If you’re eager to discover the best of Portugal’s Algarve coast in a limited span of time, the town of Lagos offers both old world charm and a variety of breathtaking beaches.
When my boyfriend and I were trying to decide how to best spend the 4 days we allocated for Portugal’s Algarve coast, we were attracted to the town Lagos for two reasons:
- Lagos has a picturesque old town with a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars to keep us entertained in the evening
- There are an abundance of beautiful beaches in close proximity to the town, including 2 out of the 5 most recommended beaches on the entire coast
Without access to a car, we decided to base ourselves in Lagos to see the most regional attractions on the Algarve coast without having to travel far. As a matter of fact, everything we wanted to see was walking distance from the town.
The town of Lagos
Located near the end of Portugal’s southern coast, where mainland Europe meets the open Atlantic ocean, Lagos is one of the smallest and definitely one of the most charming stops on this dramatic, rocky coast.
Take a stroll through the old town and you’ll get the sense that the passage of time had no effect on Lagos. It’s cobble stone streets and white walled houses remain the same as they were hundreds of years ago, when pirates, kings, and knights walked the streets. It’s a place locked in time, and perfectly content to be so.
This sense of stillness is also reflected in the town’s slow, peaceful pace. Lagos is a place where nothing is rushed, there is no hassle and bustle and time moves so slowly that you don’t even notice it. Locals and tourist alike navigate the streets with no particular sense of urgency or agenda, simply enjoying the art of doing nothing.
Lagos’ dark past
However, this peacefulness is in stark contrast to a dark period in Lagos’ past. The town was once home to the first known slave market in Europe. Starting in 1444, the first African slaves entered post-medieval Europe through Lagos. Today, visitors can learn about this dark period that looms over Lagos’ past at the Slave Museum in the old town.
It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by it’s cover. I’m an advocate for learning about the history of the places I visit, as there is always more to discover than meets the eye!
Looking for a bite to eat?
We loved these restaurants and cafes:
The beaches near Lagos
The Algarve coast is home to incredibly unique beaches or “praias” featuring dramatic cliffs, turquoise water and restless waves. The great thing is about Lagos is that it’s located near some of the most celebrated beaches on the Algarve coast, the most popular being Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Camilo. Both are in walking proximity from the old town.
Praia Dona Ana
If you’re looking to enjoy a day on the beach with access to full amenities, Praia Dona Ana is the place to go. Located on a breathtaking large sandy cove surrounded by majestic cliffs with a restaurant onsite, Praia Dona Ana is a beach goer’s paradise.
If you’re like me and prefer to keep your exposure to the sun limited, the surrounding cliffs cast shadows on the beach during different times of the day, so don’t worry about not having a sun umbrella.
Thrill seekers can access (unofficial) trails near the entrance to the beach that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding coast. Please note, if you choose to check out these trails, be very careful! There are no fences and the cliffs near some parts of the trail are extremely high.
Praia do Camilo
Praia Camilo is a completely different experience from Praia Dona Ana. The beach is divided into two small coves, joined by a tunnel going through a rock formation that separates them.
While there is a restaurant at the top of the cliff where the beach is situated, when you make your way down to the water you’ll feel like a pirate that has discovered a secret cove! With much less sand to lay your towel on, this beach is usually not very busy and ideal for those looking for a private experience.
The waves are no laughing matter at Praia do Camilo, they came out of nowhere and can easily surpass your height. We recommend taking some drinks and food with you, finding a rock to sit on and enjoying the sound of the waves crashing onto the rocky coast. You’ll feel like the rest of the world is a million miles away.
In conclusion, whether you’re looking to explore the old town, eat delicious food, or sunbathe on the beach, Lagos has something to offer for every kind of traveler.
We fell in love with this sleepy coastal town and can’t wait to return and re-discover it!