On our third day in the Algarve we traveled to the nearby town of Lagos, which straddles that Atlantic Ocean and has served as a seaport for some 2000 years.
Lagos was first built by Celtic natives, however it soon became an outpost for the Carthaginians, and then the Romans. Later the site was one of the first to be taken over by the Moors in 8th century, who would then go on to conquer most of the Iberian Peninsular. Under Moorish rule Lagos became a prosperous town due to the establishment of trade routes with the rest of Moorish Empire in North Africa. As a result the Moors sought to secure Lagos by building town walls and a castle, which still survive today. The town wasn’t reconquered by the Christian armies of King Alfonso of Portugal until 1241.
Lagos was the harbour in which King John of Portugal assembled his fleet and led them across the sea to conquer the North African city of Ceuta in 1415. This in turn sparked the Great Age of Discovery as Portugal opened up further links with North and West Africa. Henry the Navigator spent most of his life in this place, organising expeditions too Morocco and other places, including the famous expedition of Gil Eanes who became the first European to round the infamous Cape of Bojador in 1434, which permitted further explorers to advance deeper into the African continent.
However Lagos also came to be associated with the much darker aspects of these expeditions. In 1444 the first slave markets were opened up in Lagos and from there African slaves were transported across Europe, bringing considerable income to both the Portuguese merchant class and its monarchy. Henry the Navigator is said to have earned one fifth of the final price that every slave was sold at in the Lagos markets. Fortunately this dominance of the slave markets didn’t last long in Lagos and after Henry’s death in 1460, Lagos’s role in the slave trade greatly decreased.
Today Lagos is much quieter town which caters greatly to the booming tourist industry. After awhile of enjoying ourselves in the colorful atmosphere of the town, we headed further inland, toward the Serra de Monchique mountains. From there we drove to the summit of Foia, the highest mountain in the Algarve. The road leading up the mountain isn’t one for the faint hearted, there’s lots narrow corners and very steep drops.
Foia itself stands at only 3000 feet, but it dominates the surrounding countryside, allowing onlookers to observe the entirety of the Algarve and the Atlantic coastline. However visitors do have to contend with a radar station which crowns the mountain, and since its so much further from the ocean, the summit can be absolutely boiling in summer.
I hope you enjoyed this third part of my trip to Portugal. If you did enjoy it feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.