a visit to Portugal is on the books, be sure to add Lagos to your itinerary, if even for one or two days.
Kayaking along this beautiful Mediterranean coastline is something all should experience!
For more information on traveling to Lagos, including accommodations, transportation, and all the best beaches, visit www.lagosportugalguide.com.
Isabelle Kagan is a writer from the south shore of Massachusetts. She spent five months studying in Paris and exploring Europe, becoming an avid fan of traveling. In her spare time she also writes for a satire blog. She currently lives in western Massachusetts.