By Joanne Yae
The Algarve is a region in the southernmost part of Portugal and home to some seriously beautiful beaches, of which the town of Lagos is particularly famous for. The waters are cool and clear, and the coast is dotted with massive, majestic rock formations.
If you’re the type to be highly active while traveling then... Lagos isn’t the place to do that. It is best appreciated by taking things slow and enjoying life, whether you’re staying two nights or an entire week. The best time to go is mid-May, when the tourism hasn’t kicked in yet and the weather is optimal: cool at night but warm enough during the day to lay on the beach and get a sweet tan. It’s quiet around this time which will give you many more opportunities to explore uninterrupted, with no lines to wait on. You will find that everything in the Algarve and Portugal in general is extremely affordable, which is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular destination for solo travelers.
Where to Stay
Vivenda Solmar Starting at $74/Night
Vivenda Solmar is a rarity and the photos do not do it justice. It’s located in a residential area - so it feels like your own home - with close proximity to a beach, while being ultra affordable. I was greeted by a kind host who offered some delicious port wine to sip on while she checked us in. The room was massive with a balcony that made for some sick views of the ocean. The cool, dry breeze allowed us to leave the windows open and enjoy the fresh air. It’s located walking distance to Praia Porto de Mos, which is less crowded and just as beautiful as the other beaches in Lagos. It’s also away from the city center so it feels remote and peaceful. The ocean view is simply breathtaking and you will be overcome with emotion when watching the sunset and rise. I highly recommend buying your own groceries and making breakfast in the mornings to enjoy with the view.
Vivenda Solmar is a three story building with rooms on the first floor. The entrance is paved, however there are no elevators.
Vila Gale Lagos Starting at $200/Night
Photos via Booking.com
If I had wanted to really splurge and treat myself in Lagos, Vila Gale Lagos would have been my top choice. It’s large, modern, and right by the beach with an epic outdoor pool. If you’re into resorts, convenience, amenities, and 5 star service, this is the place to stay.
Vila Gale Lagos does have facilities for guests with disabilities.
Things to do in The Algarve
Photos via Joanne Yae
Lagos has a handful of beaches and the best way to explore them is to go on a coastal walking tour. You can even skip the coast and walk along the sand, through grottos and caves. There’s a lot of nooks and crannies to explore and the view of it all is simply breathtaking. If you’re looking for something more secluded I highly recommend Praia do Pinhão. Getting there requires descending steep stairs that have no handrail and kind of end abruptly. You’ll end up having to rock climb down a little bit but it’s not too bad and totally worth it. Whichever praia you go to, there is always a more secluded and secret area that requires a small trek to discover, but is ultimately rewarding.
Pro-tip: if you see nude sunbathers, it means you hit the secret garden of beaches!
Photos via Joanne Yae
This is where we ended up when my friend and I were trying to find a place to eat on our first night. It was May and not yet tourist season so a lot of places were closed, and boy, was that a blessing in disguise. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have found this gem: Cervejaria Ferradura. It’s a small brewery with bar seating only (12 ~ 14 people max) and no menu. There’s a glass display in the front full of prepared and fresh food and you just kinda point at what you want to eat. This worked out great because we didn’t speak enough Portugese to communicate with the owners and instead had to literally communicate through food. The food was incredible - simple but with so much flavor; fresh, and made only better by the house white wine on tap. Who knew bread and cheese could be so good? I can definitely say, this was one of the most memorable meals of my life.
Take a boat ride around Ponta de Piedade
Photos via Joanne Yae
I tend to avoid tourist traps or stereotypical touristy activities — like paying exorbitant fees for gondola rides or riding the tram in Lisbon. The same could be said for boat rides at Ponta de Piedade but this is one tourist attraction that’s worth every penny. It wasn’t THAT expensive but it was expensive compared to everything else I did in Lagos (20 euro per person). And you know what? I had a blast. The boat ride was about 20 minutes and included some exhilarating moments like trying to squeeze into caves so small, we had to duck down in our boats to pass through. The payoff to that was exploring the cave interiors intimately, and seeing water in a color I didn’t even think was possible. Our guide spoke a small amount of English, but it was more than enough to effectively share his knowledge of the rock formations. By boat (kayak or motor) is the only way you can view these natural wonders up close. Afterwards we climbed back up the cliffs and enjoyed an ice cold refreshing Sagres Radler, a lemon-y beer type drink. So simple but such a great way to end our trip.
Eat your weight in seafood (and potatoes)
It’s fresh, it’s plentiful, it’s cheap, and it’s what Lagos does best. I can honestly say, no matter where you go, it’s gonna be good. A couple I met recommended O Camilo which is located by the stairway leading down to Praia do Camilo. It was a bit bougie, but had breathtaking views. I ordered the mackerel and clams which was un-surprisingly delicious, fresh, and cheap. The potatoes that came with it were just as delicious.
O Camilo - Photo via Joanne Yae
For dinner, we checked out Os Lambertos - a favorite among locals and taxi drivers, known for their down home cooking and traditional Portuguese dishes. Surprisingly, the non-seafood dish - Portuguese steak with potatoes - was the star. And the potatoes were damn good.
Os Lambertos - Photo via Joanne Yae
Campimar Restaurant Bar is located right on Porto de Mós and was my first (and very delicious) meal in Lagos. I would recommend getting some sort of fresh fish - the flavors are so clean, it’s tender, and never overcooked. I ordered the sea bream but let me tell you, those potatoes were flavorful AF here too.
Campimar Restaurant Bar - Photo via Joanne Yae
Take a surf lesson
Photos via Joanne Yae
If you’re not too ‘busy’ taking holiday in Lagos, I highly recommend taking surf lessons. Portugal in general is known to be a surfer’s haven, with some of the best waves in the world. And there’s nothing like spending the whole day riding then having an ice cold beer afterwards. I decided to holiday like a European this trip, so skipped out on lessons. But if you’re interested, The Surf Experience is a great place to start.
Talk to the locals
As beautiful as Lagos is, the most beautiful thing about this town were the locals. They are kind and generous with their knowledge of the area. To get the most out of your trip here, talk to them, ask questions, and listen. You can learn so much even just from speaking with cab drivers. And I wouldn’t have discovered Os Lambertos had I not asked the locals specifically where they like to eat (as opposed to where I should eat). It will help you view Lagos through the eyes of its inhabitants and ultimately give you a truly immersive experience.
Take a day trip to Faro
Photos via Joanne Yae
I’ll be honest. I had no expectations for Faro. From my research it seemed there was really nothing to do - it was just a town. Thankfully my assumptions were off. Faro is a town, but it’s meant to be explored and appreciated from an architectural and design standpoint. The lines, colors, and buildings of Faro are a work of art. Life is simple and you take things slow. Above are some things I came across on my walk around Faro.
Train is the best way to get here from Lagos, and it is an 1hr 40 min ride. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be in the heart of the town and can start exploring right away. Faro also has an airport, which is the only one in the Algarve, so you can fly in from anywhere else in Portugal easily.
Joanne is a developer and surfer girl wannabe based in NYC with a serious skill for getting the perfect tan. She enjoys seafood, travel photography, and flights paid with points. Her upcoming travel plans include Hawaii in August and New Zealand in November, with lots of Miami in between. You can follow her travels on Instagram, her Travel Photo Blog, or contact her directly.
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