Everyone that visited Portugal recommended I visit the southern coastal region of the country called the Algarve. Not a major beach-goer myself, I was hesitant to act upon this piece of advice. However, the consistent stream of recommendations became too much to ignore, and I decided to make the trip. If you look at my photographs, I’m sure it’s obvious that I made the right choice.
While I’m sure there are many beautiful towns you could visit, Lagos was the spot that came up in conversations and articles time and time again. Therefore, I went to Lagos.
What to Expect in Lagos
In Lagos, expect nothing short of brilliantly colored waters and rock formations that rise out of the sand and sea. We went in early June and were pleasantly surprised to encounter a lack of crowds; however, locals commented about how the absence of tourists was to be regarded as the exception rather than the norm.
There are plenty of young adult travelers that speckle the beaches, as well as young families. However, during the day it had a relaxed energy rather than the chaotic vibe of many popular American beaches. I hear that, after the sun sets, the nightlife lends itself to a rambunctious, down-to-party spirit only hinted at during the day.
What to do in Lagos
1) Take a boat tour of the grottos – Whether it’s by kayak or a guided motorboat ride, seize the opportunity to get up and close and personal with the natural features that make Lagos one of the most celebrated beach destinations in Europe.
My mother and I opted to do a motorboat tour, which we found to be pleasantly paced and relaxing.
2) Tour the region’s natural beauty – Just beyond the touristy beachfront, there’s a rugged and lovely countryside worth exploring. Ultimately, we opted to do the Sagres Sunset Tour with Backyard Tours. A joint effort between two incredibly lovely people, Marli and Eurico, the company offered my mother and I an experience similar to visiting friends. They blended historic facts with personal stories and crafted the itinerary based off of our specific interests.
Yes, they gave us the opportunity to see the tourist-hotspot of Sagres. Following this though, they took us to a more remote and beautiful beach. Here, we were able to watch the sunset in peace while munching on the delicious multi-course meal they thoughtfully made for us.
My mother and I originally made the decision to go with a tour guide because we lacked a car, but I would recommend doing this option even if you do have your own vehicle.
Not only can people like Eurico and Marli show the hidden trails and gems known only to locals, but they can spare you the stress of navigating a vehicle over very bumpy off-road paths. Click here if you’d like to learn more about Backyard Tours.
3) Poke your head into the Fish Market – Located right along the main drag, this is a fun place to mosey about the various the various stalls and shops for a glimpse of ordinary residents in their natural element. It’s also a great place to pick up healthier snacks for beachside relaxation. It will smell like fish, so consider yourselves warned.
Small Downsides to Lagos
When compared against the many wonderful museums we encountered in other parts of Portugal, the museums and historic attractions in Lagos were pretty underwhelming. Considering that the Old Slave Market was closed when we went, our favorite museum was Dr. José Formosinho Municipal Museum. Still, I’d hesitate to call it a “highlight” of my trip to Portugal.
Additionally, in many Portuguese destinations we visited, locals and tourists seemed to operate in the same space, or at least in close proximity to one another. This was not the case in Lagos. While there may be plenty of non-touristy eateries or hangouts within the community, none of them seemed close enough to walk to from the beachfront. Therefore, there were limited opportunities to witness ‘everyday’ life and communities within Lagos.
Luckily, everyone I encountered in Lagos were incredibly friendly. During our private excursion with Backyard Tours, we chatted with Marli and Eurico about the food, the economy’s effect on younger generations, and even their own families. If you meet a particularly friendly resident, make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about this region’s culture.
Conclusion About Lagos
This is a lovely destination that is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Make sure to break away from the beachfront to enjoy the surrounding region to fully appreciate the Algarve beauty.