Lisa Owen

Beach Paradise in Southern Portugal

The first I’d heard of Lagos was when a friend went there, and I saw their beautiful photos. Of course, I then wanted to go there too and put in on my bucket list. A year later, I was there.

Lagos – pronounced La-goosh in Portuguese – is located on Portugal’s Algarve Coast and has spectacular beaches framed by rock formations, cheap food, and a vibrant nightlife. First up, how to get there. If you want to fly, there’s plenty of connections into Faro from London airports, which is about an hour away from Lagos by bus or train. Trains are more reliable between Faro and Lagos, and the train station is not far from the bus station.

If you’re looking for budget accommodation for a night or two in Faro, Le Penguin Hostel is one of the more recent additions to the backpacker's scene in Faro. It’s a small but cosy hostel with comfortable beds, lockers and free breakfast consisting of cold meats, cheese, yoghurt and cereal. But there are many backpacker friendly accommodation options to choose from in Faro. Alternatively, you can come into Lagos via Lisbon.

I came in via Faro but went up to Lisbon by bus after three days in Lagos. There are buses every hour to Lisbon on comfortable coaches and the ride takes around three hours depending on traffic into Lisbon. The cost of the journey is €20 or about NZ$32. I took the Eva bus to Lisbon which takes you to the Sete Rios bus station. The bus station is connected to the Lisbon’s metro so it’s easy to get into the centre. You can also get to and from Lisbon from Lagos by train but it takes slightly longer due to a change at Tunes.

Once in Lagos, there’s plenty of cheap but cheerful accommodation options. I recommend Old Town Lagos Hostel. Old Town Lagos Hostel a simple but cheap and clean hostel in a central location. I stayed in a four-bed female dorm with ensuite and met a bunch of friendly people. Beds are comfortable, there’s a good balcony area, and the kitchen is well equipped. The hostel offers free breakfast with toast and cereal.

So once you’re settled in your accommodation, what is there to do in Lagos? Head for the beach for starters.

Lagos beach

Near Batata Beach (up from the seaside Ponta da Bandeira fort), there’s several kayaks and paddleboarding operators. Expect to pay around €25 (about NZ$39) for a couple of hours of kayaking. If you’re tired after the kayak out, some of the operators also include towing you back in the price (apparently it’s pretty standard to have fatigued and sore arms by the end of the trip out!) Kayaking is offered during the warmer months from March. There are also tour operators providing snorkelling trips,

There’s plenty of operators offering grotto tours to see some of the beaches, caves and rock formations along the Algarve Coast. The tour operators line the promenade alongside the port across from the drawbridge.

You’re likely to find tours to suit all tastes – there are tours on big or small boats and ones for dolphin watching. Without a doubt, you’ll be shown plenty of brochures of what you are likely to see on the tours to help you decide on the best tour for you. Shop around for the tours as they vary significantly in price and also time out on the water.

Boat tour views 

One tour I went on was a speedboat that took us out through some of the rock formations off the coast. The cost was €15 per person (about NZ $24) for a 90-minute tour. The trip also included a short swimming stop. Other operators I saw had large boats to take people out – better for people wanting to see Lagos at a more leisurely pace – and these went out for two to three hours.

You can reach the beautiful Dona Ana beach by a trail leading from the beach near the Old Town. Just follow the signs, but it’s a bit of a walk from the centre of town. Most of the beaches have stairs leading to and from the water. There’s also boat tours out to these beaches if you don’t want to walk or take a taxi.

Old town square Lagos 

Lagos isn't massive, so it’s mostly a destination to soak up some sunshine and relax – and perhaps have some down time before a night checking out the bars of Lagos. The Three Monkeys and The Jam bars are favourites for travellers. There’s plenty of food options throughout Lagos from restaurants to beachside bars.

You might also want to hire a car or do a tour to see the sunset from the cliffs at Sagres, located to the west of Lagos. The Farol Ponta da Piedade lighthouse is also located here, but unfortunately, it’s not open for entry.

Sunset cliffs

It gets windy up on the cliffs so take a jacket just in case. It will take about 45 minutes to an hour to drive there from Lagos. From the lighthouse, there’s a stairway leading down to the Ponta da Piedade.

If you’re feeling hungry, there are a few places in the Sagres area that offer up very fresh fish. They will bring out the fish to choose which one you want depending on taste and size. I had a delicious meal near Sagres – it was the freshest fish I’ve ever tasted. Being a seaside location, seafood is a big part of the cuisine here.

Back in Lagos, make sure you take a look through the old town at the historical churches and wander down near the water. The Santa Maria Church is worth a look, and Lagos is one of those places where it’s good to wander and take in the sights throughout the historic streets.

Church Lagos 

Things you should know: 

  • Lagos is a popular tourist destination so English speakers shouldn’t have too many language problems but learning a few key phrases in Portuguese wouldn’t hurt.
  • Lagos is a small town and ATMs are known to run out of cash over the weekend when the nightlife is at its peak. Come to Lagos with some Euros if you can or plan to get cash out before the weekend.
  • It’s hot, hot, hot in Portugal in the summer months. Bring a hat and sunscreen for your days on the beach.
  • If you’re planning to head up to Lisbon after Lagos – the bus is the fastest option as taking a train requires a change at Tunes.
  • Shop around among the tour operators to find a grotto tour that meets your budget and expectations. There’s plenty of tours on offer.

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.