Lagos is one of the most visited places in the western Algarve region. This city is a must see for anyone looking for beaches, sea views, cliffs, culture, and nightlife.
The historic city center, with its churches and cobblestone squares, is surrounded by the walls of Lagos Castle. The castle was originally built during the Roman period.
Pay a visit to Ponta da Bandeira. This fortification was built in the 17th century to protect the port from attack. Inside, you’ll find a beautifully tiled chapel dedicated to Santa Barbara, who was often invoked to protect from incoming storms. At this location, you will also find an exhibit dedicated to the history of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
It is also worth paying a visit to the Slave Market Museum. At one point in time, Lagos was the center of the European slave trade. Today, this museum stands as a reminder of a dark and often forgotten, part of European history.
You cannot plan a holiday visit Lagos without making a trip to Ponta da Piedade, one of the most iconic places in the Algarve. The constant pounding of the waves has shaped these rock formations, creating grottos, caves, pillars, and arches. There are a few ways to take in the views at Ponta da Piedade. You can explore from the water via boat tour, or for the more adventurous, via kayak or stand up paddleboard. For those who would rather stay on land, there are many trails, paths, and boardwalks presenting one of the best ways to explore the Algarve coast.
For a beach holiday, Lagos will not disappoint. Praia Dona Ana is located along the Ponta da Piedade. With golden cliffs and turquoise water, it isn’t hard to see why this is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
Located just 6km from Lagos is Praia da Luz. This former fishing village contains a calm, relaxing beach that is perfect for a day trip. The town itself is packed with family owned and operated restaurants offering authentic Portuguese food. This is a perfect spot for people traveling with children or who are looking to take a break from the party scene in Lagos.
If you are in Lagos in August, check out Banho 29, a festival that takes place on the 29th of August, celebrating the start of summer. The day often involves picnics, swimming in the sea, and fireworks at midnight!
With many places to stay, Lagos is a perfect place to situate yourself for a holiday in the western Algarve. Portimao, Vila do Bispo, Sagres and Aljezur are all nearby and some of the regions famous golf courses are only a short drive away.
For foodies, golfers, and those looking for luxury, Loulé is the perfect holiday destination.
This area of the Algarve stretches from the mountains to the ocean, encompassing a world of wonders in between!
The municipality of Loulé attracts golfers all year round. Golf courses can be found near the towns of Almancil, Quarteira, and Vilamoura in the southern part of the region. Some of the most popular golf courses are inside the gated resort of Quinta do Lago and at Vale do Lobo which is set along the cliff’s edge and looks out into the Atlantic ocean.
For those visiting Quinta do Lago in Almancil, you will find a restaurant for every taste and culinary interest. Whether you want fresh Mediterranean produce, fresh fish, or tapas by the swimming pool, you’ll find it here. The resort contains more than one Michelin Star restaurant. Foodies looking for a true food adventure could do worse!
Of course, there is still plenty to see, do, and EAT, in other areas of Loulé. In the city proper, you can take in the Moorish architecture while shopping the local market.
If you are visiting Loulé in August, be sure to check out Noite Branca (White Night), a festival celebrating the end of summer. People flood the streets, dressed from head to toe in white while local artisans and musicians perform and celebrate another summer.
There is plenty to do in Loulé for families on holiday. About 15 minutes outside of Loulé, in Quarteira, there is an aquapark. The Aquashow Park has everything you need for a day of fun: waterslides, swimming pools, animal shows, and a roller coaster.
If in search of a party, take a visit to Vilamoura. Vilamoura is home to one of the largest marinas in Europe. It is here you will find celebrity yachts and may even catch a glimpse of the rich and famous visiting the Casino Vilamoura or relaxing on one of the nearby beaches.
As is the case with Albufeira, if you are in Vilamoura, you must visit the red cliffs and sandy beaches of Praia da Falesia found just to the west of the marina. On the east side of the marina, you can visit Praia de Vilamoura. This beach stretches all the way to Quarteira. And if you manage to make it all the way to Quarteira, be sure to try the cataplana. This local specialty is a seafood rice stew that you won’t find anywhere else!
Carvoeiro is a lovely, tiny, former fishing village set among the golden cliffs on the coast. This is a popular holiday spot and there are plenty of hotels and resorts dotting the cliffs. As a home base for your vacation, it doesn’t get much better with must-see sites and towns all found within 15 minutes of Carvoeiro.
While Praia do Carvoeiro is only a tiny beach, it has a lot to offer. Sheltered by the town’s cliffs, this beach is a great place for relaxed swimming but you can also participate in a range of activities out on the water, including jet skiing, paddle boating, scuba diving, and boat tours to the sea caves.
The Algar de Benagil is only 10 minutes away and is more than worth the trip. This stunning cave has a round hole in the ceiling known as ‘the eye’ creating a glimpse of impossibly clear blue among the gold rock and shimmering ocean. You can take a boat tour to Algar de Benagil from Carvoeiro or travel to Praia de Benagil where you can kayak, stand up paddleboard, or swim the 200 meters to the cave.
15 minutes from Carvoeiro, in Caramujeira, is the truly stunning Praia da Marinha. This is probably one of the most impressive beaches in the Algarve and you should make time to take it all in. Before descending the staircase to the beach, check out the panoramic views. It is truly something to behold. The beach itself is soft and clean and at low tide, you can walk along it explore curious rock formations like the famous “M” rock or the Cathedral.
If you don’t want to actually stay in the hotels and resorts of Carvoeiro, you can stay just outside of town at the Vila Vita Parc luxury hotel in Porches. This hotel has plenty of restaurants and bars on site and enough amenities and special off-site packages to fill your entire holiday!
If beaches and resort towns aren’t really your thing, you must stay in Monchique. This town is found in the Serra de Monchique mountain range of the northern Algarve.
The town’s buildings unfurl themselves down the side of the mountain, surrounded by the bright greenery of the pine and eucalyptus forests.
It is here that you will find Foia, the highest point in the Algarve. From here you can take in the panoramic views of one of the most breathtaking places on earth. On your way to the top, be sure to stop at the Picota viewpoint. From this spot, you can see all the way out to the southern coast!
For a little rest and relaxation, pay a visit to Caldas de Monchique, a spa town located just below Monchique itself. This location is known for its thermal springs that are said to hold healing properties. Slip into a thermal pool and feel your cares melt away.
In most of the Algarve, seafood is everything but in Monchique, pork is the star of most dishes. Be sure to try the sausages known as farinheira. But this region is probably most famous for making the best medronho in Portugal. Medronho is a strong spirit made from the fruit of the arbutus tree. Pay a visit to Parque da Mina, a small theme park set on an old farm. Here you can learn about the region’s history, feed the animals and visit a medronho distillery.
While Monchique is popular for hiking and bird-watching holidays, it also has some interesting historical buildings that are worth seeing. The Igreja de São Sebastião is a church dating back to the 16th century. There are also lots of crafts shops around where you can buy anything from wicker baskets to wooden spoons and sculptures. Be sure to visit the famous market that takes place on the second Monday of every month. There you will find a wealth of crafts and tasty local delicacies like smoked sausages!
If visiting in March, check out the Festival das Camelias. This is an annual festival that celebrates an “icon” of Monchique, the Camellia flower. It is a beautiful and unique experience that you will not soon forget. But if flowers aren’t your thing, visit the Feira dos Enchidos Tradicionais. This traditional fair, also in March, is dedicated to cured sausages. Delicious food in a beautiful setting, it doesn’t get much better.
No matter your interests or budget, there is no shortage of things to see in the Algarve. Now that you have a list of places to stay, it’s time to start the planning. At Iberian Escapes, we have created a range of holiday packages to make sure that your trip to the Algarve is a dream come true. Contact us today to get started!