Lagos and Portimão

Gap, I googled it and it says «a space or interval; a break in continuity».

I had a gap week between one job and another and since travelling is my way to celebrate – as if I would need a valid excuse – I booked 5 days in the South of Portugal, the Algarve.
This region is well known for its amazing beaches, characterized by crystal water and yellowish rocks: an incredible masterpiece of Mother Nature.

I departed from Lisbon by bus at 9.30am (note: Rede Expresso bus has different prices depending on the departure time; I took a bus for 9.50€ to go and same price to come back, but one way can also cost around 20€) and got to Lagos 1 hour later than scheduled, therefore around 2.30pm.

Guess what? Weather was sh*t! Cloudy and windy. Good start uh?
I took a city bus to the Banana Beach House hostel, thought for surfers – which, as you know, I am not – but very close to amazing beaches. I checked in, ate my sandwich and walked more or less 15 minutes to get to Ponta da Piedade: a spectacular set of marine pillars and hidden caves to be visited by kayak or boat.
On the way back, I gave a look to Praia do Pinheiros from the top, then fell asleep on Praia do Camilo, pampered by the warm sun that finally came out.
I woke up right on time to go back to the hostel for the “family dinner” that I booked at the cost of 5€.

My second day started with the same grey sky of the previous afternoon and the same disappointment filling my heart. I took a walk to give a look and take some photos of Praia Dona Ana, few minutes away from the hostel, then proceeded to the city to check Praia do Pinhão on the way to Praia dos Estudantes where, for couple of hours, I’ve been sitting on my towel staring at the clouds and begging them to go away.
I fell asleep again… and when I woke up the clouds were still there so I decided to go to visit the city center: white little houses, touristy restaurants and lots of souvenir shops.

For lunch I had prepared two sandwiches so, full of hope, I went back to eat them on the beach.
I didn’t regret it: sun came out and, jumping over the tons of seaweed, I could even swim in a crystal clear water that luckily was warmer than in Lisbon.
I stayed on the beach until the moment I realized that my skin was burning – never underestimate the morning clouds – then I stood up and walked through the two little caves that from the main beach take you until the Roman Arch, in order to take some photo with a blue sky on the background.

That day I had dinner in the city center to try the typical Cataplana: a sort of seafood soup that is served in a peculiar pot; you have the Ameijoas (clams) version which usually comes with shrimps, or the fish one – I ordered the first one and I loved it! Although – don’t ask why – between a clam and a shrimp, they also put slices of ham and chouriço…

I have to add a note here: Cataplana is usually served for two people and the price goes around 35€ (or more). I was almost giving up when I finally found two restaurants which on the menu had written “Cataplana – 19€/34€”; my supposition was correct: the 19€ one, was for a single person.
I opted for the fancy restaurant called Don Sebastião where the service was very attentive, the staff very kind and the Cataplana really tasted like the ocean.

And to conclude the meal? If you know me a little, you can bet that I could not ask for the bill without before trying a dessert: tarte algarvia, a very sweet cake made with almonds.

During my “trip-planning” I had decided to spend two nights in Lagos and two in Portimão; for the little geographical distance between the two cities this was absolutely not necessary, infact you can reach the one from the other in 22 minutes by train. The reason why I organized it like this was because I was thinking about a daytrip from Portimão but sleeping 4 nights there would have cost me the double of what I spent instead.

Portimão is not the capital of the Algarve but it’s the biggest city; it is the classic seaside city for tourist that you can find also in Italy: big resorts, lot of shops selling beach articles, lots of noisy bars…
Luckily the Alameda hostel I booked was in the city center, more or less 40 minutes walking from Praia da Rocha – very common kinda beach, not worth to go if you’re staying just couple of days.

Through Airbnb I booked a guided tour to the Benagil cave: the famous cave which encloses a hidden beach where the sunlight arrives only through the hole on the top.
The tour lasted 2 hours because along the coast there are other caves and beaches of which Hugo, the guide, has been telling us about.

Gotten out of the rubber dinghy, it was time for lunch. I have the habit to check the menu of different restaurants in advance, in order to understand the average price and choose the best option, but that day at that time my stomach was just telling me to take a damn seat! So I did; I got my table in this restaurant crudely furnished and ordered the waiter’s recommendation: bife de atum a portimonense, the typical tuna steak of Portimão covered with tomato sauce.

With my stomach full, I went to the most stunning beach I’ve ever seen, maybe (at least in Europe): Praia dos Três Irmãos; again, you walk through these orange-yellowish rocks to find out other “hidden” beaches… I fell in love.
If you happen to go to the Algarve, you CAN’T miss it.

The problem of this beach is that is at the outskirts of the city if you’re without a car, but I was lucky enough to get a lift from Ahmed, a guy I met in the hostel in Lagos: it took us 7 minutes driving to get to the Miradouro dos tres Castelos, few minutes walking from Praia da Rocha.

I give you an advise: be always nice to the people you meet, mostly when you travel alone, because they will always be happy to be nice back! I say this because Hugo, the boat tour guide, added me on Instagram to recommend a nice and cheap seafood restaurant:

Dona Barca, “the worst place in Portimão“.

Here I ordered paté de sardinhas to accompany some bread, sopa de peixe (fish soup), bacalhau a brasa and tried the typical Don Rodrigo, a dessert of egg yolk and almonds – no, I don’t recommend it (you will recognize it in the photo gallery).

My last full day in the South, was divided between the morning stroll around the cute Ferragudo, a little fisherman village on the other side of the Arade river, and a long walk to get to the closest Praia dos Caneiros, where I just chilled the whole afternoon.

Little notes I am going to add to conclude this post are:
-for the first time since I am in Portugal, a train was late (from Ferragudo to Portimão);
-I couldn’t try the typical Piri Piri Chicken as it was probably too spicy for my palate.

Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page…
I’ll read ya!

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