How I Spent 3 Days in Lagos, Portugal

As I glared into the hallows of the cliffside steps, I swore I heard them screaming at me.

“Let’s turn back. This can’t be safe,” I translated aloud to my mother, who giggled at the anxiety in my voice.

My mother, above me on a higher step, expressed that she wanted to continue. I realized then that our time basking under the sun in Lagos, Portugal, over the past three days must have left her feeling sun-drunk. Although, in her defense, this was one of the most invitingly dangerous places I’d ever been to, and continuing on the trail of doom was tempting.

Beyond where we were teetering over the claws of death, the famed cliffs of Lagos struck into the calm, teal hues of the Atlantic. Their golden façades illuminated brilliantly under the setting sun. It was the type of serene evening that was supposed to be spent musing about life on a swanky patio with a crisp glass of wine.

Instead, I was brooding about what possessed me to play adrenaline junkie on cliffs. This was our last evening in Lagos, and this bold adventure felt like such a juxtaposition to our previous days spent in quaint relaxation in the beautiful Portuguese town. 

Three days prior, my mother and I were seated on a balcony overlooking our hotel’s sleek pool and the Atlantic coastline beyond. We had just finished a short road trip from my home in Spain and were hungry for lunch. We already loved the resort’s ambiance and, giddy with “first day of vacation excitement,” we finished our meal and headed to Lagos to explore the city center.

Lagos shares the lax ambiance associated with a gentle sea breeze and warm weather. The stone tiles on the ground add a bright allure to the humming plazas and lulling streets that are lined with inviting cafes and irresistible shops. I told myself I wasn’t going to buy much. However, who could resist a pair of gold-plated starfish earrings, a handmade tray painted with suns, and a plush keychain of a sardine?

That night for dinner, the concierge had recommended a restaurant called Casinha de Petisco which, according to him, had the best Portuguese food in Lagos. We arrived shortly after they opened and were told there would be a wait of about two hours. No problem. We easily found a fantastic rooftop bar to sip on aperitifs and watch the sunset. When we returned about two hours later, we were quickly sat.

The restaurant was small and tight, yet cozy and warm. It was defiantly a “no frills” type of place, but let’s be honest, the most delicious restaurants usually are. We ordered the most famous item on the menu: the Homestyle Cataplana. After just one bite, I could see why people flock to this restaurant and why the wait was so long. The rich, bold flavors of the stew-like dish exploded in my mouth. The seafood was fresh, and the pork was tender. It was one of those dishes where, even though your stomach is yelling at you to stop filling it, your tastebuds keep feigning for more. Even though we left the restaurant feeling stuffed, we carried the lightness that comes with a divine meal back to our hotel room, where we slept soundly.

The following day, we decided to stroll along the beach near the hotel. Unlike many I’ve been to, the beach was flanked by cliffs, and there were many rocks to climb on and explore. We loved watching the waves crash into the misplaced boulders that had found their way into the ocean’s shallows. However, we did not love the view of older men’s leathery butt cheeks as we ventured further away from civilization. We turned back and spent the rest of our day pushing those sunbaked cheeks out of our minds as we relaxed by the pool, treated ourselves to a spa package, and enjoyed the fresh seafood of Portugal at a sushi restaurant.

On our final day, we woke early and prepared for a kayak tour we had booked online to see the famous cliffs and caves along the coast, including the popular Benagil Cave. However, upon arriving at the meet up point, we realized we had booked a regular boat cruise along the shoreline instead of kayaks. While we were initially a little disappointed about our mistake, we quickly realized that the boat tour was a fantastic option. Not only did we get to see a vast stretch of coastline with stunning views of the cliffs, but we also sailed into the gaping mouths of a few caves. When we finally arrived at Benagil Cave, we observed the kayakers struggling with the waves like rubber ducks being tossed around in a bath by an unruly toddler. We chuckled at how exhausted and overwhelmed we would have felt since we are far from the athletic type. Our mistake certainly ended in our favor.

So, at this point, we had a fantastic Portuguese meal, explored Lagos, relaxed at a spa, and soaked in the views of the coastline cliffs. However, I still wanted to walk among the cliff peaks and had heard that there is a foot trail in Lagos gave extraordinary views of the landscape from them. The concierge told us there was an off-beaten trail with stunning views near our resort that would lead us to the main path. We confidently walked to where we were guided, tucked behind a beach restaurant, and ascended the first cliff. However, as we continued on the unruly path, my confidence weakened. The trail was a lot more intense than I thought it would be. There were no official trail markers, unkept brambles, and overwhelming drops next to narrow passages. Once we arrived at what I fondly remember as “the death stairs,” I immediately backed out. It didn’t take long to convince my brave mother to return to the beach restaurant we tucked behind earlier, and once we saw it approaching, it shone like a holy shrine.

While I felt a little defeated that I didn’t see the cliffs I wanted, I also felt relieved that we chose to return and not risk our lives for some nice views and cool pictures. We spent our last evening in Lagos as the universe intended – over a delicious meal with drinks on a beachside patio. As I sipped my wine and lazily looked over the pastel hues of twilight above the rhythmic waves, I reflected on my fantastic weekend with my mother and how we will remember Lagos’s flavors, sights, and mishaps for the rest of our lives. 

Need boat tour ideas? Check them out here!

More pictures from the trip

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