Lagos, Portugal

For the largest city in Nigeria, see Lagos.

Lagos (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈlaɣuʃ](listen) ; literally "lakes"; Proto-Celtic: *Lacobriga) is a city and municipality at the mouth of Bensafrim River and along the Atlantic Ocean, in the Barlavento region of the Algarve, in southern Portugal.[1] The population of the municipality in 2011 was 31,049,[2] in an area of 212.99 km2.[3] The city of Lagos proper (which includes only the civil parish of São Sebastião e Santa Maria) has a population of approximately 22,000.[4] Typically, these numbers increase during the summer months, with the influx of visiting tourists and seasonal residents. While the majority of the population lives along the coast and works in tourism and services, the inland region is sparsely inhabited, with the majority of the people working in agriculture and forestry.

Lagos is one of the most visited cities in the Algarve and Portugal, due to its variety of tourist-friendly beaches, rock formations (Ponta da Piedade), bars, restaurants and hotels, renowned for its vibrant summer nightlife and parties.[citation needed] Yet, Lagos is also a historic centre of the Portuguese Age of Discovery, frequent home of Henry the Navigator, historical shipyard and, at one time, centre of the European slave trade.[5] In 2012, travel website TripAdvisor, classified Lagos as the number one travel destination, on a list of "15 destinations on the rise" worldwide.[6]

Lagos, Nigeria, may have been named after it, since, at the time of the 15th century, Lagos, Portugal, was the main centre of Portuguese maritime expeditions down the African coast.




Lagos is an ancient maritime town with more than 2000 years of history. The name Lagos comes from a Celtic settlement, derived from the Latin Lacobriga, the name of the settlement was established during the pre-Punic civilizations. It became an early settlement of the Carthaginians, who recruited Celtic tribesmen in their war against the Romans (the Punic Wars). Owing to its already important harbour, it was colonized by the Romans and integrated into the Roman province of Lusitania, becoming known as Lacobriga. Quintus Sertorius, a rebellious Roman general, helped by the Lusitanians of Lacobriga (who had been oppressed under Roman Generals and members of Lucius Cornelius Sulla party), successfully defeated the Roman army of Caecilius Metellus Pius probably at nearby Monte Molião.

With the fall of Rome, the town of Lagos was occupied in the 6th century by the Visigoths from the Kingdom of Toledo and later by the Byzantines.

The Moors arrived in the 8th century from North Africa, renaming the settlement Zawaia (meaning lago, or lake). It became part of the much larger coastal region of al-Gharb, which eventually became known as the Algarve. The Moors fortified the town with Lagos Castle and established important trade links to Northern Africa from their bases in the Iberian peninsula. In 1174, the local Wāli gave permission for the Christian peoples to construct a church dedicated to São João Baptista, which was built outside the town's walls (becoming the oldest church in the Algarve).


Even as King Afonso Henriques advanced to the south, the Christian Reconquista never made it into Algarve and Alentejo, and the south remained under Moorish control. King Sancho I, with the support of Crusader forces used Lagos as a stepping stone to attack the fortress of Alvôr.[7] Zawaia was eventually captured by King Afonso III of Portugal in 1241, but was only taken definitively in 1249. From this period on the King began self-styling himself as the "King of Portugal and the Algarve", stressing the fact that the Algarve (which had for so long been ruled by the Moors as a foreign country) had been annexed into the dominion of the Portuguese. Lagos became an independent jurisdiction under the rule of King Peter I in 1361.

King John I assembled his fleet in the harbour of Lagos, before setting sail for the siege and conquest of the city of Ceuta in 1415. This was the first step in opening the Muslim world to medieval Europe, which in fact led to the Age of Discovery with Portuguese explorers sailing across the whole world. By the 15th century, Lagos became the centre of Portuguese maritime exploration, with ships ordered south to trace the shoreline of Africa in order to find routes to India. InfanteHenry the Navigator , third son of King John, lived most of the time in Lagos. From here he directed expeditions to Morocco and to the western coast of Africa with caravels, lateen-rigged ships with excellent seafaring capabilities. Lagos was also the home port for Gil Eanes who was the first to sail beyond Cape Bojador in 1434, after a failed attempt in 1433 that put him out of favour with the, then considered the end of the world. The act of rounding the Cape, much like the later rounding of the Cape of Good Hope, permitted Eanes (and the navigators that followed) to advance into the African subcontinent. When, by 1443, Lançarote (then fiscal officer of the crown) had sailed as far as Arguim and brought back 275 Africans, the Portuguese had sufficient slaves to relieve the perpetual handicap of agricultural labour.[8]

Over the following decades, news of discoveries and achievements, and ships loaded with spices and goods would flow into the port of Lagos. It was also the gateway for the first African slaves into post-medieval Europe.[9] Even before Africa was opened-up to the Portuguese, the seamen of Lagos were already enthusiastic slave-catchers.[10] From the first slave markets in Lagos (the Mercado de Escravos, which opened in 1444), many Africans were dispersed throughout Europe, bringing a considerable income to the Portuguese monarchy and merchant classes, as well as cheap labour force.[9] As the major sponsor of these expeditions, Prince Henry received one-fifth of the selling price of every slave. The demand for the indentured labour force was so high that, by 1450, profit on Mauritanian slaves was 700 percent.[11] The discovery of gold by Alfonso Gonçales also increased activities in Lagos, whose residents petitioned the Infante Henry to establish a trading company to pursue gold deposits in the region.[12] This included Juan Dias (ancestor of Bartolomeu Dias who rounded the Cape of Good Hope), Gil Eanes, Lançarote de Freitas, Estevan Alfonso and Rodrigo Alvarez, who provisioned a squadron of six caravels to travel to isle of Garças in 1444, but returned with 150 Africans.[12]


Following the death of Prince Henry, and the expansion into the Atlantic and New World, the port of Lagos continued to receive shipments of goods and slaves, but its role began to decrease. Lisbon, began to prosper, with ships returning directly from the colonies of the Azores, Madeira and Brazil, while trading houses began to relocate to the capital. But, even as the wealth arrived in Lisbon and Lagos, the ostentation was widely on display in the royal residences.[13]

King Sebastian, obsessed with his plans for a great crusade against the Kingdom of Fez, assembled a huge fleet in Lagos in 1578.[14] During this ill-fated attempt he and most of Portugal's nobility were killed in the Battle of Ksar El Kebir in Morocco, eventually causing a succession crisis, that eventually resulted in the Iberian Union.

When Portugal came under Spanish rule, the Portuguese coast became a target for the English fleet. Lagos, close to the Spanish naval base of Cádiz, was attacked by Sir Francis Drake in the late 1580s, but was defended by its inhabitants, resulting in Drakes sack of Faro.[15] But, the coast was under regular attack of other pirates and corsairs, in addition to the Spanish who bombarded the Algarve during the Portuguese Restoration War (1640–1668), which led to the construction of a string of forts all along the coast. One of them was the late-17th-century Fort of Ponta da Bandeira in Lagos, which was completed between 1679 and 1690 (according to the stone inscription over the main door).

From 1576 to 1755, Lagos was a high-profile capital of the Algarve, until the old Portuguese town was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami of 1755. Although some walls from the 16th century still remain, as well as the governor's castle, many of the buildings are from the 17th century.

Two well-known naval battles took place off Lagos, reflecting its strategic location: in the Battle of Lagos (1693) a French flotilla defeated a combined Anglo-Dutch force, while in the Battle of Lagos (1759) a British force defeated a French force.



Physical geography

By its geographical position (east-northeast to west-southwest orientation) and lithological diversity, the Algarve stands out as a unique stratigraphic and morpho-tectonic region.[16] A peripheral Carboniferous unit of the Variscan orogeny, it constitutes the Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary layers, deposited onto two totally distinct superimposed basins.[16] 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.[16]

The area of Lagos, conforms to the Middle Miocene Lagos-Portimão formation (a band that extends along the coast from Lagos to Albufeira, abutting the Serra do Caldeirão to the north) and which corresponds to marine sedimentation over relatively stable, but a minorly deformed limestone shelf platform.[16][17][18] A period of calm during the intra-Miocene (of approximately 2.4 Ma) led to generalized exposure and development of karst, that influences the present day coastline.[16][18] The conspicuous horizontal bending of this profile in the cliffs of Lagos, much like the remainder of the Lagos-Portimão formation, is formed by alternating bands of siliciclastic and calcareouslithologies .[17] The low degree of cementation in the layers causes a high degree of instability of the cliffs.[17] The littoral and cliff sands are dominated by various bivalve organisms, bryozoans, larger benthicforaminifers and Coralline algae with minor additions of echinoids and balanids implying a shallow-water depositional system of a warm-temperate climatic regime.[17] The locality of Cerro das Mós, from where a large crocodilian (Tomistoma schlegelii) tooth was collected long ago,[19] has also produced some Odontoceti teeth. These may be dated from the Serravallian, which, constitute the oldest marine mammal occurrence in Algarve.[18][20]


Lagos has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen: Csa) with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Like the rest of the Algarve, Lagos is very sunny, averaging over 3100 hours of sunshine a year. Precipitation is concentrated in the winter months, where highs average around 16–17 °C (61–63 °F) and lows around 8–9 °C (46–48 °F), wind and humidity are also more prevalent during this season, averaging 14 km/h (8.7 mph) of wind and around 80% humidity. Summers are warm to hot, very sunny and generally still, the coastal sea breeze helps to cool down the often excessive heat of this season.

Sea temperatures have little seasonal variation and are their highest in September-October and their lowest in March, averaging 20–21 °C (68–70 °F) in the summer, and 16–17 °C (61–63 °F) in the winter.[21]

Climate data for Lagos, Portugal
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 15.9













Daily mean °C (°F) 12.1













Average low °C (°F) 8.4













Average precipitation mm (inches) 67.4













Mean monthly sunshine hours158.7 168.7 202.4 264.7 319.9 337.1 382.8 356.3 265.2 219.8 174.9 168.3 3,018.8
Source 1:[22]
Source 2: IPMA (1951-1980 sunshine hours),[23] Portuguese Environment Agency (precipitation)[24]

Ecoregions/Protected areas

Lagos has many natural interest sites, including:


Sustainable tourism

In 2012 Lagos received the QualityCoast Gold Award for its efforts to become a sustainable tourism destination. Because of this award, Lagos has been selected for inclusion in the global atlas for sustainable tourism DestiNet. [26]

Human geography

The municipality of Lagos is located approximately 35 kilometres (22 miles) east of the Cape St. Vincent coast, along the southern coast of the Algarve. It is surrounded along its borders by the municipalities of Vila do Bispo (to the west), Aljezur (to the northwest), Monchique (to the northeast) and Portimão (to the east).

To the north of Lagos is the road to Silves, the first capital of Algarve, Monchique (spa town/mountain), Milfontes, a coastal town and port/harbour of the city of Sines, that winds through the scenic protected landscape of the Southwest Natural Park (Costa Sudoeste Alentejana e Vicentina).

Administratively, the municipality is divided into 4 civil parishes (freguesias):[27]

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Portugal

Lagos is twinned with:



Lagos' economy, like many coastal towns in Portugal, has always been closely linked to the sea, and fishing has been an important activity since very ancient times. Since 1960, the city has embraced tourism, which has become its most important economic activity. It has beautiful beaches, good climate, the sea, a scenic coastline, and historical patrimony.

The Marina de Lagos has 460 berths and has become an important centre for long-distance cruisers, and it is also known for its modern drawbridge.

Lagos also has numerous cultural and night-life entertainment venues.

Lagos Station is the western terminus of the Linha do Algarve railway line, which connects Lagos to Vila Real de Santo António (via Faro and Tavira). The passenger train service is operated by Comboios de Portugal (CP). Connections are available at Tunes for trains to Lisbon and Porto.









Many local traditions are celebrated in the municipality and range from gastronomy to traditional handicrafts.

In gastronomy, there are the local specialties: Dom rodrigos and morgados cookies based on local products, such as almonds, figs and eggs. Lagos is also a wine-producing region and is famous for its moscatel wine, and also for a strong alcoholic spirit, the aguardente de medronho, made of berries of strawberry tree.

Notable citizens



See also



  1. Detail Regional Map, Algarve-Southern Portugal, ISBN3-8297-6235-6
  2. "Statistics Portugal". Archived from the original on 15 November 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  3. "Áreas das freguesias, concelhos, distritos e país". Archived from the original on 2018-11-05. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  5. A Long and Uncertain Journey: The 27,000 Mile Voyage of Vasco Da Gama - Joan E. Goodman, Tom McNeely. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  6. "15 destinations on the rise". Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  7. CUP (1970), p.95
  8. CUP (1970), p.190
  9. H. Morse Stephens (1891), p.149
  10. David Birmingham (2003), p. 27
  11. David Birmingham (2003), p. 29
  12. Robert Kerr (1844), p.189
  13. David Birmingham (2003), p. 30
  14. H. Morse Stephens (1891), p.253
  15. CUP (1970), p.275
  16. M. Cachão, P. Terrinha, A. Santos (2005), p.179-180
  17. Markus H. Forst, Thomas C. Brachert and Joiio Pais (2000), p.290
  18. J. Pais et al. (2000), p.279
  19. M.T. Antunes et al. (1981), p.9-38
  20. M. Estevens (2000), p.271-280
  21. "Lagos Sea Temperature". Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  22. "Climate of Lagos, Portugal". 2020. Retrieved on June 11, 2020.
  23. "Plano de Gestão das Bacias Hidrográficas das Ribeiras do Algarve"(PDF) . Portuguese Environmental Agency. p. 131. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  24. "São Sebastião, Lagos (31E/01UC), 1971-2021". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  25. "Watersports and boat tours in Lagos". Seabookings.
  26. Sustainable Tourism Destination EUCCArchived 2017-09-24 at Wikiwix
  27. Diário da República. "Law nr. 11-A/2013, page 552 59"(PDF) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  28. Guide to the cultural heritage of the AlgarveArchived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, By Turismo of Portugal:Algarve, OCLC860570547
  29. Ponta da Bandeira (or Pau da Bandeira) are actually more recent names given the fortress, named for the area of Lagos on which it is actually located.
  30. "Gomez, Diogo" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 229.
  31. "Breve historial da sociedade Portuguesa de geriatria e gerontologia". Sociedade Portuguesa de Geriatria e Gerontologia. Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  32. Julia Barroso, IMDb Database retrieved 06 June 2021.


Municipality of Faro District (Algarve)

AlbufeiraAlcoutimAljezurCastro MarimFaroLagoaLagosLouléMonchiqueOlhãoPortimãoSão Brás de AlportelSilvesTaviraVila do BispoVila Real de Santo António