After spending a few days exploring Lisbon, we rented a car and drove 3 hours south to Lagos, one of the most popular destinations in the Algarve. This area of southern Portugal is known as home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
The old town of Lagos is full of history and character, with narrow cobbled streets, whitewashed houses, beautiful architecture and cozy cafés, all within partially-contained 16th-century walls. We looked at a lot of options for the best places to stay in Lagos – from beach resorts to countryside estates – and in the end decided we wanted to be in Lagos Old Town. So I found the cutest Airbnb right in the middle of town.
Speaking of our Airbnb, let’s talk a little about that experience! As much as we like the idea of an Airbnb adventure, we almost always stay in hotels, because we like the consistency of those experiences. For me, knowing exactly what to expect takes a lot of the headache out of traveling planning!
When I was looking for a place to stay in Lagos, I couldn’t find a hotel inside the old city walls (they’re mostly at the beach). So I booked the cutest Airbnb home. And it turned out to be an adventure indeed! We couldn’t figure out how to turn on the Swedish model heaters even though we found a Portuguese manual (Anderson’s first language) – a bit of a problem, considering that we were there the first week in January. So we tried to use the wood-burning stove and filled the entire place with thick, black smoke. We also couldn’t flush any toilet paper, a fairly common issue around the world, especially in places with very old plumbing. Just not one we’re used to dealing with! Also, the bathroom was downstairs, and the bedrooms were upstairs. Not a huge deal except for the first night when I headed down the freshly painted glossy white stairs and busted my butt on the way to the bathroom. Worst bruises I’ve ever had. But did I mention how cute the place was?! We’ve mostly stayed in hotels since this trip. 🙂
Exploring Lagos Old Town is the perfect balance to time on its beaches. We enjoyed the local shops, bakeries, and al fresco cafes. It is also an atmospheric place to try some traditional Portuguese cuisine too… the fresh seafood is delicious. A few of our favorite restaurants were Goji Lounge Cafe for outdoor breakfast/brunch on the cutest patio, Casa do Prego served up the best laid-back tapas (we loved this spot so much we went several times!), Qwazi Hamburgueria had some of the most unique hamburger flavor combos we’ve ever tasted, and we absolutely loved lining up with the locals to buy pastries at Padaria Central, the town bakery.
When we weren’t eating our way through Old Town Lagos, we went exploring and found some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world! On Anderson’s birthday we took a boat ride to the world famous Benagil Cave. We booked this tour and all agreed that it was one of the highlights of our trip. The boat tour was about 2 hours long and took us all along the rugged coastline. Out of all sea caves that dot the Algarve coastline, the Benagil Cave is the only one that has been eroded both from the side and the top. This unique natural process has resulted in an opening in the ceiling that allows the sunlight to brighten up the grotto and the beach hidden inside. This particular cave can only be accessed from the water, so tour boats tend to queue at the entrance to pass through this unique sea cave. Boat passengers are not allowed to disembark, but if you arrive by kayak or SUP you can explore the beach inside the cave.
If you have an opportunity to visit Portugal, I can’t recommend Lisbon and Lagos enough. The contrast between the bustling city and the laid-back beach made for the best vacation spot!