Lagos is a little dream of a town in the Algarve region of Portugal’s southern coast. While you wouldn’t call Lagos sleepy, it is certainly less densely populated by tourists and resorts than other towns in the region (like Albufeira), which is what appealed to us when we were looking for a relaxing beach holiday. Long days reclining on beach chairs and jumping off boats, and warm nights cruising promenades and eating fine food beckoned.
We spent five nights at the beginning of July 2013 in this ancient maritime town, with a night in Faro to start.
To get to Lagos we flew into nearby Faro, which is the closest airport, and connected by train. Flights from London with Ryan Air were €138.70 return each, and cost three hours of the ultra low-budget airline feeling. Flights on the same route, same airline, for the same time of year, will now set you back €170 per person return.
If you are staying over in Faro like we did, or if you are just going straight to the train station, you can either get a bus or a taxi for the roughly 7km journey from the airport to the city centre. A bus will take around 15 minutes and cost €2.50 and a taxi will take about five to six minutes and cost around €10.
From Faro to Lagos you can either take bus or train. Due to our natural aversion to buses, we chose the train and booked on the day at the train station. We paid €15 each for a return ticket and boarded a really cool old train that felt only just faster than walking and was about 50°C in the carriage. Our journey in the sweat-box took about 1h 45m and aside from the heat it was an easy time. A bus fare might cost around €12 and the bus will take an additional 30 minutes to get to Lagos. I can’t comment on the air conditioning situation.
Once in Lagos it was an easy walk to our apartment from the train station. Taxis are available but we didn’t use them as Lagos isn’t very big and we walked everywhere.
If you are coming from Lisbon, you will need to get a train to Tunes and change for a train to Lagos.
Hint – Take a lot of water if you are travelling on the train in summer. More than you thought necessary.
Our flight arrived into Faro at 11:30pm so we decided to stay in Faro for the night, before moving on to lagos the next morning. We needed a late check-in, in a central location that was cheap and easy and chose the Best Western Hotel Dom Bernardo. Our room cost €47.25 for the night and was just a basic hotel room with a view over the city. It was also an easy walk to the train station the next morning.
In Lagos we opted for an Airbnb apartment on the quiet side of town and close to the beach. Our apartment came with 2 balconies and a giant roof terrace, with views over Lagos town and to the ocean, a great place for picnic lunches and evening wines. Five nights cost €340 and every time we strolled the five minutes to the beach or sipped wine with a view, we were thankful we splashed the extra little bit of cash. It was also only a 10-15 minute slow walk into town. Current July Airbnb prices in Lagos range from €25 to €51 for a private room, and €32 to €70 for an apartment.
Hostels in Lagos have dorm rooms starting from €19 per night per person and private rooms from €25 per night per person. Old Town Hostel, Olive Hostel and The Stumble Inn, are the best rated hostels in town.
Hotels in Lagos range from larger resorts with playgrounds and pools, to smaller bnb type places in the main town. Either way, for a decent room you are looking at at least €65 per night, and up to €100 a night for somewhere nice.
The area you choose to stay only really depends on what vibe you want from your time in Lagos. Stay in town if you want a busier atmosphere with easy access to restaurants and bars. Further up the hill on the town side are hotels and resorts close to the impressive cliff beaches. The opposite side of the harbour is quieter and has access to the large beach and train station.
For all that Lagos is a lovely old town with a lot of history, you go there for the beaches. There are many and they are all beautiful, but here are some of the main ones;
Meia Praia is the main beach, boasting 4km of golden sand and the further away from the town centre you go the quieter it gets. Little huts are dotted along the dunes offering beach loungers and drinks, typically these will charge €5 per person for sun bed and umbrella and you get them for the whole day. More than once we went down late morning for a swim, left our towels on our seats while we went home for lunch, and came back later that afternoon. There are also a couple of resorts and larger buildings further down the beach that have restaurants, beach-side massage (€15), swimming pools etc available for anyone to use at a small price.
Batata Beach is the town beach right next to the old fortification walls. It sounds silly to say but as nice as it is, keep moving along the coast for the real gems.
Praia Dona Ana is nice and sheltered, but can become crowded.
Praia Do Camillo A stunning beach with a ton of wooden stairs as an exit. Great swimming here and at low tide you can find a secret beach through a cave. Don’t get stuck as the tide comes in!
Porto De Mos The beach furthest from the town, it’s bigger and more easily accessible than all other beaches except Maia Praia.
All beaches will have a building selling snacks, drinks, sun beds and umbrellas. The smaller beaches are connected by a cliff-side pathway that grants epic views, but you need to be fit and able to walk it. This great site has all the information you need about how to get to each beach. All beaches are within walking distance except Porto De Mos, but if it’s too hot or you are lazy, you can get a bus or a taxi for cheap.
The weather for our stay was mostly lovely, but the sea was quite rough, which meant it was touch and go for one of the main activities in Lagos; boats. If you get the chance and have enough spending money, I thoroughly recommend taking a ‘grotto trip’. If the conditions are calm you can hire a man with a small boat and outboard motor to take you on a tour of the coves and grottoes via the sea. This offers a great perspective and is a lot of fun, your guy (driver? pilot? helmsman??) will navigate in and out of hidden caves and rock formations, anticipating waves and swells as only a local expert can. A short grotto trip will cost something like €10 per person, just walk down to the marina and talk to one of the many stalls selling such tours.
On our last day the water finally calmed down enough to take a proper sailing trip. Again, if you get the chance and can spend the cash, DO THIS. There are numerous options to choose, some including meals, dolphin watching etc, but because of the conditions we had to compromise slightly. The only company willing to take out their boat was main player Bom Dia, and they were only offering a partial trip up the coast. We semi-reluctantly signed on, paid a reduced fee of €15 each and boarded a really cool 1950’s yacht. Once we were on the water we realised that this was absolutely the right choice and relaxed a lot, the advantage of Bom Dia being the only company operating that day was a lack of other vessels on the water. We anchored in a private, sheltered cove and were able to jump overboard for a swim, this was absolute bliss and was only made better by post-swim beers for the return journey.
The food in Lagos is fantastic and fresh, especially the seafood. Try to stay away from the main tourist squares and search out back-alley restaurants, and you will be rewarded. Without a hint of exaggeration the meal we had at Casinha do Petisco is in my top 10 meals of all time. It’s very small and we had to cue for about 45 minutes, but it was worth it and you can get beers from the pub next door while you wait. It might have cost us around €35 for two people including wine and was the benchmark for everywhere else we ate.
Other good restaurants include No Patio which is a slightly more fancy establishment set in a lovely garden, Mullens which is a bit standard but has good sangria, and Arribale; a small english-run restaurant serving local food.
Hint – Locals with boats run grotto tours as well as companies and will be noticeably cheaper.
Lagos for five nights / Faro for one night;
This article is also available as a mobile app.
Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.
Please consider donating to help keep Roam and Recon going!