Are you dreaming about a relaxing vacation in the Algarve? Then Lagos must definitely be on your list! And it most probably is, otherwise, you wouldn’t have clicked on this article, right?
Luckily for you, my complete guide to Lagos below will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about the best things to do in Lagos, where to stay, where to eat, how to get there and all that jazz.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
First of all, where is Lagos located and why should I visit?
Lagos is a lovely town located in Southern Portugal, in the Algarve region. Lagos is 301 km away from Lisbon, the capital. And here’s a map of Lagos, Algarve, so you can clearly understand its location:
WHY SHOULD I BOTHER, THOUGH?
Hah, for so many reasons! First of all, Lagos is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in all of the Algarve. And that says a lot, trust me! Lagos seems to be taken out of a movie. Picture this: narrow cobblestoned streets, clear turquoise waters, perfectly soft golden sand, seafood dishes, hiking opportunities, kayaking to reach rocky caves, dolphin watching. If Lagos doesn’t sound like THE perfect beach destination for your next vacation, I don’t know what else to say!
And the best thing is that, although people from all over the world flock to Lagos to enjoy everything it has to offer, the small town has preserved its charm and it hasn’t become too overcrowded (yet). So now’s the best time to pack your bags and plan your Lagos itinerary!
LAGOS OR ALBUFEIRA?
Albufeira and Lagos are probably the two most popular destinations in the Algarve. So which one should you choose? If you want a vibrant, touristy place that never sleeps, I recommend Albufeira. If you prefer a laid-back, authentic vibe, then Lagos is for you.
Lagos Travel Guide - 11 Fun things to do in Lagos, Portugal
1 - Lay on the beach
Of course, how could I NOT start my list with the beaches? Dona Ana Beach, Praia Camillo… Ah, the beaches in Lagos! I still dream of them! In fact, Lagos has some of the most beautiful beaches on the entire Algarve coast (and probably also the world too) and they all have perfect water, pretty sand and stunning cliffs and rock formations. Here are some of the top beaches in Lagos:
- Praia do Camilo / Camilo Beach
- Meia Praia Beach
- Praia Dona Ana
- Praia Grande
- Praia dos Estudantes
- and more…
RELATED READ: This was just a brief introduction to the subject, but if you’re interested to read more about the best beaches in Lagos, I recommend checking out my dedicated article: Ultimate Guide: 10 Best Beaches in Lagos, Algarve
2 - Go to Ponta da Piedade
Ponta da Piedade is not only one of the top things to do in Lagos, but in the entire Algarve region too! Ponta da Piedade is surrounded by seaside caves, cliffs and natural limestone arches and it offers a superb setting for watching the sunrise or sunset. It’s the perfect spot to admire Algarve’s coastline on both sides, so make sure you don’t forget your camera, I promise you, it’s stunning! If you follow the stairs down, you’ll reach the calm, turquoise waters and you can even take a boat tour from here.
You can reach Ponta da Piedade by yourself in two ways: by car in roughly 5 minutes (rented car or taxi) or by walking a cliffside trail for half an hour from Lagos. Easy-peasy and definitely worth it if you’re feeling active!
Alternatively, you can also take a grotto tour from the Marina. Although it’s not compulsory, it’s very useful (and fun!) if you want to see as many caves in a short amount of time. Plus, you’ll also be able to pass through the arches and enter caves, something you won’t be able to do if you simply get there by land. Oh, and make sure you don’t omit the Elephant Cave, it’s one of the highlights of this place!
Here are my recommended tours to Ponta da Piedade:
3 - Explore Lagos Old Town and Igreja de Santo António
Although the beaches of Lagos are stunning, let’s not disregard the Old Town either! Narrow streets, old, whitewashed buildings, churches, surf shops, markets, and more – get ready for some Lagos sightseeing, my friends!
Walking around the Old Town is a nice activity by itself, but I cannot help but mention the highlight of this part of the city – the 18th century Igreja de Santo António (Santo Antonio Church). Although the building looks rather boring on the outside, it’s the inside that matters. So don’t be afraid and step into the church where you’ll discover intricate wooden carvings, vaulted ceiling and colourful paintings. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday.
4 - Take a boat ride
You simply cannot go to Portugal Lagos and not take the opportunity to admire the coastline with its caves, rock formations and interesting cliffs. And no, seeing it from the beach is not enough, that’s why I recommend taking a boat ride! Most hidden gems such as natural caves and arches can only be accessed by boat or kayak, which makes the entire process of discovering them even more interesting. A cruise with a local guide will take you to all the best spots and hidden beaches, and I think that’s amazing!
You can either rent a boat or take a boat tour from Lagos’ Marina or choose from one of the options below (hand-picked by me, can be booked in advance):
5 - Try some water sports - SUP, kayaking, surfing, diving
What makes Lagos so great for water sports is its multiple beaches facing different directions, which means you’ll have both calm waters AND rolling waves, depending on where you’re going. How amazing is that? If you’re an adrenaline lover, doing some water sports is definitely one of the best things to do in the Algarve region for you! Here are your options:
KAYAKING. I usually prefer kayaking to boat tours, as it’s a way more relaxing activity, it’s more adventurous and you won’t be cramped along with other tourists on the same cruise. You can rent a kayak for the day at the Marina and go on a discovery adventure to find secret beaches yourself or you can book a kayak tour – your choice! I recommend this tour.
SUP. SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) is a super fun way to discover the surrounding area by yourself – plus, it counts as exercise! You will basically sit on a board (think of a big, buoyant surfboard) and you’ll handle it using a paddle. In case you haven’t done this before, you can book a guided experience with a local guide that will tell you everything you need to know. I recommend this one.
SURFING. Surfing is one of the top Lagos attractions (and Sagres too) because you can practice this activity all. year. long. The temperatures are perfect in summer, but pretty cold in winter, the waves are great and the surf schools are ready to welcome you. If you’re a complete beginner and have never surfed before, Lagos is the perfect place to learn. And if you’re an experienced surfer, you’ll surely love the beaches here. And if you get bored, you can always take a day trip to Sagres and surf there for a change. Meia Praia, Praia da Luz, Porto do Mos and Tonel in Sagres are some excellent surfing beaches.
WINDSURFING. The wind in Lagos makes it a perfect spot for this activity and Praia da Luz is THE place to go for windsurfing.
KITESURFING. If you’re into extreme sports, I recommend taking a short trip to Alvor Lagoon (30 minutes away by car) near Lagos and try some kitesurfing!
SCUBA DIVING. All scuba diving fans will surely fall in love with Portugal! You have tons of dive sites to explore if you have the certificate; if you don’t, you can learn how to scuba dive right here in Lagos or you can go for an intro dive with a guide. Plenty of diving centres to choose from! ScubaLagos is one with great reviews.
6 - Go on a dolphin watching tour
I know I mentioned the boat excursions before, but some dolphin watching in Lagos is simply something else! These types of tours will take you away from the shores to spot some dolphins in the deeper waters, but there’s one thing to note about them: nobody can guarantee you’ll actually see them, it all depends on your luck! Although truth be told, the chances are pretty high. I recommend this tour or this dolphin and whale watching tour.
7 - Forte da Ponta da Bandeira
Forte da Ponta da Bandeira is a 17th-century maritime fort built to protect Lagos from pirates in the old days. Nowadays it’s one of the best things to see when you’re done with all the water activities! I recommend crossing the drawbridge and taking a look at the chapel inside and the roof as well. Oh, and make sure to check out the view of the sea and the coast too, it’s so pretty!
8 - Walk on Carvoeiro Boardwalk
If you like walking on boardwalks, then you must add this activity to your itinerary. Carvoeiro Boardwalk is an 800 meters long walk during which you can spot beautiful birds and soak in the laid-back atmosphere. At the end of it, you can indulge in a yummy lunch in Carvoeiro and, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll also be able to spot dolphins in the distance!
9 - Taste a traditional Cataplana-style dish
The local dishes are one of the top attractions when it comes to Portugal. After all, just think of Portugal’s proximity to the ocean and all the traditional dishes made with freshly caught fish and seafood! Yummm.
One of the must-try dishes in Lagos is the traditional Cataplana dish. Cataplana indicates both the name of the dish and the name of the cookware used to prepare it. It’s basically a big copper pot with a lid, usually used to prepare seafood and rice – Cataplana de marisco! It’s similar to a paella, it’s meant to be shared by at least two people and it’s super delicious.
Other must-try local dishes in Lagos are: caldo verde (kale and potato soup), fried squid, grilled sardines, petiscos de taberna (Portuguese tapas), poached mackerel, pork with clams and goose barnacles.
If you’re curious about the best restaurants in Lagos, scroll down to find my dedicated section with hand-picked recommendations.
10 - People-watch at Lagos Marina
I know I mentioned the Lagos Marina before, mostly as a well-known spot from where you can take boat tours or rent kayaks, but now it’s time to discuss it the proper way. Lagos Marina (Marina de Lagos) is a modern harbour right in the heart of the city and the perfect place to find amazing restaurants, bars and ice cream shops. It’s also an ideal spot for people-watching or attending an open-air live concert or performance. The perfect way to end your day!
11 - Enter the mesmerising Benagil Cave
Benagil Cave is definitely one of the top Lagos attractions – and the most famous natural cave in all of Portugal as well. It’s a large cave with cliffs, sinkholes and a small, hidden beach inside it – how awesome is that?!
If you want to visit by yourself, you can get to Benagil Cave by kayak or SUP (swimming there is NOT recommended), but make sure to go early in the morning, before 9 AM, when the tours arrive and the boats come in. Alternatively, you can book an organised tour that will take you there. I recommend this tour from Lagos.
BONUS: Extra things to do in Lagos, Portugal
In case you’re spending more than a few days in Lagos on your visit and you find yourself out of things to do, no worries, I got you! Here’s my list of extra tourist attractions in Lagos you can explore for a wonderful time:
- Golf – yes, you can practice your golf while you’re in Lagos! The town has stunning golf courses overlooking the ocean – what more can you wish for when you tee off? The most unconventional course is surely the one at Pro Putting Garden, meant to be enjoyed by the entire family – ask for the “crazy golf circuit” and try to beat their record, I dare you!
- Seven Hanging Valleys Trail – in the mood for a hike? This one’s for you! This coastal hike (“Percurso do Sete Vales Suspenso”) is only a short car ride away from Lagos and it will take you 6 hours roundtrip to complete it. It’s 6km long, 12 km roundtrip. It may sound challenging, but there will be so many photo opportunities along the way, you will definitely forget about the workout! You can also stop on the beaches along the trail and take a dip if you find yourself overheating. At the end of the trail, you’ll get to see Benagil Cave and the ocean from above – an unforgettable view!
- Ancient Slave Market / Antigo Mercado de Escravos – It sounds awful, I know. Sadly, it is exactly what you expect it to be: a place where slave trades used to happen. This is, in fact, Europe’s first slave market and it dates from the 15th century. I recommend visiting the museum for a taste of history.
- Lagos Fish Market – not really a tourist attraction, more like a local spot. Still! I definitely recommend taking a walk through this local fish market to learn more about Lagos’ everyday life; you can also buy fresh seafood, fruit, veggies, cheese, sauces and other Portuguese goodies. The market is located right across the street from Lagos Marina.
- Wax Museum of the Discoveries – A newly built museum dedicated to the Age of Discoveries in the Algarve, probably the most exciting historical period in this region. I recommend it to history buffs wanting to learn more about the history and battles of Portugal and the way the entire coastal region became more and more important over time.
- Lagos Zoo – if you visit Lagos with your little ones and they’re all tired of the beach, this is the best activity I can recommend! You can see numerous fishes, mammals, birds and reptiles at Lagos Zoo – in fact, there are more than 350 inhabitants there!
- Igreja Paroquial de Santa Maria de Lagos – another beautiful church and one of the oldest buildings in the entire town.
- Science Museum / Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos – ideal spot to go if you want to spend some time inside. It’s basically an 18th century house hosting a science museum that explains everything you need to know about astronomy, cartography, morse code, shipbuilding and 3D printers. And other mysteries of the universe as well, perfect to discover together with the entire family!
Best Lagos tours by type of traveller
Why spend precious time planning your Lagos itinerary when you can book some organised experiences and excursions? The local guides are more than happy to show you around the most exciting attractions during your visit, so this way you know you won’t be missing anything important – such as dolphin watching, for example.
Here are some hand-picked tours in Lagos for all types of visitors:
- From Lagos: Algarve Golden Coast 4-Hour Cruise – for all travellers that want to explore the beautiful coastline;
- 75-Minute Boat Cruise to Ponta da Piedade – for those wanting to cruise to the stunning Ponta da Piedade, one of the #1 attractions around;
- 2-Hour Kayak Cave Explorer Tour – for adventurous visitors that want to visit the surrounding caves;
- 3-Hour Algarve Classic Food Tour – for all my foodies out there;
Where to stay in Lagos, Portugal
There are different areas to choose from when it comes to Lagos and I’m talking about all of them together with my hand-picked hotel recommendations in this dedicated article: Where to Stay in Lagos, Portugal. But I’ll still make a short round-up of the best accommodations below if you’re in a hurry:
BIG SPLURGE. Cascade Wellness Resort – definitely the best hotel in Lagos!
MID-RANGE HOTEL. Hotel Marina Rio
BUDGET HOTEL. Suites Inn Lagos
HOSTEL. Orange3 Hostel
APARTMENT. Apartamentos Pinhão
Best restaurants in Lagos, Algarve
As I mentioned before, the food in Lagos (and the entire Algarve) is a must, especially if you like seafood and pastries (obviously not together!).
Here’s my list of recommended restaurants in Lagos to check out during your trip:
- O Camilo – seafood restaurant right above Praia do Camillo;
- Tasca do Kiko – for delicious tapas;
- Restaurante a Forja – for authentic Portuguese food;
- Tasca Jota – very good Portuguese food as well;
- The Green Room – for yummy tacos paired with fresh cocktails;
- Maharaja Tasty Indian – if you want to take a break from the fresh fish and try some excellent Indian food instead;
- Black and White – best coffee in town;
- Bon Vivant – excellent bar for cocktails and a rooftop view;
- Stevie Ray’s – best live music bar.
How to get around in Lagos
The good news is that Lagos is extremely walkable. The bad news is that, if you don’t want to walk, you won’t have many public transportation options, sadly. But here’s what I recommend:
MY TOP RECOMMENDATION: RENT A CAR. This is the most comfortable option of getting around Lagos, including from your hotel to the beaches (Praia do Camilo, Praia Dona Ana, Meia Praia etc.). It’s also the best option if you’re doing a road trip around Portugal, Algarve or any other region – totally recommended, it’s so fun! You can check for updated prices and offers for rental cars in Portugal here. The price is usually around 100€ for an entire week with a small car, which I think is pretty affordable.
BY ONDA BUS. You can take the #1 bus that circles the whole of Lagos. One ride is 1.20€ and a day ticket is 3.60€.
BY TAXI. Although surely more expensive than taking the bus or walking, taxis are a reliable, quick way to get from point A to point B. The starting price is 3.30€ and then it’s 1.50€ per kilometre, so you can see how that can quickly add up. Make sure you have Google Maps open to show the address to the driver just to make sure you’re going to the right spot.
BY BIKE. A super nice idea would be to rent a bike for a day – it will take you around Lagos while also providing a nice, breezy activity! The price is usually 10€ for 4 hours or 13€ for an entire day. I recommend Lagos Bike Tours for bike rentals.
How to get to Lagos, Portugal
Now that you know all about the best things to do here, where to stay and where to eat as well, let’s find out one of the most important things – how to get to this incredible town on the coast!
You have different options for this:
BY PLANE. Portugal only has 3 international airports: Lisbon, Porto and Faro. Porto is the furthest away from Lagos, so it’s a no-go unless it’s your starting point for an extensive road trip through Portugal. Lisbon has lots of flight options, but it will most probably take you an entire day to reach Lagos unless you rent a car. The distance is almost 300 km from Lisbon to Lagos. Finally, the closest airport is Faro Airport (FAO), 90 km away. From here, you can take a car, train, bus (from Faro city centre, not the airport) or direct shuttle from the airport (more expensive). I don’t recommend taking a taxi, as the final price is around 100€ without luggage fees and tolls.
BY TRAIN. Faro to Lagos by train is 1h45’ and 7.50€ one-way. There are 13 trains per day on this route. Lisbon to Lagos by train is 4 hours and around 30€ one-way, but you’ll have to switch trains at Tunes. There are 38 trains per day on this route. Regardless of your starting point, you must always buy your train ticket BEFORE boarding the train in Portugal. You can use the ticket machines in the station, or the ticket booths.
BY BUS. Faro to Lagos by express bus is 2 hours and 5.50€. There’s no bus that takes you directly from the airport to Lagos; instead, you’ll have to take bus no. 16 (2.25€) to Faro bus terminal in the centre, then take the express bus from there. Lisbon to Lagos by bus is around 4 hours and there are around 30 buses per day. The price is around 20€.
BY CAR. The easiest and most convenient option! There are 90 km from Faro to Lagos, which is 1 hour by car. There are 300 km between Lisbon and Lagos, which is 2h30’ by car. The best part about this option is you can be anywhere in Portugal and take a car to Lagos. Plus, you’ll have all the flexibility in the world and driving in Portugal is very easy. Great roads, relaxed drivers – what more can you wish for? You can check for prices and available cars here.
Aaand this was my complete guide to Lagos Portugal! In this post I have told you literally everything you need to know when planning your trip and itinerary to this amazing town – the best places to go in Lagos for sightseeing or water sports, some great hotels to choose from, where to eat in Lagos, how to get there and how to move around – and more!
If you want to read more about Algarve or Portugal in general, I recommend clicking here to find all my dedicated posts about this incredible country.