Lagos and its cliffs, Portugal

My family and I recently spent two relaxing weeks near Lagos, a lovely town situated towards the west of the Algarve, southern Portugal. Two weeks of full-on sunshine, temperatures hovering around 30 degrees. Very breezy at times, but consequently not at all humid. Just right.

Lagos has a rich history, having been at various times under the control of the celts, the Romans, the Visgoths, the Byzantine empire, the Moors (for around five centuries) and the Spanish. It was home to some of the first great explorers in the 15th century, like Henry the Navigator and Gil Eanes, who found a safe route around Cape Bojador on the coast of Western Sahara. This opened up trade with sub-Saharan Africa. And made Lagos one of the first major centres of the slave trade. This part of the town’s history is not trumpeted in the same way as the exploits of those first navigators, unsurprisingly.

There is still plenty of old Portuguese architecture in the town, in the backstreets off the main squares. But a fair amount of the pre -17th century buildings were destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave in 1755. Here are a few glimpses.

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The cliffs though, and the the eroded rock formations that jut out of the sea, are what make the area truly beautiful. I checked Wikipedia to see what geology lay behind this.

The Algarve stands out as unique stratigraphic and morpho-tectonicregion. A peripheral Carboniferous unit of the Variscan orogeny, it constitutes the Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary layers, deposited onto two totally distinct superimposed basins. Between the Middle-Upper Triassic to Hettangian, sediments evolved from continental (fluvial red sandstone) to shallow marine over the entire region, which included instances of evaporates, tholeiite fissural magmas, lava flows, volcanic ash and pyroclasts.

Ah, yes, of course!

Well, what I can tell you is that the cliffs were multi-hued, with deep red brown sandstone plonked on top of what looked like layers of sedimentary rocks and clays. The kind of rocks that are worn by the Atlantic winds and waves into weird and wonderful shapes. With cliff faces that slowly but surely collapse into the sea. I reckon the villa we stayed in only has a few hundred years before it meets its fate!

We were about 10 minutes from a beach called Praia de Porto de Mos. The cliffs there were classic examples of the layering and the erosion. I went down there a couple of time before the beaches became too crowded and took a few shots. Here are a few.

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At one end of the beach people had taken advantage of the smooth rocks and stones to build cairns, loads of them. It was an impressive sight. It looked quite primitive, and maybe it is. People expressing the simplest of of playful emotions.

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Some people were also taking the clays, mixing them with a little water and plastering the mixture over their bodies. After letting it dry they would plunge into the sea. I guess it was cleansing, like a mud pack. But with these grey creatures wandering about the beach and some of the crazier cairns, it looked like we’d alighted upon some strange tribe in the remote west of the Algarve!

I like this lone branch. I think it was natural, but who knows?

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There was a sandstone coloured path leading from our villa through the scrubland to a cliff path which wound its way to the next settlement heading west, Luz. This shot is looking back onto Praia de Porto de Mos. You can see, in this area, how sandstone is the top layer.

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Closer up, the beach was like this.

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We ventured out one day on a boat to see some dolphins. We saw a few after quite a search out to sea. On the way back the boat ran along the coast and we got a great view of the rocks where the sea and wind have exercised their powers. A work of art.

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Good place, Lagos…

 

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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6 Responses to Lagos and its cliffs, Portugal

  1. What a wonderful trip you had. Your pics are gorgeous, thank you so much! (I like the lone branch, too) _Resa

  2. David says:

    Nice photos and good observations of the rocks. This is the great thing about geology-start with simple observations and questions and work your way up. In the end the surprise is how little is known by the professionals. I have myself made many photos and rock observations along the Algarve and also found large numbers of shell fossils. But up to now I have found no overview [understandable] description of the geology, neither on internet nor in books or publications. If anyone can help here I would be most grateful. There is plenty of red sandstone along the coast but go inland a bit or to the west and one finds shale and granite in scattered locations. Fascinating!

  3. Bernie_B says:

    Stumbled upon your piece, I just returned from a most wonderful trip to the western part of the Algarve. I was on a recce type of trip to check it out and perhaps return with the family later. I brought a few shells and rocks back and was trying to get the geology on the rock formations. Not much out there.

    Btw, I stayed at an ocean villa in beautiful Carvoeiro and I quickly realized that Lagos is probably the best home base if you plan to visit as many sites as possible. I also recognized that July and Aug are high tourist times, so late Apr and May are IMO best for weather and still no long line ups for restaurants etc.. Many British subjects retire in the Algarve and English is accepted and spoken everywhere.

    I hit many beaches along the way and discovered a most fascinated walk way between Praia do Vale Carvalho and Praie de Vale Centeanes. Its about ~ 2.5 km and the sights are unbelievable along the coast line with accent being on Farol Alfanzina (lighthouse). Trail is marked but it has a few tricky turns and some areas are a bit difficult. So its not for everybody but if you take your time and go slowly for the few difficult areas you should be okay. Recommend you not go solo though.

    I too took may pictures, and I can see that you take photography seriously (nice pics). The only regret I have is that I ran out of time and didn’t get to Praia Ana Dona and Praia Marinha and to Sagres.

    Cheer and thanks for your piece and beautiful photos.

    Bernie

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