The best independent guide to Lagos
The best independent guide to Lagos
Lagos is a historic and fascinating city that is situated on the beautiful Western Algarve.
It is a city that boasts a rich seafaring heritage and a coastline of dramatic natural scenery, and is today one of the Algarve's finest holiday destinations. If you are planning a holiday to Lagos, you can expect to discover picturesque beaches, buzzing nightlife and outstanding tourist facilities.
Unlike much of the central Algarve, Lagos has not succumbed to mass tourism, and the city still retains its distinctive character and charm. Found within the historic centre is a proud Portuguese city, with cobbled streets, authentic restaurants, and an atmosphere that is relaxed and welcoming.
The region surrounding Lagos offers many varied and exciting activities, along with many enjoyable day trips. If you crave more than just beautiful beaches and glorious weather for your holiday, then Lagos is the ideal holiday destination for you.
Lagos is equally suited as a family holiday destination, there are safe and sheltered beaches for your children, while thrill-seeking teenagers will adore the theme and water parks.
The city is also a popular destination for a day trip, with it's historic quarter, interesting sights and beautiful coastline, easily able to fill a full day of sightseeing. Lagos is regarded as one of the best day trips of the western Algarve, and is highly recommended if you are on holiday in the central Algarve.
This article will show why you must visit Lagos, either for your holiday or as a day trip, and will help you get the most from this wonderful region.
Related articles: 1 week in Lagos – Sights and activities - Beach guide
The historic quarter – Lago's rich seafaring history is reflected in the many sights of the historic quarter. This area is a joy to wander, with the extravagant interior of the Igreja de Santo Antonio, the notorious history of the Mercado dos Escravos, the medieval city walls and the Forte da Bandeira.
Ponta de Piedade – The picturesque headland to the south of Lagos, formed of highly weathered limestone cliffs that have been carved into unique formations. There are sea arches, hidden caves (grottos) and precariously balanced towers, that are best explored by boat tour.
The Praia de Dona Ana beach – A glorious sandy beach that is considered as one of the Algarve finest. The beautiful beach nestles at the base of the golden cliffs, is lapped by turquoise waters and is a magical setting for your day on the beach.
Lagos is the largest city of the western Algarve, with a permanent population of 31,000, that almost doubles in the summer with the influx of tourists. The city extends along the Bensafrim river, at the merger of two geological features; Ponta de Piedade headland and the sand dunes of the Rio Alvor nature reserve.
These two very different coastal landscapes are what makes Lagos such an amazing beach holiday destination for so many people. There are the huge Atlantic surfing waves of the Porto Mós beach, the many idyllic beaches along the Ponta de Piedade headland and the vast sandy beach of Meia Praia.
The sheltered Bensafrim River was key to Lagos' seafaring history. It was here in during the 14th century that Prince Henry the Navigator established his seafaring school, and from which many of Portugal's great sea expeditions departed from. Later Lagos became a major centre for sea trade, and today the city contains one of the prettiest historical centres of the Algarve.
This combination of glorious beaches, Portuguese culture and rich heritage, makes Lagos one of the best tourist destinations in southern Portugal. Being such a desirable destination, Lagos has a blossoming artisan scene (a combination of surfers, migrant tech workers and creative people), which has exploded with the advent of remote working and being "discovered” by USA tourists.
Insight: If you are a remote/creative worker considering Lagos, know that Lagos is the second-best destination in Portugal, second only to Lisbon – which is arguably the best remote working location in the world. Lagos may only be a small city, but there is no more of a diverse mix of people, styles and nationalities than in it.
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Lagos has a rich seafaring history
Lagos is one of the best destinations in the western Algarve for a day trip. It is a vibrant and historic city that provides a perfect blend of fascinating historic sights and excellent tourist attractions.
There are sufficient sights to easily fill a day of sightseeing, with the morning exploring the historic centre and the afternoon visiting the Ponta de Piedade headland.
Lagos has excellent public transport (both rail and bus) connecting it to the surrounding region, and it is very easy to travel to Lagos from the major towns of the Algarve.
Below is an interactive map which shows a suggested day trip to Lagos that begins at the train station. The green line details the section in the city and the yellow line is the Ponta de Piedade coastline and beaches.
Sights along the route: 1) Lagos Marina 2) Municipal market 3) Gil Eanes plaza 4) Former slave market 5) Saint António Church 6) Santa Maria church 7) city walls 8) Saint Gonçalo city gate 9) Ponta da Bandeira Fort 10) Batata beach 11) Pinhão beach 12) Dona Ana beach 13) Camilo beach 14) Ponta de Piedade 15) Discoveries waxwork museum 16) Meia Praia beach
The Forte da Ponta da Bandeira
Lagos is ideal for a 1-week holiday, which could combine time on the beaches with excursions to the towns of Sagres, Silves, Praia da Luz and Portimão. As Lagos is a major city, there is a wide selection of restaurants and bars, and it is easily possible to eat (and drink!) somewhere completely different every day.
If you are touring southern Portugal, you should plan to spend at least two days in Lagos. The first day would explore the historic sights of the town, and the second day would visit the dramatic Ponta da Piedade cliffs and the beautiful beaches. Alternatively, Lagos could be used as a base from which to explore the Western Algarve, as the city is the main transport hub for the region.
A suggested itinerary for a 1-week holiday could be:
Day 1 - Explore the historic centre of Lagos (see the map in day trip section)
Day 2 - Boat tour of the Ponta da Piedade, dolphin watching trip or beach day
Day 3 - Day trip to Sagres and the Cabo de São Vicente
Day 4 - Day trip to Silves
Day 5 - Theme park (Zoomarine) or waterpark (Slide & Splash)
Day 6 - Day trip to Portimão and Praia da Rocha
Day 7 - Day trip to Praia de Luz and Burgau (ideal for cycling)
Note: A car is not needed for this itinerary
Related articles: 1 week in Lagos - 3 days in Lagos
The modern marina complex of Lagos, filled with social bars and restaurants
Lagos is expecting a sell-out summer season for 2023, as more visitors seek holidays to safe and established destinations within Europe. As Lagos is expecting a sell-out 2023, we strongly advise you to get your flights and accommodation as soon possible before they increase and sell out.
The map below shows the best hotels and accommodation in Lagos, if you adjust the dates to your holiday it will display current prices and availability.
The peak season of Lagos is between June and September, and the weather is suitable for spending time on the beach from May until mid-October.
July and August are the peak months for family holidays, while June and September are popular with visitors without children. If you are visiting during the peak season, always book accommodation far in advance to secure the best prices.
The low season is from November until Easter, but as Lagos has a large permanent population, most restaurants and bars remain open year-round. Lagos should not be considered as a winter sun destination, but the Algarve has some of the best weather of mainland Europe.
Related article: When to visit Lagos
Lagos is an excellent destination for a family holiday. The city boasts a wide selection of family-friendly hotels, while restaurants, attractions and activities are welcoming of children. Lagos is more relaxed than other larger resorts, such as Albufeira or Praia da Rocha, and is very safe and tends to be less hectic during the evening.
The beaches of Lagos are clean and safe, and during the summer, are supervised by lifeguards. Lagos Zoo is great excursion for younger children, and children of all ages will enjoy the dolphin watching boat trips that depart from the harbour.
If you are on holiday with older children and teenagers, there are many activities designed for their age, including the waterpark of Slide & Splash, the marine park of Zoomarine and the “high rope courses” at Parque Aventura.
Zoomarine - www.zoomarine.pt - (Best priced tickets)
Slide & Splash - www.slidesplash.com - (Best priced tickets)
Parque Aventura - www.parqueaventura.net
Lagos has some of the finest beaches of southern Portugal and within walking distance of the town are four beautiful beaches. The Meia Praia is a vast sandy beach that extends for 4km, while the Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Camilo are beautiful secluded beaches that are surrounded by golden coloured cliffs and lapped by crystal clear sea waters.
The Praia Dona Ana beach
On the south-western side of Lagos is the Porto de Mos beach, an area popular with resort hotels and holiday homes, and a great choice if you prefer not to be in the centre of the busy city.
The sheer number of varied beaches within the vicinity of Lagos means that, even at the height of the summer, space can be easily found for a relaxing day under the glorious sun.
Related articles: Beaches of Lagos
The massive Praia de Porto de Mós beach
Boat tours and trips
Some of the most popular activities in Lagos are the boat tours and boat day trips. These range from jet boat rides, dolphin watching tours, coastline tours and deep sea fishing trips. Lagos has the largest selection of different sea-based activities in the Algarve.
We have worked with Getyourguide.com for the previous 6 years, and some of their best boat tours from Lagos include:
The Ponta da Piedade is a series of highly weathered cliffs that form the southern headland of Lagos. The powerful Atlantic Ocean has chiselled stone arches, grottos and sea caves into the colourful golden cliffs, and these cliffs are considered the best natural feature of the Algarve.
There are scenic hiking routes along the top of the headland, but a more enjoyable experience is to hire a boat and navigate the unique rock formations.
Related articles: Ponta da Piedade guide
The Ponta da Piedade cliffs are best explored by boat
The two best day trips from Lagos are to the historic town of Silves and the surfing town of Sagres.
Sagres is at the western tip of mainland Europe and is a region savaged by ceaseless winds and mighty Atlantic seas. The town is a popular surfing destination and is ideal for tourists who appreciate nature's raw power.
Silves was the ancient capital of the Algarve and remnants of this glorious past are found throughout the peaceful and relaxed town. The prominent feature of Silves is the massive red brick castle, while traditional houses and shops line the cobbled streets that lead down to the river.
Related articles: Day trip to Sagres - Silves introduction
Silves is a very scenic town in southern Portugal
Alternative day trips from Lagos include the peaceful resort town of Praia da Luz, the shopping town of Portimão and the hectic resort town of Praia da Rocha. All of these day trips can be reached by the inexpensive public transport and there is no requirement to hire a rental car while on holiday to Lagos.
The nearest international airport to Lagos is Faro Airport, which is 90km to the east of Lagos. There are infrequent train and bus services from Faro city to Lagos, but these routes do not pass close to the airport, so a bus or taxi is needed to travel from the airport to Faro city centre.
private transfer (€75, 60min journey) is much quicker, whereas a shared minibus transfer (€25, 100min journey) is a cheaper option. Lagos is one of the destinations we strongly recommend organising a transfer to, as public transport is veryso poor and a taxi hailed from the terminal will be very expensive (+€110).
Related article: Faro airport to Lagos