2 months ago, I’d never heard of Lagos. I suspect most Singaporeans haven’t either. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I discovered this gem while planning my solo Eurotrip and decided to plot it into my itinerary, between my stops in Lisbon and Barcelona. What I found when I got there, to my surprise, was a wonderful charming place that far exceeded my expectations. I absolutely loved it!
Lagos is located along the beautiful Algarve coast of Portugal. About 4 hours comfortable bus ride from the capital, Lisbon.
To be honest, at first I was merely lured by Lagos’ description as a party town on a beautiful coast. I was travelling alone with the plan of living up the last days of my 20s instead of crying into my soup that I was hitting the big 3-0. So a bit of craziness in a destination known to attract young energetic backpackers, seemed muy apropos!
When I actually set foot in Lagos, I found myself smiling myself like an idiot, snapping heaps of pictures along the rows of cute colourful little buildings leading down a Portuguese-tiled path down to the pristine beaches. It’s not the party scene that stuck out for me. It was all the charm little Lagos has, and it lasts all day from sunrise to way way past sunset. It was full of life well past 11pm!
A Date with Dolphins in Algarve
One of my highlights from Lagos (besides a certain frenchman who charmed me to the point of warm fuzzies) was the dolphin tour I did with Seabookings. I enquired early on via email and they were super helpful, recommending the more interesting tours for someone like me coming from far far away and rather unfamiliar with the Algarve. Lagos is pretty chill so besides eating and hitting the beach, these types of the tours at sea make up the main fun things to do in Lagos (and the rest of the Algarve coast).
Another lovely beach in Lagos
I got pretty excited and reserved a slot in 3 of their tours!
Unfortunately, the weather was not favourable once I got to Lagos :( There was choppy waters and strong winds. Mother Nature said no, so Seabookings put me on the only tour still running which was a boat ride out for dolphin spotting. Even then, we were warned of a rough boat ride and those with back problems aren’t recommended to go. Added a bit of danger and curious excitement for me!
I’ll tell you a little about the other tours too after sharing about the dolphin experience.
Dolphin Experience with Seabookings
It was pretty awesome! The pod of dolphins were really close to the boat, even diving under it!
Seabookings dolphin tours in Lagos has you onboard a large rigid inflatable passenger boat. It’s a dolphin-friendly vehicle. Unlike the time I saw dolphins in Sydney, this boat meant I was much closer to the sea during the ride. Could pretty much touch the water. So when the dolphins swam up, it was a SUPER close encounter. Just beautiful.
First dolphin catching our attention
The tour lasts 1.5 hours so they really take you far out the Atlantic sea, with barely anything in sight. We were out there with only 1 other boat in sight after we left the rocky coast behind. It was beautiful, and the weather was just delightful.
Leaving the marina
You can see how far the boat goes, that’s the coast/city in the distance
The waters were choppy so the ride itself was pretty exciting, with my bum leaving the seat several times as we rode the waves. I was very entertained by the lady next to me squealing every time we hit one of those water bumps haha. It was like a mild rollercoaster in nature :)
Finally, the dolphins appeared. First one. Then a whole pod. It was really cool to see in real life their very smooth swift movements. We got super close to them several times, as you will see in this epic photo I managed to snap!
I recommend bringing a good camera and enabling the multi-shot mode. Bring something to cover it in case of splashing when the boat revvs to and from the shore. If you have a Go Pro, bring that too. On a pod. Though I don’t recommend putting it in the water unless the boat stops because the boat goes pretty fast, you’ll likely lose your cam.
Remember to take your eyes off the camera though and really take in these beautiful creatures with your eyes! I have some badly framed shots because I was looking at the dolphins, but that’s okay, it’s better!
I guess Seabookings use sonar or something as there’s always someone communicating on the radio with all the boat drivers to update them where the dolphins have been spotted. Then we race over in our boat and try to keep up with the dolphins. They move quick those dolphins!
It was really cool when the dolphin swam right for us and dipped under the boat and up the other side. And when they did some big flips. Show offs! But we loved it :)
Looking with my eyes so this awesome moment has a terrible frame!
I was pretty impressed by the effort the company made to really give us the best experience possible. I’ve been on some lazy tours before, so you never know what you’re gonna get. But I can definitely recommend Seabookings, they really tried hard and managed to get us super close.
After the dolphins left us, we rode back to the Lagos Marina with a good view of the beaches. Everyone was happy with the sightings, especially considering how close we got and how many we got to see.
Happy I got to do at least the one tour, I had lunch at the marina at a restaurant called Lighthouse. Actually, with only 2 days in Lagos it worked out quite nicely to have just the one tour and the rest of the time to explore more lazily. It was perfect.
I recommend Seabookings for your tours — but again, remember to book early!
And for lunch, I recommend Lighthouse located just above the Seabookings office at the marina. Have their shrimp tapas! I experienced pure joy in that moment, having just seen dolphins, got a tan, filled my belly with tempura prawns (with the most delicious dip), quenched my thirst with pear cider and all this with a wonderful view of the marina with lovely weather.
What. A. Great. Day.
More Things to do in Lagos
As mentioned, I didn’t get to complete the tours but these are the ones I had picked from Seabookings offerings. Note, it’s important to BOOK AHEAD. These tours are very popular and get filled early. No surprise really, Lagos has some of the most amazing beaches, caves, open seas for watersports and romantic sunset boat rides.
Tours depart from various locations. The ones I opted for depart from the Lagos Marina, just a short walk from the centre. It was about 15mins walk from my host’s apartment.
Benagil Cave / CC 2.0 / Daniel Gillaspia
Tour #1 : Grotto Trips
I love taking photos, so I was really excited about doing a tour of the Benagil caves with a stop so I could hop off the boat and have time to take photos from the inside. It’s a pretty epic cave! Unfortunately, Benagil was a little out of the way for my short stay in Lagos so I had to skip it. But if you have more time than me, I’d definitely recommend it as one of the top things to do in the Algarve, Portugal. Seabookings can help whether you want the regular boat tour or want a little bit of time inside.
I chose to do the alternative boat tour from Lagos that takes you up close to the fascinating rock formations and beaches. It’s a little like the Sydney’s 12 Apostles — except cooler because not as many people from this part of the world venture out to Portugal! #braggingrights
Tour #2: Kayaking the Portuguese Coast
Love kayaking. Lagos recently won some awards for some of the best beaches in the world so hey, kayaking here is a wonderful option to get out at sea in complete control. Great exercise, wonderful for feeling at one with nature, and you might make some friends with the kayak groups.
Tour #3: Dolphin Tours
I was disappointed mainly at missing the grotto tours but this dolphin tour was a pretty awesome consolation. It’s the closest I’ve come to delightful dolphins in all their wild glory.
Holiday in Lagos, Portugal
I covered quite a few destinations in this one trip but I have to say Portugal stands out. It’s a little low key as a holiday destination, definitely low on the radar for Singaporeans, but it’s actually wonderful. Perhaps it was knowing very little and being very impressed by everything when I got there, that made it so great.
I definitely recommend Portugal as a destination to check out. I watched two sunrises and a sunset in Lagos, got a tan, walked loads, enjoyed tapas, got a henna tattoo, met a cute boy, went clubbing at 4am (!)…. and Lisbon was equally amazing for all its culture. Each day in Lisbon was more amazing than the previous.
If you like to wander away from the usual top destinations and Singaporean hotspots, go to Portugal.