Lagos is the former capital of the Algarve, a hugely important town dating back to Portugal’s “Age of Discovery” when its explorers sailed throughout the world. “Henry the Navigator”, who was at the forefront of these adventures, lived in Lagos and it still has plenty of reminders of those times. Its old town has historic walls, while many of Portugal’s ships were built in the old shipyard.
It was the centre of the slave trade back in the day, and the largest city in Nigeria in West Africa took its name. A severe earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the second half of the 16th century caused significant damage. The result was that the capital became Faro, 90 kilometres (56 miles) to the east where damage was less severe.
The days of families enjoying travelling abroad for their holidays began just a few decades ago. At the beginning of the 1960s, air travel became both readily available and more economical. It led to families searching out warmer places if their homes were in many populous parts of Northern Europe where the climate was uncertain. The Algarve in Southern Portugal soon became a region that benefitted from this. Its small towns and villages and their infrastructure have gradually grown.
While its permanent population is just 22,000, those numbers multiply many times over in the high season. Lagos sits at the mouth of the Bensafrim River. Its lovely beaches, restaurants and vibrant nightlife are just some reasons for its popularity. Read on to find out the most popular things to do in Lagos.
- Lagos, Portugal
- Best Tour
- 20 Things To Do In Lagos
- 1- Take A Catamaran Trip
- 2- Cruise The Coast
- 3- Go Kayaking
- 4- Search For Dolphins
- 5- Try Out A Paddleboard
- 6- Taste Some Local Favourites
- 7- Book A Wine Tour
- 8- See What Is Under The Waves
- 9- Adventure On The Rocky Coast
- 10- Tour On Horseback
- 11- Enjoy A Quad
- 12- Head Out On A Jeep Safari
- 13- Learn To Surf
- 14- Slide & Splash
- 15- Tour The Coast On A Pedalo
- 16- Soar In A Hot Air Balloon
- 17- Join A Cooking Class
- 18- Laze On A Beach
- 19- Visit Lagos Zoo
- 20- Harness The Wind (Wind & Kitesurfing)
If you only have time for one tour from Lagos, take the Ponta da Piedade Boat Tour with a Local Guide to explore the incredible Ponta da Piedade caves and golden beaches.
20 Things To Do In Lagos
1- Take A Catamaran Trip
Sailing the waters off Lagos is wonderful and a catamaran cruise that takes the return journey from Lagos to Praia da Luz is a great way to enjoy time on the sea and the beach.
This Western Algarve coastline has impressive rock formations and lovely beaches.
As you head to your destination beach, you will pass stunning cliffs and Ponta da Piedade’s grottoes.
On arrival at Luz, you will see the tree-lined promenade.
Once you have anchored, you can swim or snorkel, or relax.
The leisurely return journey, drink in hand, completes a lovely day.
Recommended cruises: From Lagos: Algarve Cruise by Catamaran
2- Cruise The Coast
There are several cruise options on this coastline, with the journey between Lagos and Cabanas Velhas a popular choice.
You will dine aboard while you pass the lovely beaches, huge cliffs, Ponta da Piedade’s grottoes, and Praia da Luz’s black rock.
If you decide to snorkel, you will see colourful marine life, although riding the waves on a SUP board is possible.
You will anchor in a quiet bay close to the fishing village of Burgau.
Swimming, snorkelling, riding a paddleboard or just sipping a cocktail.
There is also a good chance of seeing dolphins on this trip as well.
Recommended cruise: From Lagos: Algarve Golden Coast Cruise
3- Go Kayaking
A guided kayaking tour is fun and suitable even for a novice.
This option starts at Praia de Batata and you can enter dark caves and moor and relax on a beach.
Safety gear comes with your booking, a few words on general use, then you head off in a double kayak towards Ponta de Piedade.
A support boat accompanies the kayaks with the guide taking you to a few interesting caves with their fascinating rock formations.
Halfway through your tour, you will get to a lovely beach and perhaps take a swim.
In total, the tour lasts around 2.5 hours.
4- Search For Dolphins
There is a tour that combines the chance to visit Benagil Cave along the Algarve’s dramatic coastline as well as search for any of the six species of dolphin that live in these waters.
Nothing in nature is guaranteed but you would be very unlucky not to catch sight of dolphins as you head along the coastline.
The trip is by speedboat so it is possible to cover quite an area in this 2.5-hour tour out of Lagos Marina.
On board you will have experienced marine biologists who will tell you more and answer any questions.
With luck, you will return home from Lagos, spreading the word about the importance of marine wildlife conservation.
Recommended tour: Lagos: Dolphin Watching & Benagil Cave Tour with a Marine Guide
5- Try Out A Paddleboard
How is your balance? A great and quiet way to enjoy these clear blue waters is to get a Stand-Up Paddleboard and test that very balance.
The impressive backdrop of cliffs and caves is your setting if you rent a paddleboard or, indeed, a kayak.
In both cases, you will get a safety talk and be given a life jacket before you start.
The choice of route is yours, maybe caves or beaches? This is especially fun if you are on holiday with your family and everyone of you takes part.
6- Taste Some Local Favourites
If you want to learn more about regional cuisine, a food tour heading to a series of taverns and restaurants is a great way to do it.
You can expect to sample several different dishes, all local and traditional favourites.
If you do this in the morning, you will also visit the Mercado (Market) Municipal de Lagos, where the colourful range of local produce will be laid out before you.
The tour lasts around 3 hours and visits neighbourhoods where the locals live, work, and eat.
This is an excellent tour at the beginning of your holiday because you can make very informed choices whenever you sit down for dinner in a restaurant.
Recommended tour: Lagos: 3-Hour Algarve Classic Food Tour
7- Book A Wine Tour
This is a famous wine-producing region and at the end of a three-hour tour, you will know far more about the process of growing grapes and then producing the wines themselves.
You will head to a local biological winery, Monte da Casteleja, or Quinta do Francês Winery.
Whichever you visit, the routine will be similar; a tour involving going into the cellars and listening to how wine is produced.
You can sample different wines at the end of the visit, with appetising tapas to accompany them.
Red, rose and white wines are all produced locally; the ones you will sample can depend on seasonal availability.
Recommended tour: Lagos: Algarve Organic Wine Tour in a Volkswagen T2 Van
8- See What Is Under The Waves
Anyone who has gone scuba diving in the waters off the Algarve will tell you that the marine life is rich and varied.
You can go to the Lagos Dive Centre to get all the equipment you need for scuba diving.
You will need certificate evidence that you are qualified to dive worldwide.
It is just a short boat trip out to the best diving spots and you will have a guide with you.
The guide will lead you as you enter the water.
You can expect to see plenty of marine life, including squid, octopus and cuttlefish, sea stars, sea cucumbers and anemones.
There is also plenty of fish hence the wide range available when you sit down for dinner each night.
Recommended tour: Lagos: Guided Scuba Diving Trip for Beginners.
9- Adventure On The Rocky Coast
It’s called Coasteering, a combination of swimming, cliff jumping, and rock climbing and the Algarve coastline is a perfect place to do it.
It may not be an activity for everyone, but it is a real adventure with experienced guides on hand to ensure that you will enjoy the experience.
The adventure lasts three hours and you begin by being fitted with safety equipment.
You can jump from varying heights with easy options for those who may be a little nervous There are climbs for different abilities, while of course, there are lovely waters and caves to explore.
If you want an adrenaline rush, this is a trip for you!
10- Tour On Horseback
A great way to explore the locality is on horseback.
It allows you to go off-road onto hidden pathways heading through lovely pine forests into areas of real natural beauty.
There is varied flora, lovely colours and trees and bushes bearing wild fruits.
You can expect plenty of excellent views down to the coast and the Atlantic beyond.
If you time your ride right, you will catch the lovely sunset on your journey back to base.
Recommended tour: Algarve: Horse Riding Beach Tour at Sunset or Morning
11- Enjoy A Quad
Quads are four-wheelers that are suitable for driving both on and off-road.
While they are rarely seen on roads in towns and cities, they are a popular way to explore a region in tourist areas.
You can hire a quad from the Lagos Marina to explore, with plenty of advice and assistance from the hirer.
Typically, you will head towards the famous beach, Meia Praia, the largest in Lagos.
It is then time to go off-road to Vale da Lama before heading back to the Marina, the route going through the dunes.
You can go at your own pace and stop for photos whenever you wish.
Recommended tour: Lagos: Guided Scenic Quad Tour
12- Head Out On A Jeep Safari
Another way to go off-road is on a jeep safari driven by an experienced local.
Jeeps are capable on travelling over most surfaces so there is little that can not be accessed, whether hills, valleys, meadows or streams.
You will not be driving so you can enjoy a drink with your lunch comprising traditional dishes.
“Medronho” is a distilled local drink you will sample at a small distillery.
You will get a real feel about ordinary daily life when you pass through a village.
Honey is a local favourite and you will see the traditional way villagers produce it.
Recommended tour: Algarve: Jeep Safari with Distillery Visit & Lunch
13- Learn To Surf
The seas off Lagos are safe but they are also suitable for surfing, including for those completely new to the activity.
A local instructor is on hand to go through the skills involved in surfing and of course, the boards are provided.
Don your wet suit and listen to the instructions on the basics.
You begin on a beach to hear the theory behind surfing.
The location for such a course will vary depending on the conditions of the day.
The whole course lasts around two hours but nothing stops you from testing out your skills later during your holiday.
Recommended tour: Algarve: 2-Hour Beginner Surf Lesson
14- Slide & Splash
Slide and Splash has more than 25 attractions, both activities and the chance to relax so it is great for families who can enjoy the different options available.
Whether you want a relaxing massage (perhaps mum?), visit the fish spa centre or try one of the rides.
There are pools and water slides for all to enjoy, foam slides specifically for youngsters the Tropical Paradise Water World.
Big Wave or Big Fall provides a real adrenalin rush, and afterwards, try any of the six dining establishments.
There is much more, but this will give you a flavour of Slide & Splash. Skip the line and book your entry tickets here.
15- Tour The Coast On A Pedalo
While a pedalo is not a quick way to travel any great distance, it is small enough to allow to access to places that larger craft will struggle to access.
You can explore a series of famous caves on a guided pedalo tour.
The important caves and beaches close to Lagos will be in your itinerary.
Starting at Lagos Marina, that itinerary includes the caves of Ponta da Piedade and the Golden Beaches of Batata.
Other inclusions are Pinhão, D. Ana, Camilo, Porto de Mós and Barranco Martinho.
Incidentally, the main caves have all been given names over the years: The Titanic, the Elephant, the Lover’s Cave and the Cathedral.
Recommended tour: Lagos: Ponta da Piedade Boat Tour with Local Guide
16- Soar In A Hot Air Balloon
You will get a different perspective of the region if you take a hot air balloon ride of Lagos and the immediate surroundings.
You will rise and pass silently over the region.
You get a safety talk as the balloon is being inflated and your trip lasts for around an hour, soaring between 3,000 feet (915 metres) and 500 feet (152 feet).
Follow the safety instructions as you land, then enjoy a glass of champagne as you look at the beautiful photos you have taken during your time in the skies.
17- Join A Cooking Class
One way to remember your Lagos holiday is to take cookery lessons so that you can serve the region’s traditional dishes back at home in the months and years to come.
You will find courses for anything up to 10 people most midweek days, either at lunchtime or dinnertime.
In high season, you will find such courses are very popular so you will need to book in advance.
Caldeirada de Peixe is a traditional Portuguese fish stew and learning to prepare something like that is great fun.
Everything used in its preparation and in typical appetisers will come fresh from the market.
18- Laze On A Beach
There are many tours and activities that you can book during your holiday in Lagos.
You might also want to wander down to a beach alone, with your partner or the family.
There are plenty of local sands where you can do that.
The sands are on the doorstep of Lagos, just a very short walk.
Try the Praia de Dona Ana and Camilo coves or the lovely sand at Meia Praia.
Praia da Batata is the closest beach to the town, so it can be busy, especially at weekends during high season.
19- Visit Lagos Zoo
Lagos Zoo is just outside Lagos itself but is easily accessible.
It is not huge, with around 120 species, but it is a place that children, particularly, will love.
Lovely landscaped subtropical gardens house many exotic birds like pelicans, flamingos, toucans and parrots.
You will see dwarf crocodiles, pygmy hippos, and many different primates.
Children can feed farm animals while there are two playgrounds to enjoy.
“O Cangalho” Restaurant serves traditional Portuguese food or take a picnic.
20- Harness The Wind (Wind & Kitesurfing)
Faro has a well-developed tourist infrastructure with equipment of all kinds for hire and tour companies that run different activities by day.
The long stretches of beach allow for windsurfing but be sure to look for quiet stretches of sand.
If you prefer to harness the wind by rising into the skies, you will also have the chance to go kite surfing, pulled along by a speedboat.
There is significant demand for both activities in high season, so be prepared to wait if you have not booked in advance.
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