To celebrate my mother's 60th Birthday we decided to take her to a holiday abroad. We weren't sure about where to go initially, but after some time thinking we decided that spending some time in the Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean would be a great way to celebrate. We were attracted by some of the beautiful pictures we saw online of the Algarve region, based in the South West part of Portugal - well known for it's beautiful coastline and fabulous wines. It was a bit pricey, as the trip was booked in the first weekend of the UK Summer Holidays wherein thousands of families travel abroad for holidays.
There were plenty of choices of places to stay in the Algarve, and all of them looked like great places to stay... but it was Lagos which caught our attention and our hearts. Lagos is nearly a two hour train journey (about 7.50 euros per person) from Faro airport, so it's no small distance... but it's worth the journey.
To travel to Lagos, you will either need to take a bus, a taxi, train, or rent a car upon arrival at the airport. We opted to get a train from Faro to Lagos as we realised it is quite cheap and we also love travelling by train.
If you want to get a train from Faro to Lagos, then you'll need to initially catch a bus, taxi or uber vehicle from the airport to Faro train station. From there you can catch the train to Lagos through the south of Portugal. Trains are relatively infrequent (which is surprising considering the amount of tourism) but it's comfortable and usually on time.
We arrived in Lagos and were in awe! The town was just perfect. We found it to be a lovely place for families, couples and group of friends alike. The place is geared towards tourism, with plenty of bars, restaurants, great beaches, hotels, and tour events (dolphin watching, caves, etc.) but at the same time was not too "commercialised" as an area. Don't expect to be hassled by many touts selling bracelets or sunglasses... they have kept the area very pleasant for tourists and free of sales people. The food is great and you can often get discounts from tour events you might participate in.
If you know me well, then you'd also know that I like to travel with an itinerary, and so doing my research before travelling makes me look forward to each holiday. Although I'd prepared well with an itinerary, I was quick to realise that there was so much on offer in Lagos, that we couldn't possibly do everything in the time available.
We prioritized sightseeing and decided to see Praia de Camilo. It has 200 wooden steps down leading to the beach. The stairs are a popular landmark already for tourists with photo opportunities and overlooking the beautiful beach.
Following on from the beautiful view of Pria de Camilo we went onto see Ponta de Piedades which also looks very magical. If you prefer to stay in land, from the cliff top by the lighthouse, you can descend the steps – all 182 of them to sea level. There is lighthouse at the roads end and a cafe and souvenir shop at the top of the steps. The views all along the road to Ponta de Piedade are stunning, and is highly recommended to visit. You can chose to walk from Lagos town or you can hire a metered taxi from the Marina.
The highlight of our trip was an excursion to Benagil cave which can only be reached by boat. If you feel adventurous, you can even swim to this cave. However, only do this if you are a great swimmer!
We chose to take one of the tour events by Days of Adventure. The boat journey was pleasant, the staff spoke great English, and it was a friendly and professional service. Although we were on the boat for two hours - there was not a splash on us from the water due to the design of the boat and the excellent navigation. The fast boat journey is quite pleasant and you get to see some really stunning caves - excellent photo opportunities for instagram!
Apart from my itinerary, there are thousands of must things to do and see, such as dolphin watching, kayaking, water slide parks, grotto trips, and a lot more.
The Algarve is just simply a lovely holiday destination to travel to. If you want to have a relaxed time, see a few sights, catch a bit of sunbathing, and eat some great food or drink some nice wine, then this really is a place for you. English was widely spoken (although not by everyone) but most people could hold a conversation with you and talk to you if you needed any information or assistance. The people were friendly and welcoming and the prices very reasonable. It was a very safe place and at no point did we have any problems.
I was expecting the meals and drinks to be much more expensive but they were mostly in line with what you would pay in the UK (or slightly less). Yes, of course, if you wanted to go to a very exclusive restaurant or wine bar then prices would naturally be very different - but in general most places were reasonably priced and of good quality.
Most of our trip was taken up with travelling, sight seeing, and spending time sampling the local cuisine, but if you are sun worshipper then you will find some truly excellent beaches and fantastic weather all year round. Something to be aware of however, if you enjoy sunbathing as your main past time, during the peak season beaches on the Algarve can be very busy and very crowded. To get a comfortable spot you would need to get to the beach early in the morning or alternatively you could choose to stay at a hotel with a good rooftop pool and sun-loungers. I have to say, there were some amazing looking hotels nestled between the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean sea and the beaches of Portugal.
All good things must come to an end. We were so gutted that we only had a short visit, but as Douglas Macarthur said, I CAME THROUGH AND I SHALL RETURN.