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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Closer up, the beach was like this.
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.
Good place, Lagos…