Lagos is quickly becoming one of the best destinations in Portugal. It’s the perfect place for some summer sun and the quaint streets are certainly charming. The best thing about this destination, though, is that there’s so much to do. Today we’re breaking down 20 of the best things to do in Lagos Portugal.
Why Visit Lagos Portugal?
I have such fond memories of walking this sleepy old town in the mornings, as shutters began to open and the sweet smell of pasteis de nata escaped through bakery windows. Outside of its charming streets though, the fiery orange coastline resembles another world, with golden arches erupting from the cold waters and rocky tunnels leading to hidden coves.
It’s this side of Lagos that lends itself so perfectly to adventure. There’s something about the crashing waves and foreboding rocky structures that begs you to explore beyond its shores.
Today I want to share the best ways to do just that – to get the most out of this old Portuguese town that extends far beyond the pleasant walls of any hotel pool. Whilst you can absolutely spend your days relaxing in the confines of a lovely hotel (the weather there is glorious after all!), there’s also the promise of adventure for those who are willing to look for it, which is what makes Lagos so very special.
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Best Things to Do in Lagos Portugal
1. Try a Pastel De Nata at Pastelaria Gomba
One of the best things to do in Lagos Portugal is trying some traditional Portuguese food. Pasteis de nata are Portuguese custard tarts dusted with cinnamon. They’re every bit as delicious as they sound. In fact, my only regret is that I didn’t try these sooner!
These sweet treats were actually created by Catholic monks in the 18th century. Monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites to starch their clothes and would used the leftover yolks to make pastries and cakes. One of which was the delicious pastel de nata!
The most famous place to find these little tarts is at Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon but here in Lagos, the best ones come from Pastelaria Gomba.
They’re usually taken out of the oven at around 9:30-10:00am, so if you want them warm and fresh, make a morning trip. If you’d prefer a cold snack in the Portuguese heat, wait a little longer before picking some up. At only €1 a pop, I guarantee you’ll be going back for more!
R. Candido do Reis 56, 8600-583
Open Monday-Saturday, 8am-7pm
2. Visit Benagil Cave
If you do one thing during your stay, make it this. Visiting Benagil Sea Cave is one of the best things to do in Lagos Portugal (if not, the best).
30 minutes outside of Lagos is the breathtaking Benagil Cave, or Great de Benagil as it’s known by the locals. This is a beautiful cave that can only be reached by water. This makes for a great excursion.
This sea cave is often considered to be one of the best in the world thanks to its soft sands and expansive dome stretching 20m high. There are plenty of excellent kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding tours that allow you to explore this phenomenal natural wonder, which is only accessible via sea. Make sure to book in advance as spaces can fill up quickly!
We personally did a stand up-paddle boarding tour and had the best time. I’ve written a whole blog post about the best way to visit Benagil Cave. Check it out if you want more tips or want to know which tour operator we used.
Most tours leave from Benagil Beach. The easiest way to get here is to order a taxi or Uber from your hotel. They’ll drop you right off at the beachfront.
If you want an in-depth guide to visiting Benagil Cave, including how to get there, check out this blogpost!
3. Watch the Sunrise at Praia do Camilo
If you don’t mind setting your alarm a little early, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the sun rising over the water at this picturesque beach. The flaming orange rock formations, soft sands, and steep wooden steps make Praia do Camilo one of the most famous beaches in the area. Its beauty is only heightened by the gorgeous golden light that bathes its sands early in the morning.
This spot is popular amongst locals and tourists alike, with many runners stopping here to take in the beautiful views. It’s truly one of the best things to do in Lagos Portugal (and is worth the early wake-up call!).
Want to know more about the best beaches in Lagos, including how to get there? Check out this post!
Make sure to check what time the sunset starts before you leave. I’d recommend getting there a bit early so you can find yourself a good vantage point on the steps.
4. Go Dolphin Watching
If you want to get a feel for some of the wildlife in the Algarve, why not try dolphin watching? Seeing wild bottle-nosed dolphins swimming and jumping in their natural environment is truly magical.
Whilst you might be able to spot them on your own, I’d recommend signing up for a tour. The tour guides are very experienced and know all of the best spots. You’ll have a much better chance of seeing the dolphins with their local expertise.
This is one of the more exciting activities available. It has to be one of the best things to do in Lagos Portugal.
5. Explore the Old Town
Lagos is one of the most charming towns in the Algarve. Exploring the cobbled streets, tiled buildings, and unique doorways is a great way to spend a morning.
If you enjoy photography, you’ll probably find yourself doing more standing than strolling, as every building evokes the classic charm of Portugal. I found myself stopping for photographs on every corner!
Make sure to check out one of the towns prettiest spots – the emerald green building that stands in the main square. This impressive piece of architecture is actually a gift shop called Obrigado!
Whilst it might not be as exciting as other activities on this list, I still think that exploring this beautiful old town is one of the best things you can do in Lagos Portugal.
Praca Luis de Camoes 3 4, 8600-315
6. Go Kayaking
If hands-on exploring is more your vibe, then kayaking is the perfect way to explore the beautiful waters. There are plenty of kayaking tours with experienced guides who can take you to all of the best spots.
Kayaking tours generally last around 2.5 hours. They’ll take you around the headland to beautiful hidden beaches, only accessible by water. This is a great way to see parts of Lagos that you wouldn’t otherwise!
Alternatively, you can simply hire your own kayak and explore solo. I’d only recommend doing this if you feel confident kayaking and have prior experience. Make sure to do plenty of research if you go it alone, so you don’t miss out on any of the hidden sights.
Things to Do in Lagos Portugal
7. Go On a Grotto Tour
If you fancy grabbing a different view of the gorgeous Portuguese coastline, hop onto one of the popular boat tours. These small speed boats take you through all of the grottos, allowing you to get up close and personal with the stunning scenery of the Algarve.
This is perfect for those wanting to explore the waters in a more relaxing way. Sometimes kayaking can be hard work!
The tours generally last around 75 minutes and cost about £18. This is one of the best things to do in Lagos Portugal, if you’re short on time!
8. Do the Seven Hanging Valleys Hike
This 7.4 mile trail runs along the Algarve’s rocky coast and boasts gorgeous views of the wild sea and sun-kissed cliffs.
It’s not a circular route, so you’ll have to organise a drop-off/pick-up but it’s well worth it for the incredible scenery on offer.
If you’re interested in Benagil Cave but aren’t sure if you want to shell out for a tour, this route also provides a great view from above the cave! I really wish that I’d done this during my stay and will definitely be making time for it if I ever make a return visit!
If you’re looking for more information on hiking the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, I’d highly recommend this blogpost by Brainy Backpackers, which has all the information you could need.
This is one of the best active things to do in Lagos Portugal.
What to Pack for the Trail:
A Jacket (the Algarve is known for its winds!)
9. Visit Igreja de Santo Antonio
This beautiful church in the historic town centre was originally constructed in 1707 but rebuilt in 1769. It’s truly a sigh to see – with baroque woodwork and blue and white tiles.
Whilst there’s not much to do here, it’s a beautiful spot to visit when exploring the town.
10. Marvel at the Rock Formations of Ponte da Piedade
The rock formations at Ponte da Piedade are truly magical. It’s the Lagos that you generally see in photographs.
The headland here is particularly dramatic, with pillars and arches abound. Watching the turquoise waters crash against the towering rock formations is a great way to spend the afternoon.
Be warned, however, that it’s quite a walk down to the waters edge. You’ll have to make your way down a number of steps but it’s totally worth it.
If you go to watch the sunrise at Praia do Camilo, I’d highly recommend walking up to Ponte da Piedade afterwards, which you’ll find lit up with golden light. We did this during our stay and loved it. It was much quieter than Praia do Camilo and very peaceful.
When planning your visit here, bear in mind that swimming is not permitted during the summer, due to the many boat trips and tours that pass through the waters.
There’s no public transport to Ponte Piedade but there are plenty of parking spaces! If you don’t have a car, you can either get a taxi or an Uber, or during the summer months you can get the tourist train, which ferries people from the town to the beaches.
We saw a number of camper vans parked up here for the night – and what a beautiful view to wake up to!
11. Visit One of the Beautiful Beaches
You can’t spend time in Lagos without exploring some of its beautiful beaches. It plays host to some of the very best spots in the Algarve, from the long soft sands of Meia Praia to the quirky architecture of Praia dos Estudantes. If you want to know more about the very best beaches in Portugal, as well as how to get to them, I’ve written a complete guide to my favourites!
12. See Animals at Lagos Zoo
If you’re travelling with children, this is one of the best things to do in Lagos Portugal. The zoo is located just outside of Lagos (about a 15 minute drive from the centre) and is home to over 150 different species of animal.
Expect everything from meerkats to monkeys, and bats to bob-cats. It’s also they only zoo in Portugal to have kangaroos!
13. Relax on a Catamaran Boat Trip
If you like taking things easy on your holidays, opt for a catamaran boat trip around the coast of Lagos. These sailing tours are a peaceful and relaxing way to enjoy the beautiful emerald waters. They’re generally about 4 hours long and will include a delicious lunch and drinks.
There’s nothing better than jumping off the back of a catamaran into the ocean.
This can also be a great way of meeting other travellers and holiday-makers!
14. Explore on Quad Bikes
If you’re a bit of an adrenalin junkie, the best way to explore Lagos and the surrounding area is by quad bike. This quad biking experience will take you along the hidden tracks between Lagos and Alvor. Take in epic views on this fun adventure.
The quad bikes are fully automatic and easy to drive – although you do need a valid driving license if you want to take part.
15. Learn to Surf
Lagos is a popular surf destination year round. It has great waves for everyone, from beginners to expert surfers. So, if learning to surf is on your bucket list, this is the perfect place to do it!
There are a number of surf schools in Lagos, each one offering lessons from experienced surfers who love to teach their sport. If you just want to dip your toe in the surfing waters (excuse the pun), opt for one day of surf lessons. If you’re serious about standing though, I’d recommend booking the 3 or 5 day options.
You’ll get two lessons per day, meaning you’ll quickly make progress.
Again, this is a great way to meet other travellers and it’s one of the most fun things you can do in Lagos Portugal.
16. Sample Gelato
One of my favourite things to do in the evenings after dinner was to buy an ice cream and walk along the harbour. The air is warm and balmy at this time and the atmosphere is just perfect.
Our top spot for ice cream was Gelateria Italiano – the best mint chocolate chip I’ve ever tasted!
17. Visit the Slave Market Museum
One of the darker parts of Lagos’ history is the slave market. The Mercado de Escravos is located in the old town and has been transformed into a museum.
Here you’ll learn about the history of slavery in Lagos.
Black African slaves were first brought to Lagos in 1444. Portugal quickly became the world’s biggest slaver. It’s estimated that around 5.8 million people were exchanged for goods from 1501-1878. This is almost twice the number that were transported by the British (the world’s second largest slavers at the time).
The museum can be a difficult visit but it’s a terrible and important part of Lagos. It’s easy to forget that this sunny seaside town was not always such a happy place.
18. Visit Forte Ponta da Bandeira
Lagos’ fort was built in the late 17th century, as a defence for the town. It is fairly well preserved and worth a visit if you’re interested in the history of Lagos.
If you’re visiting Portugal on 29th August, heading to the fort is a must. It’s home to the 29th swim. This tradition was originally for purification purposes and involved the people going for a swim in the sea at midnight. This continues to happen to this day with plenty of delicious food and music to celebrate the occasion.
19. Go On A Wine Tasting Tour
This 4 hour wine tour starts in Lagos and includes a hotel pick-up. You’ll visit a local winery, where you’ll learn all about the wine production process before tasting three local wines and some tapas.
From here, you’ll explore some of the oldest villages in the region and will visit the charming city of Silves. This is an ancient Moorish town with one of the best castles in Portugal.
If you want to explore more of the local area beyond Lagos, this is a great way to do it.
20. Take a Day Trip
Although there’s plenty to do in Lagos, you might want to take a day trip to explore the local area further. Here are 4 spots I’d recommend visiting for the afternoon:
Silves is a historic town with one of the best Moorish castles in Portugal. It was once the capital of the Algarve, as a major port. Today the town is much quieter. It’s a beautiful spot that’s truly charming with cobbled streets and traditional Portuguese buildings.
It’s easy to visit by train.
Sagres is known as a cool surf town with dramatic scenery and large cliffs. You’ll find plenty of surf schools and relaxed bars here.
You can get to Sagres by bus.
Portimao is the largest city in the region. This is the place to head for great shopping and a pretty harbour. Despite its size, Portimao has managed to retain its history and charm, making it the perfect day trip from Lagos.
You can visit Portimao by train.