My flight from Porto to Faro arrived just after 11pm, and by the time I walked through the airport, got a bus into the city, and found my hostel, it was nearly midnight. I didn’t even get changed, I just threw my things on the floor and went to bed. The wifi didn’t work in the room, seemed to be a common trait.
Breakfast was grand, ham and cheese and fruit and mini muffins and coffee that was actually hot. So good. And then it was time to look around Faro. I’d checked out a map and I knew there were these wetlands and on the other side was the beach. I thought there might be a chance that I could find a way through the marshes Lord of the Rings style, so after a quick look around the very small and unimpressive “old town” I headed down towards the wetlands.
Yeah no. Long story short: sorry, but I’m no Smeagol. I wandered into this wetland area (that apparently they gather salt from when it is dry…?) and I could only see one other person in the area, a guy walking around with a massive camera. So I followed a path and then another path and eventually I realised my plan was not going to work so I bush-bashed it back towards civilisation.
On the way I saw that guy again. He was sitting down watching this big group of birds in the water which looked cool so I went up and said hello to him. His name was Brendan, he was from Dublin, and he thought it was very funny to meet me because at that moment his wife was actually visiting friends in Melbourne. He had been in Faro for a week with his brother. They’d come specifically to see flamingos but had so far been disappointed and were leaving the next day. While his brother was souvenir shopping Brendan had, like me, wandered into this marshes and, low and behold, found this big flock of flamingos (this is what we were looking at). I was in Faro less than 24 hours so I guess I was lucky to have seen them!
Following Brendan’s instructions I took a bus down towards the beach (25 minutes but finally some wifi that works), and then instead of going to the beach I turned around, walked back across the bridge, and then walked along the path through the Ria Formosa nature reserve. It was so windy!! But a really nice walk and for the most part there were hardly any other people around. I saw some cool birds, walked a few kilometres, and then went back to the bus stop. I had just enough time to check out the beach before taking the bus back into town and then getting on another bus to head to Lagos.
The White Butterfly hostel is the place to stay in Lagos, or so it seems. I met two people in Porto who had already stayed there and another person in Lisbon who was planning to go soon. The wifi was bad, there was no breakfast and the kitchen was tiny, but it was cheap, there was free coffee in the mornings, in summer they have a jacuzzi going, and sometimes there were dogs. There were also a few random people in their 50s and 60s who just seem to stay there on a permanent basis, partying and smoking weed.
In the bed next to mine happened to be the only other Australian in Portugal, it seemed, and it was nice to use words like “reckon” and “cheers” again. Joel also gave me some foot cream to take care of my manky feet that had handled the Himalayas fine but couldn’t deal with walking around the cities of Portugal. Go figure. We saw two different rollerblading competitions on different days, we’d never seen anything like it before but it must be very popular in the that corner of the world.
The main reason why people go to Lagos is to see the caves and rock formations along the coast. They are very similar to sites along the Great Ocean Road like the ‘12’ Apostles. You can get to the Ponta da Piedade (the main headland with good lookouts) by bus, by walking along the main road, or by walking along the cliff paths and exploring the little beaches and the incredible views along the way. Naturally I opted for the third route.
I went with Annika, a Finnish girl who was also staying in my room at the White Butterfly, and it took us three hours to get from the hostel to the Ponta da Piedade. We went up and down many steps to big busy beaches and tiny deserted beaches. We scrambled over big rocks on paths that were probably not meant to be paths. And we were ferociously whipped by sand due to the ridiculous wind that day. I heard the best way to see this section of coastline is by boat, they even do kayak tours, but not that day. The waves were massive.
We took some amazing photos, although at the time we did worry they might all come out blurry because it was hard to keep our phones steady in the wind. The views were amazing, around every corner I was continuously impressed and taking photos heaps of photos. Then, when we were finished, we walked back to town which only took 40 minutes.
If you’re into surfing, Lagos would be a great place to spend a fair amount of time. If you’re uncoordinated to the max and therefore not into surfing, like myself, then once you’ve seen the coastline the town doesn’t have too much left to offer. Unless the beaches are more hospitable when the wind dies down which I guess it probably the case. Having seen the sights, Annika and I booked our bus to Lisbon – she became my travel buddy for a few days which was great. The Algarve coast was definitely worth a visit, you could spend several days going from town to town there and I met several people who were doing just that. Lagos was one of the highlights of my Portugal trip and I’m very grateful to all the people who recommended that I go there.