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. 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 de Mós – you’ll find the series of coves, caves and rock stacks for which the Algarve is best known. Boat trips run along the coast all year round, while a popular side-trip is inland to Lagos Zoo.
During the early 1400s, Prince Henry the Navigator lived for much of his time in Lagos while he was developing his sea school in nearby Sagres. Over the next century it was from Lagos that many of Portugal’s great explorers set off for the New World, including local boy Gil Eanes, who in 1434 became the first European to round Cape Bojador (today’s Western Sahara). In 1577, Lagos became the administrative capital of the Algarve and within a year, Portugal’s Crusader king Dom Sebastião gathered his troops in the town before their disastrous failed Crusade to Morocco, when the king and most of his court were killed in the battle of Alcácer-Quibrir; in Praça Gil Eanes, an oddly undignified statue commemorates the monarch. Much of Lagos was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and Faro took over as capital in 1776. As a result the town went into a long decline, until tourism revived its fortunes in the 1960s. Since then it has developed into a major resort – though it also remains a working fishing port and local market centre.