Imagine stunning rock formations framing turquoise waters and fields of wild flowers, under brilliant blue skies. The Algarve is that unique juxtaposition of a destination with plenty of infrastructure but also a rugged spirit. While much of the region is developed and tourists reign supreme, you can still find hundreds of hidden cliffs, caves, beaches and villages to explore. Rent a car or jump on a bus and be prepared to be stunned. These guides focus on three locations in the Algarve - Lagos, Sagres & Benagil but you can set out to discover many more.
Lagos is one of the major destinations in The Algarve. With plenty of hotels, restaurants and good roads, the town is great as a base location from which to explore other destinations along the rocky coastline. Charming in itself with a picturesque old town, lively beaches and the gorgeous lookout point of Ponta da Piedade, Lagos is worth exploring in its own right for at least a day or two.
Less busy than the beaches of Dona Ana and Camilo, Meia Praia has a lazy charm to it. Tropical parasols dot the beach among spots of sea grass and sand dunes. The sheer length of this beach means you'll be more likely to have some privacy (at least outside of high season.) Sunbathe or nap on one of the free loungers and if you're feeling motivated, take advantage of the solid wood parasols for a quick barre workout. No shoes or shorts required. See workout here.
Overlooking Meia Praia, you have a few dining options. Linda Beach Bar is a quintessential Portuguese, family-style restaurant with all the seafood classics. You're primarily there for the view but the clams are also pretty good. Go in late afternoon for a better chance of snagging a table with the relaxing beach vista to complement your meal.
Yes this is a major tourist destination and yes you will get crowds BUT it just so happens that nature has complicated the journey to this gorgeous site so that you can find spots to savour moments of awe alone or with a partner; while there is a constructed path along the cliffs, you can venture off to the hills adjacent to it - many of these will not be easily accessible to young children, large groups or older travellers. This is the number one on my list for a reason - if you do nothing else in the Algarve, at least do this!
Between the Marina de Lagos and the historic city center, there's a relaxing 10 - 15 minute stroll to be had along the boardwalk. If you go in the late evening, the tourist booths will be closed and the crowds much lighter, giving you a more authentic glimpse into daily life in Lagos. If you have a few extra moments, take a seat and watch the fishermen go to work.
The first thing that our Portuguese host told us upon arrival is, "We don't make coffee here in Lagos, we go out and enjoy it." Thus summing up the local café experience; find a place with a view and sip leisurely. My favorite spot was along the marina each morning, watching the boats load up and local life start bustling. Make sure to check opening times the night before as many places serve from 9:00am or later.
Be prepared to pack summer clothes for the warm days and more layers for cooler nights. The temperature drop is significant and you don't want to be discouraged from dining in the lovely outdoors just because of the cool winds. (This is coming from someone who constantly packs a little too positively with the lightest of light summer clothes. I usually make do but this time I had to resort to shopping for sweaters!)
Seafood, seafood and more seafood. If you like it or even if you don't usually, this is the place to try it. Often restaurants will prepare dishes made from the catch of the day. It doesn't get any fresher than that! For healthier prep, order your courses grilled with a squeeze of lemon.
Also, although not technically a nutrient...the white wine is outstanding and easily a treat in itself. Be sure to try Paxa Escolha (a white wine) it's local to the Algarve and phenomenal! Don't miss a chance to sip on Vinho Verde either if you haven't had it.