This post is the first part in a series detailing on a longer road trip through Portugal and Madeira.
Planning the trip to Portugal started a long time ago, after coming across some spectacular images of the Algarve coast. Golden sand beaches sheltered by orange cliffs, blue clear waters and hidden caves, it was love at first sight, so naturally I knew I had to go there one day.
September 2016, early morning. We landed in Lisbon and, as per our custom, we went straight to the rent a car company. It is a 2.5h drive to the Algarve region from the capital, so plenty of time to make a short stop along the way and still manage to enjoy an afternoon swim.
On our way out of the city, we had to cross over the Vasco da Gama bridge. It is the longest bridge in Europe, built across a wide bay. Before making the crossing you should consider driving to this place where you will find a wooden walkway which offers impressive views over the bay and bridge.
After the stop at Vasco da Gama, we drove on the highway towards the town of Lagos where we had booked our accommodation. It is an ancient maritime settlement with more than 2000 years of history. The old town is still circled by city walls, has lovely narrow streets and piazzas, lots of cafes and nice viewpoints towards the cliffs and the Atlantic ocean. From there you can walk along the Avenida dos Descobrimentos (Avenue of the Discoveries) which runs along the waterfront and you will reach the very modern Lagos Marina.
We had a quick lunch in the marina area and then drove to the beach called Porto de Mos. Wider and longer than the typical beaches of the region, Porto de Mos is lean and sandy and very clean. It offers a large parking place, sunbeds, restaurants and a cafe, perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
We made a short day-trip towards Benangil and Carvoeiro, to reach the most famous beach of the Algarve, called Praia da Marinha. If you can only visit one beach while in Portugal, then make it this one.
Before descending all the steps to the beach make sure that you did not forget anything inside the car and that you have enough water bottles on you. Trust me, you do not want to be climbing up and down those stairs all day.
We admired the Praia from above; I highly recommend the path that leads to the right of the parking lot, but you can head off in either direction along the coast with your camera handy. Prepare to be blown away by the views of the rocky shoreline. It is a perfect postcard image of what the Algarve is all about.
Down on the sand we got to relax for the day. Swimming in the ocean was reinvigorating, the water just the right temperature, the beach sandy and not too crowded. You should bring along a good book, snorkeling gear or a beach ball and enjoy an unforgettable day.
In the early morning we made our way to Praia Do Camilo, a small beach on the east coast of Lagos, surrounded by gorgeous orange cliffs. Beware of stairs again! It became a bit too crowded for my taste later in the day, but still it is a very beautiful beach that you should not miss. The sea here is exceptionally clean. The water has a nice color and is almost transparent, great for snorkeling.
As the sun started to come down in the sky, it dipped behind the cliff casting its shade all across the beach, so we decided to walk to the Ponta Da Piedade for the afternoon. This is a headland carved into rock pillars, with natural tunnels and hidden grottos, located in the south of Lagos. We joined a scenic half hour boat trip from the base of the cliff, that took us along the rugged coast. Totally worth it.
The evening found us back at Porto de Mos, for how best to end our stay in the Algarve if not admiring an incredible sunset from the beach?
If you want to spend more days in the region, two other lovely beaches in Lagos are the Praia Dona Ana and the Praia dos Estudantes. You can also take a day trip to the white city of Albufeira, practice fun water sports or choose to rent a kayak to explore the shoreline and its romantic hidden coves.
Want to read more about this trip? Follow the posts in ‘Portugal’ category.