LAGOS is one of the Algarve’s most attractive and historic towns, its centre enclosed in largely fourteenth-century walls at the mouth of the Ribeira de Bensafrim. It was from here that many of Portugal’s great explorers set off for the New World, including Gil Eanes, who was born here. In 1577, Lagos became the administrative capital of the Algarve, though much of the town was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and Faro took over as capital in 1776. Lagos went into long decline, until tourism revived the town in the 1960s. Since then it has developed into a major resort – though it also remains a working fishing port and local market centre. For all its historical significance, Lagos’s main attraction is its proximity to some of the region’s best beaches. To the east is the long sweep of Meia Praia, while to the west – from Praia de Dona Ana to Porto do Mós – is an extraordinary network of coves, pierced by tunnels and grottoes and studded by weathered outcrops of rock. Popular boat trips run along the west coast all year round, while a popular side trip is inland to Lagos Zoo.
The coast west of Lagos, as far as Sagres, remains one of the least spoiled parts of the Algarve, largely thanks to the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina which prohibits large-scale building on the coastline west of Burgau. As a result, the resorts – certainly west of Luz at Burgau and Salema – remain largely low-rise and low-key.Read More
Some 10km west of Lagos lies BURGAU. The cobbled main street retains some charm, running right through the village and tumbling down past colourful fishing boats to a wide sweep of sand, backed by crumbling cliffs. In July and August the village is somewhat mobbed, but at other times it retains a distinct character, with locals grilling fish on tiny grills outside their homes. Unless you’re here on a pre-booked holiday, you’ll find it tough to locate accommodation in summer, though signs scattered around the village advertise rooms in private houses.
Just 20km west of Lagos, down a delightful semi-cultivated valley, SALEMA remains one of the most popular resorts along this stretch, certainly for independent travellers who have numerous accommodation options. The beachside promenade is cluttered with brightly coloured boats. The fairly homogeneous white splodge of apartment and villa construction spreads back up the valley, leaving the old village to the east of the harbour largely untouched. The beach – a wide, rock-sheltered bay – is magnificent: in winter, the sea comes crashing right up to the edge of the village.