It’s better to look back on life and say “I cant believe I did that.” than to look back and say “I wish I did that”… GC Himani
Lagos is renown for a good party. I had a friend living there for the summer who could only recall 3 times she was home before the sun came up. This gave me a pretty good idea about what I was getting myself in for. When I finally got the chance to see this area for myself – I was honestly confused as to why it has become such a hub for drunk travellers.
There is nothing Portugese about Lagos. In fact, you could spend a week there and not find any Portugese food in the old town. It has every other cuisine you can think of, along with plenty of gelato. I felt like I was at home. There was Australians EVERYWHERE! They ran the hostels, the bars, the water sports, the bar crawls – the lot! That’s not a bad thing – Australians are friendly, social and extremely welcoming most of the time which probably adds to Lagos’ appeal however it’s certainly not a place to experience something foreign or unique. For this – you need to get out of the old city walls.
I prefer balance and managed to really enjoy Lagos when I left the city walls. So if anyone tells you that people only go to Lagos to party – it’s not true. I had an amazing time in Lagos and managed to find a whole world of things to do outside the party scene.
Where to stay?
Most hostels in Lagos are fully booked yet empty – because everyone is partying. It doesn’t matter what time of the day we are talking about. We were recommended to go and “see Cosimo!” Cosimo owns and runs Hostel La Dolce Vita which is also known locally as “Lagos Shared Rooms”. From the minute we entered, we were treated like his daughters. “Do you need me to do your washing?”, “are you hungry?”, “what would you like to do?”, “is this okay for you?”. He was a gem. We stayed there for 4 nights and absolutely loved it. One night he even cooked us his homemade lasagne to ensure we had a full stomach before we went out drinking and kept leftovers in his fridge for our late night return!! He never liked to turn people away so even spent nights sleeping on the balcony while others took his own bed. On top of his amazing cooking, he was a very fun character. He had great stories to tell and loved meeting new people. I miss Cosimo!
4 TOP LAGOS EXPERIENCES
1. P A R T Y
First thing I noticed is that the bars and clubs are nothing spectacular. Considering it’s reputation I had pictured Lagos looking something like a small scale Ibiza. But it’s not. The main party area consists of a maze of small lanes with tiny bars dug into random corners. Music explodes from each door and you have promoters encouraging you to enter by enticing you with free shots. It works for most people. These bars are in fact just nightclubs. You cant really talk in ANY of them. They are pumping music from as early as 8pm with ecstasy and strobe lights. Don’t get me wrong – this is great however I personally, I like to drink at a bar. Especially at the start of the night. For me, good nights always starts with good conversations and company and you just end up in a club by default much later in the night. However, in Lagos, I found very few nice places to relax and have a drink. No wine and cheese bars and no nice cocktail bars. It was all premixed or preprepared or simply just made the easiest possible way. Most bartenders are backpackers themselves and have little skill in preparing anything unique. So personally, I didn’t like the idea of coming from the beach and walking straight into strobe lights and fist pumping techno. I did however embrace the Lagos experience so I could say I gave it a proper go. Here are some spots below to try:
- Mynt Bar – great live music
- DC’s – for some fresh air as everyone drinks on the street
- Mellow Loco Bar – try the “volcano” cocktail and try playing darts afterwards (hilarious!)
- Three Monkeys – known for their beer bongs
- Inside Out – Try a fishbowl!
- Joe’s Garage – Best place for dancing
- Shakers Bar – the only bar open ALL day
- The Garden – my favourite place because it had lounges and a nice place to relax and have a conversation.
We met up with my sister and her boyfriend one night and managed to find an amazing place to get a good meal. Mullens prepared us an incredible duck and beef casserole which was deliciously tender. Yum! We sat there catching up and drinking wine (and forgetting about the party outside!) I would also recommend visiting Cafe Odeon for a huge cheap English breakfast and The International Cafe for an unforgettable pulled pork wrap!
2. G O K A Y A K I N G
For me, kayaking was the highlight in Lagos. There are many tour companies offering day trips to various locations. The Algarve region is famously known to have the cleanest waters in Portugal. I have road tripped the coast of Portugal and would definitely agree with this! Most of them depart from Praia Porto de Mos and run set tours twice a day. We opted for a 3 hour tour to the famous grottos and caves of Ponta de Piedade. It cost us 25 euros each and was well worth it! We had a local guide who told us that we will be kayaking at least 7km (without wind) and we appreciated the warning. We were ready.
The grottos are magnificent. The quality of the tour depends highly on the tides that day simply because some grottos are inaccessible during high tide. We were lucky enough to be able to see them all. On one occasion we had to get off our kayaks and swim under the rocks to reach the caves and the water shimmers a rainbow of colours due to reflection from the different rocks. It is truly beautiful. We went through some tight squeezes too which tested our strength and gave us a good laugh. The entire afternoon was so much fun. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!
3. G E T T O T H E B E A C H
I had travelled up the coast of Portugal years before and unfortunately couldn’t swim anywhere because it was too cold. I am talking 9 degree water despite the fact that the outside temperature was 35 degrees celcius or more! And it wasn’t just me. The beaches were packed full of people and there wouldn’t be a single soul in the water. Luckily, Lagos was far south enough (and outside the Arctic current) that we could swim pleasantly. The beach is a great place to hang out and there are many to choose from. However because of the tides, some are only accessible early morning or late afternoon. If you head over the canal from the old city and walk down the beach 300m, you will come across a few men lazing around under umbrellas. They offer water sports. I guess you can do water sports in any European coastal area and are certainly not unique to Lagos however my memories here are pretty hard to beat. The 4 of us opted for a flyfish which was able to fit us all. Although a steep 10 euros for 15 minutes – it was constant laughter. The driver did everything in his power to ensure we all flew off at some stage and my sister even lost her pants a few times. Best of all we had a go-pro to capture it all. It was great fun.
4. W A L K T H E C L I F F S
My friend and I could classify majority of our feelings into 2 states of mind. The first being “let’s do and eat whatever we want because who cares!” (which was 90% of the time) and the second being “I feel fat”. We constantly went through these “fat phases” and like any other backpacker – you begin to feel sluggish after weeks of overeating and partying. When we go through this phase, we generally encourage each other to put our runners on and incorporate sightseeing into a daily run. (note these ‘daily runs’ generally last 2 days)
One day we got up early and exited the old city to the South and walked up past Praia Do Camilo (a stunning white sandy beach accessed by hundreds of tiny stairs) and all the way down to Farol da Ponta da Piedade. The walk was beautiful. It combined pathways with bushwalking with beach and stairs. The views were breathtaking! You could see all the way along the coastline and could access the cliff’s edge through tiny bush paths. It was so much fun and we enjoyed getting out in the fresh air to fight the hangover!