Sarah Latham standing on the beach at the ocean underneath bridge arch between two cliffs in Lagos, Portugal

“Never did the world make a queen of a girl, who hides in houses, and dreams without travelling”
– Roman Payne

After a week in London I flew to Lagos in Portugal, September 2017. I had wanted to visit the Algarve ever since i saw Haylsa photos back when I was planning my first trip to Europe at the start of 2016. Unfortunately despite it being one of my “Must Dos” of Europe I didn’t must-do-it and never made it to this coast that year – the negative side of not planning ahead I guess.

To get to Lagos from England the easiest way is to fly to Faro Airport. The airport is located about a solid hour drive from Lagos. People I had spoken to said they had stayed the night in Faro before catching a train to Lagos the next day; however, I saw it was only about 15 euros to get a transfer to my hostel in Lagos from Faro so jumped at that. I went with Green Bus and they were great.

I stayed at the 17 Hostel right in Old Town. Very sociable hostel and awesome location. I was in Lagos for 2-3 days by myself and joined a group tour on the afternoon of the 3rd day and stayed for a 4th day. The group tour had started earlier the day I joined in Lisbon, but as Lagos was what I had wanted to see so badly I chose to forgo the beginning in exchange for an additional 2 extra full days in Lagos. The downside of group tours – they’re great to see a place, unless you want it in more depth.

I only saw Lagos in Portugal; having no desire to see more so. But after seeing Lagos I now want to go north and see the rest of the country because it’s certainly impressed me.

Staying in Lagos was great to see some of the famous beaches.

Ponta da Piedade – the beach I had seen a photo of and the entire reason I wanted to see the Algarve.

Algarve Coastline near Lagos, Portugal

Photos can tell a thousand lies. I was in SUCH a bad mood when I took this I think I had a massive scowl on my face. I had spent all day talking with Singapore Airlines to change my flight back home to no avail. They were insisting it was impossible to change for less than $1000AUD. I knew something was just off about it but after a few more days of persistence I got the change for $300AUD. Bit of a not-so-small win.

Algarve Coast in Lagos, Portugal

I took these two photos and left because I didn’t want my bad mood to change my perception of this place. The next day I got up super early and came back and so glad I did it this way actually because I was feeling much better and spent an hour exploring and enjoying the beach and cliffs.

Sunset at Algarve Coast in Lagos, Portugal

Busted a plugga’! My thongs, bought in a random supermarket in central France, lasted through Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and London (not overly used there I must admit) but died in Portugal.

Tip is to get to the beaches early. Most you don’t need to be too early to get them to yourself as Lagos is a very sleepy town with late starts but at Ponta da Piedade they run Kayaking and Boat Tours from the bottom that appeared to start at 8am. I got there just before 8am (by chance) and had the place to myself for 2 minutes which was lucky.

This was taken an hour or so after sunrise – I told myself I’d get up for sunrise everyday and didn’t. This beach is a good 20-25 minute walk away from my hostel and I didn’t quite fancy a solo walk in the dark (and that’s exactly what I told myself when I woke up tired pre-sunrise.. haha). Still think it’s very beautiful at this time for sure.

Another morning I got up and walked to the closer Praia da Batata beach. I was given instructions to walk to the first beach outside of Old Town, go through an archway and it’s just there. The instructions were right but the tide was not and the archway was not accessible from the town side of the beach. However, the Algarve is a tourist hot spot and it is also possible to access the beach by stairs from the restaurant nearby between the two beaches.

I took a lot of photos on the way throughout the main beach Meia Praia
This was the only beach I saw people in so early in the morning and I loved it because it was all people who hadn’t made it home from partying in Lagos the night before or just travellers who didn’t feel like hostel life was for them and preferred to sleep under the stars.

Walking through the main beach to get to Praia da Batata before realising the archway wasn’t accessible, heading back into town and trying again.

Worth the effort!

Before the tour started I did spend most of my days simply relaxing either in my hostel, walking around the Old Town or going around the other beaches. Lagos is so clearly a popular holiday destination because it is so relaxing and just easy to be in.

These next photos were taken at the beaches and cliffs between Ponta da Piedade and the Old Town including Praia Do Camilo

The archways you walk through under the cliffs to get between different beaches

On my final day in Lagos I went to Benagil Sea Cave! I had researched extensively how to get here and was quite disappointed in the lack of transport Lagos Tourism has provided. The only way to get there was via 2 different buses, one that only ran once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and then you would still have to walk 30 something minutes. The alternative was hiring a car, but after having some very unpleasant experiences on Greek roads in Zante I was so insecure about driving on the right. Walking there? It was about 30km so that was a no go also.

Even if I had hired a car or braved the bus system or decided to walk for a good few hours lol there was no place on the beach next to the cave to leave my stuff safely so I’d only be able to take with me the things I was happy to have stolen (???) or water proof items. It left me in a bit of a pickle and I almost wrote off going to see the cave altogether.

My friend Brooke who I had met earlier in my trip had a joke “Just do it next time you’re here!” which motivated me to always do everything I could in the area because while it’s easy to say ‘I’ll come back’ you never know. And it was that saying that played over in my head that made me make sure I went to see the Cave.

Benagil Sea Cave is an ocean locked gigantic cave, made famous through Instagram mostly. One of the ‘Must See’ sights of the Algarve (why it’s surprising how difficult it is to get here easily!) However it is very close to the shore meaning it is very easy to swim or kayak to. This is often recommended against by tourism companies (ones selling boat tours there…) but after visiting I’m very skeptical that it’s that much more dangerous to swim to the cave than it is just to swim in the ocean right there just be safe.

However, like I said, I didn’t really have the option of swimming from the shore so I went along the Lagos Old Town and found a boat company that went out. If you want to do this I would recommend booking at least a few days in advance as the tours were selling out quickly.

I went with Sea Bookings and they were so good! I thought it was just a boat right there and back and in the cave. However I had signed myself up for some sort of adventure jet boat ride (clearly don’t know the right terms) – we were given bars to hang onto and we needed them. It was absolutely freezing, exhilarating and so so much fun flying down the coast by speedboat. On the way back they weaved in and out of rocks (in between stopping at other sea caves to see along the way not just Benagil) which was bloody scary and great. I was numb and grinning from ear to ear when we got back to Lagos, as was everyone else on the boat.

I was told by every damn Instagram/Blogger/Reviewer out there that if you go by boat they don’t let you swim to the beach shore inside the cave and that you don’t get the real experience. I asked the boat company when I signed on if that was the case and they said that they couldn’t outright guarantee we would swim out from the boat they rarely were unable to provide it. And we got exactly that which was amazing. The boat stopped for a heap of photos and then let us swim out if we wanted to. I jumped right in and oh my God it was FREEZING. I was not expecting the water to be so cold and I was gasping from the shock. But it was actually a very refreshing moment in a good way.

I had my GoPro in addition to my normal camera so took that to the cave shore with me. While unfortunately going with a boat tour means prime time which meant a photo of Benagil landscape with just me in it that I’d wanted was a definite no go. But I’d rather have gone and seen it then not have just because it was going to be crowded. Guess it is an excuse to go back!

I took some photos of the coastline on the way back as we explored other smaller caves. I wasn’t able to take any photos when we were on full speed – had my camera hidden under the life jacket they had given us during those moments even haha.

After joining the tour I saw much more of the party side of Lagos. And it was awesome actually. The Old Town had a sick night life and as a town was just generally pretty cool covered in street art and quirky old roads.

Old Town Square in Lagos, Portugal