Day 1.  Our journey to the Algarve

An early start this morning for our 7.00 am departure to Faro airport.  Our three hour flight was with the budget scheduled airline Monarch which arrived on time, the flight passing quickly for us as we managed to catch up on some sleep for most of the journey.  After reclaiming our luggage we transferred to Lagos in the western Algarve by minibus, the journey taking 90 minutes.  We looked into the possibility of using the train but departures are infrequent and we would have wasted most of the day getting to our resort.

Entrance to the Hotel Tivoli, Lagos
Researching online, we learnt that a minibus operates every 30 minutes to Lagos, dropping passengers at their accommodation so decided this was to be the best option.  Fortunately, we only had to sit on the bus 10 minutes before it set off, most of the journey being via a motorway with little to see, but the final fifteen minutes were scenic and we arrived at our hotel in Lagos at 1.00 pm.  This is our first visit to this part of Portugal but we have previously visited Lisbon and the beautiful island of Madeira.

View from our balcony
The receptionist informed us that our room would not be ready for another hour so we left our luggage with the concierge and found an attractive bar around the corner for a welcome pot of tea and a light lunch.  It was lovely to sit out on the terrace to enjoy our meal and although it was October the sun was still strong and we needed to adjust the parasol to shield us from its strong rays. Such a temperature change from home where I’d just started wearing my winter coat!

Lagos town centre, Algarve
Returning to the Hotel Tivoli Lagos, our home for the next eight nights, we found our room to be ready and a friendly porter assisted us with our luggage to our top floor room.  The hotel is very large and on different levels.  It appears that over time the Tivoli has bought up the neighbouring hotels and incorporated them into one.  Our room was quite a way from the reception and it was necessary to take a combination of three lifts, covered walkways and several short staircases to access our floor so bear this in mind if you might consider staying here and request a room near the restaurant/reception if you have mobility problems or are travelling with infants.

The Marina, Lagos
Our room was quite large and bright, perhaps in need of a makeover to meet its 4 star rating, but perfectly pleasant for our needs.  Stepping out onto our secluded balcony the view was stunning – our room overlooked both the marina and sweeping bay with a backdrop of small white washed houses clinging to the hillsides, making it a perfect base for our autumn break.

Lagos, Algarve
After unpacking and freshening up, we strolled along the typical Portuguese mosaic style pavements down to the marina which was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday afternoon.  After spending some time wandering along, glancing at boats and waterfront bars we made our way to the old part of town where a weekend market was taking place.

It was interesting exploring the narrow maze of cobbled streets in the old town which open up into small squares filled with outdoor terraces of inviting little cafes.  Lagos seems to be a delightful, characterful small town rather different I suspect to the larger, purpose built resorts around Albufeira further east.

The centre of Lagos, Algarve

Feeling tired after being up since 3.45 am we returned to the hotel for a rest before eating dinner in a small bistro we noticed earlier.  The temperature had dropped considerably but I was warm enough in a cardigan, we ate indoors and I enjoyed a Portuguese style Bean and Chorizo stew which was very tasty.  A walk along the promenade followed and on returning to the hotel we could hear the melodic notes of saxophones and found a trio playing in the bar but we were too tired to stop and listen this evening and were soon tucked up in bed after a pleasing introduction to the Algarve.


Day 2.  A boat trip along the Lagos coast 

After sleeping soundly for almost ten hours, making up for yesterday’s lack of sleep we felt refreshed and looked forward to the day ahead.  Just after 8.00 am we enjoyed a hearty breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant.  It’s decorated in typical Portuguese style with dark wood furniture, a terracotta tiled floor and traditional artefacts displayed on the walls.  Some guests were enjoying breakfast out on the terrace but it was in the shade so we chose to eat indoors.  There was the usual selection of fresh fruit, yoghurt, pastries, bread  and cooked dishes so we were quite happy with what was on offer.  Sadly no ‘show cooking’ where omelettes, etc. are prepared to order but that didn’t matter too much.

Lagos promenade from our boat trip
The restaurant is spacious and there was no difficulty securing a window table for this morning at least.  Chatting to one of the local waiters, he told us that the hotel was quite full which seemed high for October.  It’s a popular location for golf enthusiasts, many of whom stay at the Tivoli, a room being set aside for their golf bags and spiked shoes and as we were passing the entrance a little later we noticed several minibuses on hand to take them to their chosen courses.    Before we set off out ourselves (not to play golf let me add!) the receptionist contacted us to let us know we were entitled to a daily English newspaper from a selection of four – sadly all tabloids though so it appears that our week won’t be literary challenged!

Entering the sandstone caves
Our plan this morning was to take a boat trip along the coast as yesterday we noticed a couple of companies by the marina offering them.   Managing to book a 10.30 a.m. tour in a small boat (€15 each)  we strolled around the harbour until it was time to depart.  The small boats can take up to 12 passengers on three rows but this morning there were only 6 of us on board enabling us to take photos with ease.

Kayak groups also enjoying the caves
After donning life jackets we set off, leaving the harbour to admire the sandstone rock formations along the coast.  Our skipper was very informative, pointing out rock formations, small coves and beaches along the way.   The boat paused for us to admire Praia de Dona Ana, a picture perfect beach wedged between cliffs in a small, sheltered cove.  The guide mentioned that the bay is often thought of as resembling a Roman amphitheatre with stalagmite shaped towers of russet coloured sandstone rising out of the sea creating an impression of Roman columns.  Being on board such a small vessel the boat was able to pass through some of the sandstone arches and actually enter the caves beyond.  From the sea, we were able to view how, over the years, the waves and wind had eroded the cliffs resulting in some amazing rock formations for us to admire.  Passing the dramatic headland of Ponta da Piedale northwest of Lagos, the cliffs resembled a huge slice of ginger cake and as our little boat neared the crumbling sandstone outcrops a warren of small caves opened up for us to explore.  A lighthouse is perched on the promontory to warn boats of the rocky coastline.

The rugged sandstone cliffs
Not only were small boats like ours exploring the caves, we came across numerous kayaking groups who were enjoying paddling between the rocks under close supervision of their leaders.   These trips take kayak enthusiasts to the rock formations by large boat where they transfer to kayaks to explore the small grottoes and cave structures.   Our helmsman, who was highly skilled at navigating the small boat in and out of the caves and between the narrow rock formations, entertained us by providing a nickname for the larger rock formations relating to their shape and appearance.

A secluded cove but many steps to climb down to access it
Returning to the marina after such an enjoyable 75 minute excursion we headed back to our room for awhile, our balcony being bathed in sun just then.   Considering how to spend the afternoon, we decided to take the hotel’s free shuttle bus to the beach, the bus service running at 30 minute intervals throughout the day.

Hotel Tivoli Beach Club
There were only a few guests on board and within 10 minutes we had arrived at the Dunas Beach Club owned by the hotel.  Walking along wooden boardwalks along the beach we found an attractive beach bar serving snacks, light lunches and drinks.  Tables overlooked a circular swimming pool with some comfortable loungers along the other side which were unoccupied.  On closer inspection we noticed there was a charge of €10 per sun bed to use them, even for hotel guests so no wonder they were all vacant at that price!

Sun beds along the hotel’s beach

Continuing our walk,  we found sun beds on the beach that were free for hotel guests so settled down there for awhile before moving on.  Although it was a Sunday, and around 23 degrees, few people were on the beach – perhaps this temperature is deemed cold by the locals!  Several hotels overlooked the shore, good for sun worshippers but as it’s quite a way out of town I prefer our own hotel’s central location.   We came across a small cafe where we had a late lunch of toasted sandwiches and beer then decided to walk back into Lagos rather than wait for the bus.

Lifting Bridge over the harbour entrance in Lagos

Surprisingly, it was only a 20 minute brisk walk as we were able to cross the river by the footbridge, the bus needing to take the longer route round.   After making ourselves mugs of tea we took our Kindles down to the hotel’s pool for an hour to relax on the sun beds which was blissful.

Later, our evening stroll took us past an inviting Pizzeria so we settled on that for dinner.  We will be back later in the week as our Romana pizzas were delicious and the atmosphere great too.

Day 3.  A visit to Portimao

Drawing back the curtains at 7.45 am there was a beautiful sunrise so I headed out onto the balcony with my camera to capture its beauty.

Sunrise from hotel balcony, Lagos, Algarve
Clear blue October skies so after a relaxing hotel breakfast and a catch up with the news on our iPads we wandered over to the railway station in Lagos to take the train along the coast to the town of Portimao.  Lagos lies at the end of the line which runs infrequently along the coast to Faro.  Tickets to Portimao cost €4 return for the 20 minute journey and for passengers under 26 or over 65 there is a 25% reduction on production of photo ID.

It was an interesting short journey as we saw the hotel’s beach club from the train window where we had visited yesterday.  Along the way we noticed several links golf courses before arriving into Portimao station.  It’s quite a walk from the railway station through the old town but pleasant pedestrianised avenues made it easy.  Many of the old buildings were clad in traditional Portuguese tiling which was very attractive to see.

Church in the main square of Portimao

Arriving at a pleasant square we took a look in the Church of our Lady of the Conception, Portimao’s oldest parish church but only a Gothic doorway and buttress of the original building remain today.  Continuing, we came across the square of Largo 1 de Dezembro looking resplendent with its fountains and glazed tiles depicting events in Portuguese history.

Portimao by the marina
Overlooking this square lies the marina and active fishing port where we enjoyed looking at the various vessels and the views out to sea as we strolled along the shoreline.

Praia da Rocha, a popular beach resort was a further 2km walk away and it seemed a long trek in the mid day  heat but on arrival the azure blue sea with the backdrop of russet coloured sandstone cliffs made the extended walk seem worthwhile.

Praia da Rocha
The seafront promenade seemed pleasant and was lined with palm trees and traditional Portuguese mosaic paving.  High rise hotels overlooked the bay and the promenade contained the usual mix of gift shops selling beach apparel, bars and cafes.  There seemed to be a prevalence of Irish bars and Englsh pubs offering English breakfasts and fish and chips.  I can never understand why some people take holidays overseas only to want food that they are familiar with from home.  Don’t get me wrong,  on a weekend morning at home there is nothing I enjoy more than going out for a ‘traditional Englush breakfast’ but not whilst I’m away, then I want to eat like a local wherever I might be, but of course we are all different and people can choose for themselves.

Praia da Rocha
Praia da Rocha more than lived up to expectations with stunning views of the sweeping bay.  A lengthy wooden staircase took us down to the beach and a wooden boardwalk provides a path across the sand making it easier to walk along.

From the lookout point, Praia da Rocha
Back on the clifftop a panoramic viewpoint has been built providing stunning views of the bay and the rugged coastline.  Towards the end of the promenade we found an attractive bar that didn’t have those awful laminated picture menus on its terrace.  Here we enjoyed freshly prepared baguette sandwiches and glasses of beer, resting our tired feet for awhile whilst relaxing in the sunshine.

Buildings with traditional tiled fronts
Making a move, we turned inland and using a satnav walking map from our phone we made our way to the Aqua Shopping Centre said to be the largest in the Algarve with 120 stores.  It was a long walk but as it’s located only 10 minutes from the railway station it wasn’t too much off route.  The mall was centred around a courtyard with an open roof giving a light and airy feel to the shopping centre.  As for the stores,  there was nothing special and having Primark as one of the anchor tenants summed it up really so I don’t think we would make a return visit if we visit Portimao again.  Still, we had time for a refreshing pot of tea before returning on the late afternoon train to Lagos.   I enjoyed Portimao for a day trip but much prefer Lagos as a base as it is much more characterful and compact.  Checking my FitBit app I noticed we had walked almost 9 miles today so I would suggest taking a bus from Praia da Rocha back to the railway station as it’s quite a distance with little of interest to see along the way.

A short rest in our hotel room followed before returning to eat dinner in the same bistro we  dined in on our first evening here.

Day 4.  Visiting Praia da Luz

Yet another warm, sunny morning so after breakfast we wandered over to the nearby Lagos bus station about five minutes walk away to take a 20 minute journey in a westerly direction to Praia da Luz.   Tickets are very cheap on the Onda local service costing €1.60 for an adult single journey payable from the driver and it was not long before we were alighting in the centre of Luz.

Our Lady of the Light Church, Luz
Our first stop was at the medieval church of Our Lady of the Light originally constructed in 1521 but as a result of earthquakes both in 1755 and 1969 the body of the church had to be rebuilt twice.   Interestingly,  the church belongs to the Portuguese Roman Catholic Church but each Sunday after their morning service has finished it is used by St. Vincent’s Anglican congregation who hold Church of England services in English for the expatriate community.

Interior of the church in Luz
It was interesting to look inside the church viewing its ornate altar.  At the rear of the church is a small, two row gallery for the choir to sit.   Across the road from the church lies the Fortaleza which was built as a fortification around 1575 and continued to be used by the military until 1849.  Nowadays it’s a private residence and restaurant popular as a wedding venue.

The promenade, Praia da Luz
Continuing a short distance we arrived along the seafront.  The wide, sweeping bay extendis eastwards with a gently sloping sandy beach.   Strolling along the wavy mosaic tiled promenade lined with palm trees we found Praia da Luz  to have a refined air.  Inviting small bars and cafes with jaunty coloured parasols stand side by side along the waterfront and though off season, they all seemed to be doing a steady trade of mid morning drinks and snacks.

Praia da Luz
Before stopping for a drink ourselves we took a walk along the beach using the boardwalk paths provided.  I wish more resorts would have these across the beach as it makes it much easier to walk on and avoids having to remove your shoes to shake out the soft sand afterwards.

Garden flowers Praia de Luz

After enjoying our morning cappuccinos we retraced our steps back to the church and then continued along the seafront in a westerly direction.  It’s more residential along here with low rise apartments and small whitewashed houses overlooking the bay.  For autumn, the gardens were ablaze with colour, Oleander, Bougainvillea and Hibiscus all still in full bloom outside many of the homes we passed.

Flowers along the promenade, Praia de Luz

Taking the coastal path to its end, we headed back into town along the narrow, cobbled streets.  Praia da Luz isn’t very large and has only a few shops but it makes a pleasant outing from nearby Lagos.  The return bus was on time and after having a late lunch in one of the bars in Lagos we returned to our hotel spending the remainder of the afternoon relaxing by the pool catching up on the news on our iPads.   The hotel’s wi-fi is very strong and can be accessed from any part of this large complex, even working well round the pool which is more than can be said for the plumbing as the water pressure varies greatly in our room, sometimes down to a trickle!  We reported it and a handyman came to inspect but it seems to be an ongoing problem which hadn’t been resolved.

Hotel Tivoli swimming pool

Later, we ate out in the old town and then had a short walk by the marina before returning to our hotel room, spending a short time planning tomorrow’s activities before getting ready for bed.

Day 5.  A train ride to Silves

I woke up briefly during the night to what sounded like hailstones out on the terrace but when we opened the curtains at 8.00 am we discovered our tiled balcony and white patio furniture were coated in a mixture of mud and grit.  It must have rained heavily and as our room is on the uppermost floor, debris from the sloping roof had washed down creating quite a mess.  I can’t imagine the maid being too happy having to clear all this up!  Fortunately the rain had ceased but it was a dull, overcast start to the day.

Bridge across the River Arade, Silves, Portugal

A leisurely breakfast this morning as trains to Silves are infrequent and being only a 35 minute journey we decided that it wasn’t necessary to set off early for the 9.15 am departure so we opted for the one a couple of hours later.  Getting to Silves is quite easy but a little pre planning is required, adult rail tickets cost €5.80 return travelling on any service.  We boarded the 11.15 am train which was old with windows thickly coated in grime that looked as if they hadn’t been cleaned in years, so bad, in fact, that we couldn’t see through them to read the station signs.  As no announcements are made,  it was fortunate that we had picked up a timetable and knew that Silves was the third stop after Portimao, otherwise we could have continued without noticing.

Silves Cathedral

Silves station is actually a 25 minute walk from the old town, so on leaving the station we needed to turn right without crossing the track and at the nearby level crossing proceed along the road into town.  It’s mostly downhill and for part of the route there is no pavement.  This isn’t a cause for alarm as the road is fairly quiet and we managed to keep close into the verge and out of the way of the oncoming traffic.

Silves Castle, Algarve

Approaching the town, we caught a glimpse of both the castle and cathedral standing side by side, perched on the hillside overlooking the river.    Crossing the old, white painted stone bridge over the River Arade, the picturesque small town with its narrow alleyways and cobbled streets still had a prosperous feel to it.   The town became important in Moorish times as its river provided boat access to inland areas of the Algarve.   Traditional tiled facades on buildings remain today indicating that it was a rich merchants town.

Steps onto the fortified old walls of Silves

Spotting the municipal market hall, we popped in for a look around where we marvelled at its high pitched roof giving the appearance of a church.  Marble slabs displayed eel, bream, salmon and many unidentifiable fish whilst other stalls displayed fresh fruit and vegetables piled high with dried chillis decorating their stalls.

Interior of Silves Municipal Market

A network of steep cobbled steps and passageways led us to the Silves Cathedral being one of the remaining Gothic monuments in Portugal.   Nearby stands the Castello de Silves, the best preserved castle in the Algarve.  Climbing the steps onto the city walls we had spectacular views looking down into the labyrinth of winding lanes of this fine old town.  From here, we could also see the pretty central square, Praca do Municipio with its palms, bougainvillea and ornately tiled square.

Praca do Municipio from the old town walls

Making our way down the winding lanes we glanced in some of the small shops, many selling local arts and crafts.  It was then a steep uphill climb back to the railway station for our return journey to Lagos, but well worthwhile as Silves is a delightful town to wander round and explore.

Praca do Municipio, Silves

Just as we arrived back into Lagos it started raining so we returned to our hotel and visited the hotel’s spa for the first time.  Here we found an indoor pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna where we relaxed for awhile prior to eating dinner in a local Pizzeria.

Indoor pool, Hotel Tivoli, Lagos

A relaxing end to another lovely day in Lagos.

Day 6.  A day out in Faro

Although we flew into Faro airport last Saturday we didn’t see anything of Faro itself and as it’s an historic city as well as being the capital of the Algarve we thought it would be a  good place to visit.  Trains from Lagos to Faro take 1 hour 50 minutes and an adult return journey costs €14.80.  There wasn’t too much to see from the train window apart from the occasional golf course and much parched scrubland so we just sat back relaxing reading our Kindles.

Faro Marina
The railway station in Faro is located in the centre of town between the bus station and the marina and so we began our tour of the city with a stroll along the waterfront.   As there is a height restriction at the marina entrance because of the railway bridge, only small motorboats can moor here.

Arco da Villa, Faro
Across from the marina lies the Jardin Manuel Bivar, a small park with flowering bougainvillea and large trees providing welcome shade in the summer months.  Next, we admired the ‘Arco da Villa’ an ornate archway which leads into the old town ‘Citade Velha’.  This gate was designed in the 19th century and is positioned in front of the ancient city walls.

City Hall, Faro
Strolling through the arch we continued along a narrow cobbled lane which took us to the Old Town Square, home to both the City Hall and the 13th century Cathedral which had to be rebuilt after suffering earthquake damage in 1775.  Entrance to the cathedral costs €3.50 which includes access to the bell tower affording some splendid views over the Atlantic coast, outlying islands as well as the terracotta tiled rooftops of Faro down below.

Bell tower, Faro Cathedral
After spending more time exploring the maze of narrow alleyways we found an inviting bar for lunch then made our way over to the newer part of town.   The town centre is quite compact but we enjoyed wandering along the pedestrianised Rua de Santa Antonia with its mosaic tiled pavements.  Here we found a mix of designer stores, shops, galleries and cafes whilst buskers entertained shoppers with catchy tunes on their piano accordions.

Faro town centre
Returning to the seafront through the Western Gate ‘Porto da Sol’ we noticed kiosks offering one hour boat trips to the Ria Formosa Natural Park so we booked tickets for the 3.00 pm departure costing €10 each.   Just four of us were taken out of the harbour in a small wooden boat,  heading to the Natural Park which is a protected wilderness of salt water lagoons and tidal flatlands attracting around 270 species of birds and wildlife.  High tide had just occurred an hour earlier covering the mudflats with approximately 10 metres of salt water.

Ria Formosa Natural Park, Faro
The mudflats are covered in samphire, a vegetable that grows naturally in saltwater marshlands.  Our skipper turned off the engine at several locations, allowing the boat to drift slowly and for us to try and spot some of the birds who live in this natural habitat.  Many birds could be seen in the distance and I could hear the sounds of a curlew, but without binoculars it wasn’t possible to see any close up.

Faro castle from the water
Before returning to the shore we were taken along the coast for some views of the city.  It felt quite chilly on the water as there was a stiff breeze blowing but we soon warmed up when we were back on land.

We returned on a late afternoon train arriving back into Lagos around 6.00 pm.  Two hours by train each way was quite a distance but we felt the journey had been worthwhile as Faro is an interesting city, albeit smaller than we had expected but with plenty to see and do during our visit.

Day 7.  The fishing village of Alvor

Our plan on this warm, sunny morning was to visit Alvor by bus.  It’s less than 30 minutes away from Lagos but buses are infrequent so we decided to enjoy a morning sauna before heading to the bus station for the 12.00 noon service.  Buses to Alvor are on comfortable express coaches run by Eva and tickets need to be purchased from the station kiosk before departing.   Eva fares are considerably more expensive than the local bus company we used along the scenic coast earlier in the week with an adult return costing €8.20.

Along the estuary in Alvor, Algarve
Our coach was heading for Albufeira and Alvor was its first stop, dropping passengers at a roundabout on the edge of the village.  A narrow cobbled lane lined with small shops and cafes leads along to the village centre ending with a steep downhill section towards the harbour. Views across the sheltered harbour were beautiful, the harbour appearing to be emerald green in the bright autumn sunlight.  The small town is located on the banks of the Odiaxere river with traditional small white washed cottages clinging to the hillside above.

Clam and Oyster baskets at the harbour in Alvor
Strolling along the attractive seafront in an easterly direction we came across numerous stylish seafood restaurants and beach bars.  Alvor, as well as being a tourist town is still an active fishing village with many small colourful fishing boats bobbing about in the harbour.  Piles of nets, oyster and clam baskets were drying out in the sunshine ready to be used again to bring in some freshly caught seafood for the nearby restaurants.

Nature Reserve boardwalk, Alvor
Just beyond the fishermen’s huts is the start of the 3.2 mile Alvor Boardwalk and estuary loop trail.  The boardwalk is well maintained and suitable for wheelchairs, prams and cyclists.  Following its winding course alongside the fishing boats in the small harbour, the path follows the coast, meandering through wetlands and shallow lagoons.  It’s a haven for wildlife especially in Spring and Autumn with migratory birds and we spotted some waders and terns.

Alvor from the Nature Reserve boardwalk
Reaching the far end of the boardwalk where the lagoon meets the Atlantic Ocean there is a large sandy beach which was very quiet today except for a couple of kite surfers.  Continuing along the loop, the elevated boardwalk crossed sand dunes and mud flats of the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve before re-joining the path back to the charming small harbour.

Inviting cafes in Alvor
Having enjoyed our walk, we were ready for some lunch and here in Alvor we were spoilt for choice with so many attractive cafes to choose from.  Settling on one, we sat out on the sunny terrace to eat our lunch and spend a short time reading the newspapers.

Ochre coloured cliffs, Alvor
Continuing our seafront walk, we strolled along the western bay towards the Roche Delicado, an ochre promontory of weather worn cliffs.   This side of the bay, away from the beach bars and cafes, was deserted and we had this part of the promenade to ourselves.    Walking back up the steep hill on our way back, we caught the bus from the same bay as the one where we arrived and less than 30 minutes later we were back in Lagos.   I’d definitely recommend a visit to Alvor, it’s a charming, prosperous small town and one that hasn’t overly suffered from tourism.  It’s probably crowded in July and August with the narrow streets thronged with people, but off season it’s just perfect.

Dining out in a Lagos Pizzeria

A rest followed and then a walk along the marina in Lagos followed by an evening meal in a local pizzeria.

Day 8.  Lovely Lagos 

Our last complete day in Lagos so we decided to complete our tour of this charming town.  Starting by the marina we strolled along the seafront to the municipal market hall which was bustling with locals buying fresh produce for the weekend.  Unlike other markets we’ve come across in the Algarve, this one has a modern interior with meat and fish on the ground floor whilst upstairs we found fruit and vegetable stalls and a small cafe.

Inside the Lagos market hall
Not far from the market can be seen remnants of the old Moorish walls that once surrounded the town.  It’s not possible to climb up and walk along them but we admired their sandstone features from the nearby gardens.  The walls were constructed in the 16th century when the town was the residence of the governors of the Algarve.

Old city walls, Lagos
Facing here, overlooking the harbour entrance stands part of the 17th century fort ‘Forte da Ponta da Bandeira’ this fortification being added to protect the town and the river mouth from attack.

Lagos Fort
Continuing a short distance, located on the far side of the fort is Lagos town beach ‘Praia da Batata’.  It’s sheltered by large cliffs and separated into smaller coves accessible through holes in the weathered sandstone rock.

Praia da Batada
The cliff path continues around the headland with some fine views looking back into the centre of town.  After a steep uphill climb we arrived at Dona Ana Beach which we had viewed from our boat trip on our second day in the resort.  From the clifftop viewpoint there are splendid views of the beautiful rock formations out in the bay.    We walked down to the beach via a long, winding wooden staircase, this being the only access making it unsuitable for the disabled and parents with prams and pushchairs.

Dona Ana Beach
Despite it being mid October it felt scorching hot on this sheltered beach nestled between the large rocks.  Walking on the beach was easy as a boardwalk had been laid across sections of it providing access to the beach bar and sun beds.   From here we headed back to the centre of town along the cliff top path.

Church of San Antonio, Lagos
After some lunch we spent the afternoon lazing by the side of the hotel pool in the warm sunshine.  It was so warm that it was hard to believe it was mid October but tomorrow when we return home it will certainly feel like it.   Later,  we popped down to the spa to enjoy a final sauna before heading into town for dinner, it still being warm enough to go out without coats.

Day 9.  Our final day in the Algarve

There was plenty of time to relax over breakfast before checking out of our hotel.  We’d arranged a transfer back to Faro airport as it wouldn’t have been possible to return by public transport on a Sunday morning.

My healthy breakfast course!
This has been our first holiday in the Algarve, would we return ?  Yes, we certainly would.  The coastline along the western Algarve is beautiful and the little towns we visited were charming, Praia da Rocha being the only resort with high rise hotels that we came across.  Lagos, our base for the week was both stylish and charming and made a perfect starting point for trips out with its rail and bus terminals.

The outdoor pool, Tivoli Hotel,Lagos
Our hotel The Tivoli. Lagos had attractive public rooms, the outdoor pool pictured above had comfortable sun beds on its sheltered terrace and combined with the leisure club’s indoor pool, sauna and steam room had good facilities.   Our room had a spectacular view over the marina and was functional, spotlessly clean, but was overdue for an upgrade having a dated feel.  We didn’t dine in the restaurant so I’m unable to comment on dinner but we felt the breakfast was mediocre.   There was a good selection of continental style cold meats, cheese, yoghurts and fresh fruit but the cooked dishes were unappetising, rubbery fried eggs, inedible sausage and greasy streaky bacon so after the first couple of days we opted out of the hot food.

Splendid Portuguese architecture, Lagos
The Tivoli markets itself as a golf hotel and at least half of the guests staying this week were golfers.  At breakfast they could be spotted in their smart, brightly coloured matching polo shirts and around the bar in the evenings talk was more often than not about missed opportunities on the par 3 or the birdie on the 7th hole.   The hotel’s close proximity to the marina and old town was ideal and taking all things into consideration, I would be happy to return to this hotel on a future visit to the Algarve.

Our flight with the budget scheduled airline Monarch was on time and in just under three hours we had returned to overcast skies and a drop in temperature from 23 degrees to 12 so our coats had to be worn for the onward journey home.

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