When we were planning our trip to the UK we knew that at some point we wanted to ‘nip over’ to mainland Europe for a bit of an adventure. When you’ve travelled 17,000 miles it seems a proper shame not to hop just a few hundred more into a different country.
So I was very happy indeed to find a bargain Ryanair flight to Faro, only an hours drive away from Lagos where two long-time travel friends own a hostel. I messaged them and booked accomodation in, extremely happy with my well thought out travel plans *cough*. Not only would I be ticking a new country off my list and catching up with friends, but we’d be getting there on $70 flights!
Being the sensible traveller that I am, it wasn’t until after I’d actually pressed ‘book’ on our airfares that I decided to research the place we’d be visiting…
Most of the google searches I did turned up the word ‘party’ or ‘nightclub’, with a smattering of photos of crowded beaches. Somehow we’d accidentally organised a break away to one of Europe’s biggest party destinations and a magnet for Australian’s enjoying a summer in the northern hemisphere. Shit.
Perhaps this was a really, really bad idea…
Cheap flights mean late flights, so we got to the hostel around midnight. After a warm welcome we threw our stuff into the room and made our way straight into Lagos’ old town. Expecting to find the place heaving with inebriated youngsters we were pleasantly surprised to find quiet, narrow streets covered in the cobblestones. Finding a table in a beautiful courtyard we sat and enjoyed a beer in the balmy night breeze, snacking on some local tapas.
This wasn’t what we’d expected!
Over the next few days we fell in love with the area. It helped to have two local guides, both as keen to avoid the trashy bars as we were, but it really didn’t require much effort to avoid them.
We ate in local restaurants with fish so fresh I’m surprised it didn’t jump off the plate, saw dramatic coastline and drank in rustic hipster bars with hay bales for seats.
You can absolutely go to Lagos, not enter a nightclub and still have fun. We actually didn’t witness a single bit of the drinking culture in our three days there (unless you count a really drunk woman in one restaurant who downed a litre of wine and threw up in the toilets). Without the lure of local mates I’m absolutely certain we would have been put off the idea of visiting thanks to Lagos’ reputation as a party town. Thank God we weren’t!
Wanting to visit but worried you’ll be forced into drinking tequila from the bellybutton of a singlet wearing Aussie?
Don’t worry, here are 7 things to do that don’t require a nightclub stamp.
Explore the grottos
There are some amazing limestone caves that adorn much of the coast near Lagos. You’re only able to explore them from the sea and there are countless companies offering kayaking trips. It was pretty cold when we were there, and just at the end of peak season, so we chose not to do a trip and we have sorely regretted that bad decision ever since.
Oh dear lord, the seafood in Lagos is insane. At home we’re lucky enough to live around the corner from a fish shop where we regularly buy fish from the guy who caught it that morning, but this was something else. Portugal is known for it’s sardines and for very good reason. We visited a restaurant where all you can eat fish was 11 Euros and the fish came right off the boat and on to the coals. Bliss.
I know, right? The idea of diving in Europe hardly passed my mind before this trip but there are lots of great dive sites on this section of the Algarve. Expect amazing underwater rock formations, interesting shore dives and lots of crazy wrecks.
Hire a boat
Keen to try out his new boat license our friend Matt suggested we hire a boat to explore the coast – like us seafarers needed any encouragement! Sadly an Atlantic chill put an end to the idea of swimming (though later, sheltered in a courtyard we’d melt in the heat!) but powering alongside such dramatic scenery was a great way to spend a morning. Especially because we’d packed a couple of 6 packs to stay hydrated!
There’s a great walk you can do along the dramatic cliffs that edge Lagos’ beaches. Sadly we didn’t have time to try it out and it left us with yet another reason to return! Those who have done it reported back with discovering secluded beaches, walking through caves and spotting sea life swimming in the glass blue water below.
One activity I was not tempted to try again (I am not a natural surfer) but a huge draw to the area. If you’re a pro already it’s easy to hire boards, or there are numerous surf schools to choose from if you’d prefer a lesson or three. Need more convincing? Our friend’s hostel is called the Bura Surfhouse!
Relax by the Pool
Of course we didn’t have to make any decisions when it came to accomodation. When you’ve got friends owning a top class hostel why stay anywhere else? Especially when that hostel has a beautiful pool and bar serving up delicious mojitos… Spending an afternoon lying in the European sun, sipping on cheap cocktails and chatting with new friends – blissful. It felt like we were in a resort!
Dammit, now I want to go back. I wonder if you can get those $70 airfares from Australia…