Our first trip to the Algarve.
As part of our Portuguese road trip, we decided to head south, as surely you can’t complete a taster of Portugal and not include the Algarve.
The photos that we had seen of Portugal’s rugged coastline looked incredible, with its clear blue ocean, gold sandy beaches and boats bobbing up and down between the ochre cliffs.
We couldn’t wait!!!
What was I expecting?
We chose the coastal town of Lagos to base ourselves in for a couple of nights, while we had a little discovery of the region.
Initially, I was sceptical about Lagos it felt a bit too commercial for our liking. Usually, but not always we try and stay somewhere that our native tongue isn’t so commonly heard. However, if you want to enjoy some locations, you just go with the flow.
A stroll around Lagos
We decided to spend some time discovering Lagos town before heading along the shoreline.
Lagos has some fascinating history dating back centuries. A medieval castle and surrounding walls were built to fortify the town, as Lagos was building strong maritime trade links. Some of the walls still exist today.
A reference guide
Our recent new found love is Portugal, it is such a beautiful country. While planning our trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Portuguese road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.
Age of Discoveries
Through the 13th century ships would have left from the port during the Age of Discoveries under operations from Henry the Navigator.
Stop, who goes there?
Just across from the castle is the late 17th-century Ponta da Bandeira Fort, one of the many forts built along the coastline to enable them to protect themselves from pirates and ne’er-do-wells.
Search them out
Although I said that Lagos does attract a lot of visitors, it’s still possible to find those little-secluded lanes and alleys that are so synonymous with Portugal.
I love the floor tiles.
Sit & relax
While taking a stroll through the historic streets, we came to Praca Infante Dom Henrique, a large open square where families and friends congregate. On one side of the square is the church of Santa Maria.
To be remembered
On the other side of the square is a piece of history that Lagos would probably prefer not to have. Unfortunately, here is the site of the first slave market in colonial Europe, from 1444.
The same market building is now a museum to this appalling era in history.
From the old to the new
There’s a modern marina in Lagos along with a wide-open promenade, so it is quite pleasant just to amble along and watch the world pass you by at a relaxing pace.
Jump into the car
Now we wanted to search out Algarve’s beautiful coastline, and there is certainly a lot to choose from.
As there was a lot of ground to cover, so we headed off early directly to Tavira and planned a slower route touring back.
The day started a bit overcast, but not deterred we parked up and had a wander around the town. Tavira is a pleasant bustling town with quite a bit of history to its name from the Romans to the Moors and then the Christians.
Parts of the castle walls remain, however, along with a vast amount of the Algarve, the massive earthquake in 1755 which devastated Lisbon also destroyed large parts of Tavira old town.
We started heading back west, and it was taking longer than predicted. Also, perhaps in our naivety, we thought there might be a coastal route. Instead, we had to travel slightly inland, and not so picturesque and quaint as we had hoped.
However, as we wanted to visit a couple of the long sandy beaches and the little coves we need to keep stopping. We jumped out at Quarteira, near Faro to dip our toes in the sand.
Praia de Benagil
Then further along the shoreline, we came to signs for Praia de Benagil, our timing was fantastic the clouds were starting to clear, and the beautiful cove shone.
Tour boats were on the ocean bobbing in the bays so that you can admire these beautiful cliffs unhindered.
If you are walking the cliff top path, just past the beach heading east is an incredible huge hole in the ground. Other than a flimsy cordon, there is nothing to stop you peering over the edge to the stunning cave below.
Why wouldn’t you visit?
Before heading on to our apartment in Lagos, we took a detour to Ponta da Piedade, one of the most iconic and scenic ocean views in the Algarve.
Amazing craggy little caves and grottos dotted in and around the cliff faces.
It is most definitely worth the visit and once again the Portuguese trust their sightseers and allow you to judge for yourself how close you should stand on the edge of the cliff.
Next stop America
Then to our furthest southwesterly point and that is Sagres. You can stand on the coastline look west, and the next landfall would be America, how incredible is that.
I can see why visitors flock to this part of the world it is stunning.
Where we ate
Our first night we ate at Meu Limão, it was a fantastic little place that we found on the off chance, at the far end of the Old Town. It specialised in homemade tapas, tasted really fresh and used good quality ingredients, reasonably priced as well.
The cheesecake was delicious!!!!
Where we stayed
The accommodation we chose for the two nights we were in Lagos was at the Captain’s Nest apartment overlooking the marina.
I couldn’t fault the apartment at all; it was about a 15-minute stroll to the old town, had underground parking, excellent facilities and extremely comfortable.