The promontory south of Lagos is fringed by eroded cliff faces that shelter a series of postage stamp-sized cove beaches, within easy walking distance of the old town. Follow Avenida dos Descobrimentos up the hill (toward Sagres) and turn left just opposite the fire station, where you see signs to the tiny Praia do Pinhão. This is the first of the coves – around a twenty-minute walk from town. Five minutes further, across the cliffs, is the Praia de Dona Ana – one of the most photogenic of all the Algarve’s beaches, with a restaurant, the Mirante, built into the cliffs. Out of season the beach is superb, though in summer the crowds can get overwhelming.
Beyond here, you can follow a path around the cliffs and coast to Praia do Camilo – sometimes a bit less crowded – and right to the Ponta da Piedade, a headland where a palm-bedecked lighthouse makes a great vantage point at sunset. This marks the final point of call for the road train from Lagos.
Beyond the point, the coast sweeps west again and you can continue to follow paths close to the cliff’s edge to the beach of Porto do Mós, another 45 minutes’ walk away, a nice enough beach though development has spoilt the surroundings. The path then moves on as far as Luz, another hour away; it’s a splendid stretch, high above the ocean, until the obelisk above Luz comes into sight, from where you scramble down the hillside and into town.
To the east of Lagos, across the river and flanked by the railway line, is Meia Praia, a vast tract of sand that extends for 4km to the delta of the rivers Odiáxere and Arão. It’s particularly popular with backpackers who congregate at the beach bars dotted along the sands. You can walk to the beach via the marina and fishing harbour in around twenty minutes, or there’s a regular bus service from Avenida dos Descobrimentos which travels the length of the beach.