What used to be a hidden gem on the Algave coast of Portugal, Lagos is becoming more and more well-known and therefore a little more expensive and exceptionally busy during the summer months. However, regardless of the number of sunburnt tourists on the beach, Lagos is still undeniably beautiful.
How to get there
If you're coming from the neighbouring country of Spain to Lagos requires a couple of transfers.
You’ll first need to get yourself to Lisbon:
There is one direct train from Spain, and this is an overnight sleeper train, departing at 9:45pm and taking around 10 hours. You can buy tickets and check times here, but note that if you don’t have a Eurail pass, tickets are quite expensive (around €67).
Alternatively, there are several daily bus departures from Madrid to Lisbon, starting from just €20. Check out schedules here.
You have a few options to get to Lagos:
The train which runs from Lisbon to Lagos is a slow, regional train and requires a change at Tunes. Trains are often cheaper than buses if booked more than a week in advance, and tickets are available 60 days ahead.
Buses travel between Lagos and Lisbon several times a day, taking between 3 and 5 hours and costing around 20. Check bus schedules here – tickets are on sale 30 days ahead.
Almost everywhere else:
The closest airport to Lagos is Lisbon Portela Airport, then you can catch the metro from the airport 3 stops to Oriente (the main train and bus station), and go from there.
How to get around
Once you’ve arrived, walking is the best (and almost only) way to get around. The centre of town is only a 1km walk from the train station (head along the dock and over the footbridge) and from there, all the main beaches are within a walkable distance.
Where to eat
Nah Nah Bah has a great vibe and serves up good ol’ fashioned burgers: big, sloppy, lots of fillings and thick cut fries on the side. While it’s not exactly ‘experiencing local culture’, sometimes you just need a taste of home, you know?
There’s not much better than a spicy burrito and a tangy margarita after a big day at the beach – and the Mexican spread at Beats & Burritos does just that. Friendly staff, chilled atmosphere, comfy bench seats and huge open windows make you feel like you are living the beachside dream.
Make the most of the cheap grocery prices and make your own food. Fresh fruit is sold in abundance here during the warmer months, from juicy watermelons, peaches, coconuts, and bananas.
Where to stay
Lagos is a backpacker’s paradise, therefore there are plenty of hostels to choose from.
Bura Surfhouse is one of the best when it comes to living it up Lagos style. The hostel is set up more like a house, with a big loungeroom filled with couches, board games and a TV, a great kitchen space free to use, a sweet rooftop terrace, and the huge pool outside with surrounding sunbeds just calls you to dive in. The outdoor bar area is manned by a bartender every night and they crew will usually take everyone out to town each night. They even offer yoga classes and home-cooked dinners for a small fee.
Cloud 9 is also a great hostel in the centre of town, with a well-equipped kitchen, great view from the rooftop, friendly staff and spacious rooms (some even have balconies).
An idea of costs for one day in Lagos
€78 per day
– Hostel: €30 per night
– Free hostel breakfast
– Margarita and a taco: €10
– Hostel dinner: €8
– Beers at local bar: €30
How long to spend in Lagos
One of the truest statements I heard about Lagos was from an Aussie guy I met on the beach, who had been living in Lagos for 3 years. “Do not make any plans for straight after your stay in Lagos because you will need to extend your time here. Everyone always does. Look at me, I came here for a 2 week holiday and I still haven’t left yet!”. I planned to stay 4 nights, which turned into 6, which turned into 7, then I missed my train so I stayed a total of 8 nights (and I still could have stayed on longer!).
Give yourself at least 4 nights in this paradise to explore, unwind, and enjoy.
What to see and do in Lagos
Praia do Camilo Beach
Arguably the most famous – and rightly so – Praia do Camilo beach is what desktop background photos are made of. The turquoise blue water, the golden rocks, the rows of umbrellas during peak season, this beach is flawless. You will need to fight the crowds as the summer temperatures begin to soar, but you can easily walk around each small headland on the right to the next cove to find a more secluded spot. If you’re a competent swimmer, you can also swim around to the left to a sea cave with a huge natural skylight!
Camilo Beach is also very popular during the summer months. The car park and wooden boardwalk down allows easy to access for visitors, and the sandstone cliffs and rocks which frame the beach makes it one of the most picturesque locations in Lagos.
Porto de Mos Beach
Moving a little away from the main town you’ll find the long stretch of sand of Porto de Mos Beach. Here, the cliffs are set back behind the beach further and while there aren’t many intriguing coves or striking rock formations emerging from the ocean, the beach is vast and spacious with less visitors – perfect for a game of football or if you just want some personal space!
The array of watersports here is phenomenal. Numerous organised tours run daily, from kayaking, surfing, boating and stand up paddle-boarding (SUP). Many of these will give you an up-close look at the spectacular rock formations around the coastline, passing under arches, into caves and onto remote beaches. These can be quite expensive, but treat yourself to one of these activities – you’ll be sure to remember it forever.
For most breathtaking experience, you cannot go past a Sunrise Stand Up Paddleboarding tour. The water is completely flat and calm, and as the sun starts to peak up over the horizon you’ll be paddling yourself from the beach of Priaia Dona Ana, around the golden rocks, into a glowing blue grotto and along the cliffside. Don’t worry if you have never tried SUP, tour guides are acquainted to helping first-timers and it’s easier than it looks! They’ll also give you a tow back to shore if you can’t make it.
This monumental feat of brickwork helps to make one of the smaller beaches next to Praia do Pinhão accessible. While the stairs are still standing today, erosion has made the jump from the stairs down onto the sand a bit of a leap.
Explore the cliffs, hidden beaches & caves
Spend an afternoon climbing through the worn tracks between the sandstone cliffs, enjoying the sound of the gulls overhead and crashing waves in the grottos below.
See if you can find hidden trails down to some of the remote beaches – mostly only accessible by the sea – where you can enjoy the entire beach alone. Just around the left cove from Praia dos Pinherios Beach is a self-proclaimed nudist beach, however due to the concealed way down and the willpower needed to descend the slope, it is, for most of the time, empty. If you find the trail, make sure you explore the southern corner of the beach where a stunning sea cave is located with a natural skylight.
Lagos does not disappoint when it comes to nightlife. The Tavern ranks one of the best backpacker bars, from shot challenges with complementary t-shirts, to beer bong competitions where you play on behalf of your country and the chalkboard above holds the score (USA, UK & Australia are usually top 3, FYI). Like most backpacker bars, the drinks are cheap and the customers are never locals.
InsideOut Bar goes off and The Three Monkeys Bar is also a fun time – it plays much loved tunes and the guys at the door will try to tempt you in with great offers.