Top Day Trips from Lagos
The English language doesn’t have enough beautiful adjectives to describe the beaches along Lagos’ coastline. But if you get the need to venture further afield from your secluded beach and glass of port, spectacular day trips await: The end of the known world at Sagres is a 30 minute drive west, the caves of Benagil are a 30 minute drive east, and the always beautiful Seville is just across the border in Spain.
A small seaside fishing village nestled at the bottom of narrow ravine, Benagil has been thrust into the spotlight recently due to its famous cave, but there is more to enjoy here than a quick boat tour. The beach itself is more than first meets the eye, with the majority of the sand tucked behind the cliffs away from the road. The famous Algar de Benagil cave is itself tucked just further to the left around the first cliff from the beach, but be wary if you think you can swim to it. The currents and tide change here are strong. Better to hire one of the many boat tours, or rent a stand up paddleboard than risk swimming with no other support.
While Algar de Benagil is the star, countless caves dot the cliffs, and are worth seeing from both a boat tour as well as from above. From the main parking lot above Benagil’s beach a cliffside trail takes off east, offering spectacular views of the coast, as well as the opportunity to peak down into the sinkholes that created some of the caves. The trail is well marked, though can be steep in places making this less than ideal for small children. In total, expect an approximately 30 minute walk one-way if you’re going slow to take pictures and simply enjoy the view. The trail can be walked more quickly, but trust us, you’ll want to take your time. The trial ends at Marinha beach (it can also be started from Marinha’s parking lot, if desired), with a jaw dropping view of its arches and pinnacles rising from the sea.
Both Benagil and Marinha can be seen in a day, but why limit yourself when there is so much beauty to enjoy? Only a 30 minute drive from Lagos, we spent one day enjoying this stretch of coast from the water, and another hiking the cliffs, each time enjoying a different café in Benagil to cap our day. For a boat tour, we recommend Taruga Benagil Tours. Their guides were first class, even making a special trip back to shore for a family needing to get back. Book in advance on their website, and you’ll receive a confirmation email within 24 hours, instructing you to arrive at their physical location just in front of Benagil beach 30 minutes before your scheduled departure. Park at the lot up above the beach, and give yourself time to walk back down the steep road.
For food and drinks, a small café sits at the entrance to Benagil beach, with a larger restaurant perched just above, but for the money, O Litoral, just across the street from the main parking lot at the top of the cliffs, has the best food near the sand. They don’t have the better view, though, so feel free to make your own decision on what matters most.
It wasn’t too long ago that Sagres was thought to be the end of the world. The cruel, rough, mysterious waters of the Atlantic stretched out over the horizon, and tales of sea monsters, strange people, and stranger lands fanned the flames of fear and rumor. It was here, at Fortaleza de Sagres, that Prince Henry the Navigator setup a school to improve seafaring and plan expeditions down the west coast of Africa. Today, it provides sweeping views of the lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente, the technical southwestern point of Europe and also worth the quick drive from the Fort, and a few sparse remains of Prince Henry’s school.
Both the Fort and Cape St. Vincent are an easy drive with plenty of parking. You can expect Fortaleza de Sagres to be open daily beginning at 9:30 AM, and closing either at 5:30 PM October – April, or 8:00 PM May – September. If you’d like to tour the Lighthouse at Cape St. Vincent, keep in mind that it’s closed on Mondays, but otherwise is open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Frankly, we’d recommend skipping the tour, and instead enjoy the view looking back the lighthouse from the cliffs.
For the more adventurous, Seville beckons, just on the other side of Portugal’s border with Spain. There are no customs or immigration checkpoints at the border; both Spain and Portugal are members of the Schengen Area, making for an easy drive between these neighboring countries. Seville sits only a few hours drive from the Algarve, and its citrus-lined streets, seemingly in constant bloom, give the city a wonderful fragrance inviting you to explore its beautiful Cathedral, Alcázar, and Plaza de España.
Seville’s Cathedral, or the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Sea, is the third largest church in the world, and the largest Gothic-style church. Apart from its beautiful neck-straining architecture, you can visit Christopher Columbus’ tomb within its walls. After exiting the Cathedral, it’s a short walk around the corner to the Royal Alcázar of Seville. The palace, most recently undergoing construction for king Peter of Castile, was built on the site of a Muslim fortress destroyed after the Christian conquest of Seville. This mixed history means you can expect some unique, beautiful architecture as you learn about its rich history.
After a long morning exploring Seville’s sights, we wandered over to the Plaza de España for some people-watching and tapas in the sun. Built in 1928, the Plaza has been featured in n major films, including Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars: Episode II. Even if its history isn’t as rich as other sights in Seville, it is still a beautiful place to enjoy some ice cream, people-watching, and good company.
When arriving by car, plan to park in Avenida Roma, a parking lot with a perfect location for walking to all of the sights listed above. The parking spots are wider than you’ll find elsewhere, and with multiple levels you will typically have luck finding a spot. Remember your spot number for when you return, as well as to pay at a ticket machine prior to exiting in your car. Use the map below to orient yourself for parking, as well as directions to each major sight within easy walking distance. We recommend stopping in at a tapas bar as you walk for some snacks during the day!
There you have it, three-day trips from Lagos to satisfy every adventurer. What do you think? Did we miss any hot spots to visit? Let us know in the comments below!