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PHOTO: 200 steps down to the best beach in Lagos: Praia do Camilo! Go for sunrise or sunset and you will feel like you've reached heaven. (photos by Shannon Wolf)
When you think of the Algarve region in Portugal, three things come to mind: Touristy, expensive and overrated.
What I've learnt? Don't believe everything you assume or hear.
Sure, if you plan to go during high season expect to be elbow's-length away from tourists, inflated prices and an altogether undesired experience. However, if you go at the right time, the beaches get less crowded, the prices get cheaper - and that does wonders for the experience.
I managed to spend a whopping $15-$30 a day MAX, including hostel, food and drinks while living it up on the Algarve. I spent most of my time in Lagos and couldn't have been happier with my decision.
Getting There:Rede Expressos (coach bus) - Adult ticket: $20, 26 years old and under: $16
Best time to travel: April and May - It's quiet enough to enjoy the beaches without the massive crowds but still lively enough to not feel like a ghost town. After that, expect to pay double in prices and abundant beach crowds.
ILLUSTRATION: Although you could live forever in Lagos, there are many other wonderful towns and beaches to explore along the Algarve as seen on the map above.
Airbnb: If there are two or more of you traveling, you can rent a beautiful flat with a small patio for $20 a night.
PHOTO: Wandering through the many picture-perfect side-streets of Lagos is a great and free way to get lost and spend your time!
Cheap hostel: Lagos City Center Guest House & Hostel (€10 a dorm)
Note: this hostel makes you feel like you're at your grandma's house and has no ambiance. The owners are a little strange but the pros greatly outweigh the cons - You are seconds from the best bars and beaches, the hostel features one of the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in, along with extra blankets if you're cold, exceptional Wi-Fi, impeccably spotless, hot showers, a working kitchen AND free washer. You can't do better than that.
PHOTO: Another early morning watching the sunrise at Praia Dona Ana.
No matter which beach you go to, you will be left speechless. All have their individual beauty, but Praia do Camilo was my favorite. Make sure to wake for a gorgeous sunrise or catch romantic sunset at one of the following beaches!
• Praia Dona Ana
• Praia do Camilo
• Ponta da Piedade
• Meia Praia
• "Praia da Batata" - Lagos "town beach"
• Praia do Porto de Mos
A Guide to eating like a king without the tourist prices in Lagos:
(Note: For fresh fish, DO NOT EAT OUT ON MONDAYS. Fish is not caught on Sundays which means its been sitting around all weekend and if you're going to pay, you might as well have the best experience.)
Best fish/seafood restaurants:
• Restaurante A Forja: Many people raved about this restaurant and it is a favorite among locals.
• Restaurante O Pescador (near a Forja)
• Restaurante Escondidinho: Best for grilled fresh fish
• Restaurante A Caravela
• Restaurante A Casinha do Petisco
Best sweet traditional cakes: Pastelaria Algarve - EVERYTHING is delicious here, you can't go wrong with any choice.
Best Hangover Restaurant: Nah Nah Burger
Toucan Burger: (Cost: 12 Euro) was rated 50th BEST in the world and even a vegetarian would contemplate on breaking for it… I would know because I am one. Not only are the burgers mouth-watering but also the hand-cut fries and service are exceptional (Note: EXPENSIVE and WILL break the bank but worth every bite ... just spend a day not doing a thing.)
Best Bar: 3 Monkey's Bar.(EXPENSIVE, Even with happy hour so pre-drink, have one drink there and dance the night away thanks to no-cover and great tunes - drinking competitions and dancing on bars is welcomed.) Avoid after-hours (they're horrible).
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