Rocky beach, Lagos, Portugal

Lagos is something of a rarity in the Algarve, for not only does it boast some of the region’s finest beaches, but it is also an ancient town that is steeped in history. A fortress, centuries old, stands guard at the entrance to the river, which leads to the magnificent international Marina. From the river fishermen can be seen unloading their boats; at the quayside meals or coffee can be taken while basking in the sun, watching the boats come in and out.

Further along the coastline, close to the town, are beaches of soft golden sands and beautiful rock formations.

Lagos has the feet of a ‘real’ Portuguese community and has a host of excellent restaurants and lively late night bars along the harbour-side promenade. Narrow, cobbled whitewashed streets and attractive town squares feature delightful antiques and pottery shops. For the self caterer there is a chance to step back in time and go to the local market every Saturday morning to which local farmers bring their fresh, organically grown fruit, vegetables, free range eggs and home-made bread, jams and pickles.

The surrounding area is rich in natural beauty with rolling hills and hedgerows full of wild flowers in spring. There are several sleepy hamlets to the west and the wilder and the dramatic West Coast (ideal for surfers) is only 30 minutes away. For the sporting-minded, the vicinity boasts excellent sporting facilities from windsurfing, sailing, deep-sea fishing, golf, tennis, walking and horse riding. From the marina in Lagos it is possible to charter yachts or join one of the frequent boating trips around the spectacular coast. Some trips include lunch, such as locally caught barbecued sardines. Further inland you can find typical villages displaying the influence of the Moors in their architecture and Monchique, the wooded mountain area with stunning views and historic spa village, with allegedly ‘healing’ waters. Cape St. Vicent was known to early sailors as ‘the end of the world’ – when watching the sun set into the vast Atlantic Ocean (you can almost hear it hissing) you can understand why.

Further Afield

For those on longer trips, or eager to explore further, Lisbon is less than 300km away and can be reached at relative inexpense via train (not for those in a hurry though), or more quickly by road. Seville can be reached by car in less than three and a half hours, Cadiz slightly longer.