lagos, evora & benagil, portugal - land and sea, sunup and sundown

Back in September, Alex and I celebrated my 28th birthday by renting a lime green, half-broken-down 1973 Volkswagen van and road tripping along Portugal's wild Western coast. (This is the second post from that trip; the first is here.) Here are some snaps from our time sunbathing on gorgeous beaches, swimming to empty caves at dawn, eating pizza the size of a hippo, wandering around gorgeous little villages, and hanging out in a chapel built of human bones.

praia dos estudantes, lagos, algarve, portugal

lagos

The town of Lagos in the Algarve boasts a string of gorgeous, golden-sand beaches backed by towering cliffs and surrounded by gorgeous cerulean waves. The beaches, including the most popular (Praia Dona Ana), are connected by a rough dirt path that snakes along the cliffs. Typically we follow the rule that the longer you walk, the less people there will be; at Lagos, the least populated beach was the one right in the middle of the path -- people seem to either stop at the first beach or trek 'til the end.

praia dos estudantes, lagos, algarve, portugal

lagos beach walk, portugal

praia dos estudantes, lagos, algarve, portugal

praia dos estudantes, lagos, algarve, portugal

Praia Dona Ana, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Praia Dona Ana, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Praia Dona Ana, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal
True to form, Alex and I bought chilled booze from a beach-side stand to survive the brutally hot day, and we enjoyed it packed like sardines on the F train to Manhattan at morning rush hour on Praia Dona Ana.

Thankfully, the water provided a little space to spread out!

Cliff beach walk, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Praia Dona Ana, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Praia dos Estudantes, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Our second day in Lagos, we left the van for a full day on the seas, taking a full-day boat ride around the coast. The boat padded along the coast, stopping now and then to let us swim or explore the caverns and caves nestled in the cliffs. I am a devoted boat enthusiast, but the real draw for this trip (other than escaping the van) was the barbecue chicken they served for lunch.

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos boat cruise, Algarve Portugal

Lagos, Algarve Portugal
Pulling into Lagos harbor at the end of the day.

Lagos, Algarve Portugal

Lagos, Algarve Portugal

We unfortunately didn't spend much time in the town of Lagos itself, though we did break our typical pasta-in-the-van dinner tradition to eat out in the city twice. Once with friends who happened to be in town (Alex's best man and his girlfriend, who I will forever remember as being the angel who guided me through the utter drunken chaos of Oktoberfest in Munich!) at a fantastic, no-frills seafood joint packed with locals smoking and watching soccer.



And the other, with even fewer thrills: a pizza joint, after a long day on the beach with little more than rosé for sustenance.


I really very rarely eat meat but I make exceptions and this was one heck of an exception. I will never forget you, Lagos pepperoni pizza. #trulove


Balance is important. An entire humongous pizza all to yourself, and early morning 8-mile runs along the incredibly hilly coast.

Running in Algarve, Portugal
Scenes from a run. Not hard to find motivation in this place.

Running in Algarve, Portugal
To explain just how high up I was: those teeny tiny little dots are seagulls.

Running in Algarve, Portugal
Hills. EARN YOUR PIZZA.

After my morning run, we'd have breakfast in the van and then set off for... wherever the heck we wanted. We made a detour for a city Alex was especially keen on: Évora.

évora

The city of Évora is a sleepy UNESCO World Heritage site full of traditional Portuguese architecture, tiled buildings, Roman ruins, and a chapel built from human bones.

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Évora, Alentejo, Portugal

Temple of Diana, Évora, Alentejo, Portugal
Templo de Diana

Portuguese sweets, pasteis de nata
The Portuguese love their sweets. Breakfast is typically a super-sweet pastry and a little coffee. As a savory breakfast devotee, I preferred the country's famous breakfast of choice, the pastéis de nata (an egg tart) for a mid-day snack.

Portuguese sweets, pasteis de nata

 Évora's most popular attraction is undoubtedly the Capela dos Ossos - the Chapel of Bones. No explanation needed.

Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal

Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal
So many bones.

Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal
The Chapel of Bones is awesome and creepy as all hell. There is a lovely, ancient inscription over the entrance to the chapel: "We, the bones that are here, await yours."

Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of Bones, Evora, Portugal
Tan lines? What are you talking about?

Evora, Portugal
The view from the Chapel's terrace was good for a breath of fresh air after all that death.

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

It really is a gorgeous city to wander around without a glance at a map. It looks empty here -- funny because we were there during a huge motocross race -- but that's because we walked around early in the morning and right at sunset.

Good, small sleepy town: grandmas screaming at each other, kids playing with dogs and soccer balls in the streets, couples drinking wine al fresco. Really lovely, good vibes.

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

benagil

I was very eager to see the sea caves at Benagil, and not so keen to pay to take a boat with two dozen other tourists. Alex was coaxed into waking up before sunrise, throwing on swim trunks, and swimming a couple hundred meters at low tide in order to have the exquisite caves all to ourselves. This was one of the best, most unforgettable experiences of my life.


Benagil beach, Algarve, Portugal
Gathering our nerve for the swim on the beach at Benagil.

Benagil sea caves, Algarve, Portugal
Once inside the cave. I won't ever forget the feeling of the tough, cold swim, looking up to see the arch of the entry into the cave, and swimming through, encouraged by the current.

Benagil sea caves, Algarve, Portugal
One of the best experiences in my life. Absolutely unbelievable.

Benagil sea caves, Algarve, Portugal

Benagil sea caves, Algarve, Portugal

Benagil sea caves, Algarve, Portugal

Benagil sea caves, Algarve, Portugal

Benagil sea caves, Algarve, Portugal

Benagil sea caves, Algarve, Portugal
We spent a half hour or so listening to the waves crash against the cave's walls and echo around, and watching the sunlight slowly invade the cave from the opening at the top.

We swam out well before high tide (when the waves smashing against the cliffs make the swim too dangerous) and warmed up in the van en route to eat lunch over one of the most famous views in Portugal, Praia da Marinha.

Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

More from Portugal coming next week!

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