After wrapping up our last evening in Madrid, we flew to Faro on a small commuter plane the next morning, and arranged for a driver to pick us up and take us to our next destination in Lagos. A place where all my dreams are made of. We had a pretty packed itinerary from our landing point, so this, was our chance to rest. Alex and Avtar stayed behind for a couple of extra days, and Shawn and I jetted off to the land of chill. Upon arrival to the Vila Graciosa, our host Susana welcomed us and made is feel instantly at home. Truly, the best part of Portugal, are the people. They are some of the truly kindest most lovely people I have come across. It felt like we made so many friends on our trip, and I’m excited to share with you, the little gems we came across.
After exploring Lagos, and finding a local Fado joint in town, we got a few tips from Susana about where to go. Our first day, we went to Praia do Mos, a beach nearby, but it was crazy packed, and the coldest ocean water I have ever set foot in. This is definitely something to be aware of if you don’t like cold water. The Algarve region is known for it’s stunning beaches, but they can be very crowded, and insanely cold. Luckily Susana pointed us towards a little beach about 30 minutes from where we were staying. We rented a car for the Portugal portion of our adventure, since, it’s the best way to get around if you are planning on going to multiple locations off the beaten path. We ended up at a little beach, just outside of Sagres, called Praia do Castelejo. It’s definitely a surfer beach, and there were quite a few surf classes happening that day, but it was by far way less crowded than the Praia do Mos. Sagres is also a really cute town, that I would definitely look into staying in the next time around.
Our last day in Lagos, we booked a trip to sail around the beautiful rock formations that are what the area is known for. Low and behold, they are also known for having rocky sea’s that you can’t actually sail in often, due to the conditions. Our tour was canceled, so we spoke to a woman on the dock, who told us, we could go on a smaller boat with a pirate, who knew the seas well, and of course, we said yes, that sounds like agreat idea! Francisco our pirate captain was an old school sea man, so we knew were in good hands. That did not mean, we did not think it was a bit insane once we were out there. We were on a tiny speed boat, in super choppy waters, surrounded by massive rock formations. At one point, he approached a very small opening in the rocks, as the sea rocked our boat back and forth, thinking he would not actually try to go through. He did, and we all couldn’t believe we came out alive. In the end, he was hilarious, and it was worth risking our lives for. Haha. I don’t think it was that dangerous, but it felt like it.
My biggest obsession in Lagos, was the light. It felt like we were in a movie every time we walked out at sunset. The thing about that area, is that there are not many high buildings, and there are light colors everywhere, and beaches for miles. That means the light is just bouncing off of everything around there, and creating an incredible visual. The time of year also meant it stayed light until almost 9 pm, it was completely magical. It also had this interesting quality of sort of flattening space, and making what would otherwise be a banal suburban setting, seam so much more than. These are some of the few images I caught before we left town.
Sleep: Vila Graciosa best place to relax ever. Say hi to Susana.
Eat: The Pintos humble eatery, off the beaten path, get the whole grilled fish. Find some seafood and rice somewhere else, that was one of the other best meals we had, but can't remember where. We also went a local shop, and stocked up on charcuterie, cheese, fruits, wine, olive oil, and bread. The spicy chorizo is amazing! The fruit there is lovely! The oranges were some of the best I have ever had.
Beach: Praia do Castelejo
To Do: Find Francisco the pirate and go on a boat ride :)
The next leg of our adventure was a road trip north up to the Douro Valley, which has been named a Unesco World Heritage site and is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. That means lots of wine tasting, and magical terrain. The drive alone from the south to north was amazing. The landscape really changes a lot from region to region, as the south is much more of a desert scape, while the further north you go, it becomes much more lush and verdant. The rolling hills in Pinhao, where we stayed were incredible. The hills form the valley, surrounding the Douro river. The history of the region alone is pretty incredible. Needless to say, we went on several wine and port tasting tours, a river cruise, and to some local joints in this incredibly quaint small town. We even did a day trip to a small town, that looked like time stood still, and nothing has changed for 100’s of years.
Douro Tips: Wine Tourism in Portugal We had an agent book our hotel, tours, and boat ride to simplify things. This is the company we used.
Sleep: Quinta De La Rosa
Last but not least, is Lisbon. The oldest city in western Europe. Even though we planned this big trip, at the end of the day, none of us really knew that much about Portugal, so it became this mystery that unraveled during our trip. Of course we knew the basics of it’s history as a major colonizer, but nothing that related to present day life. Why was it the lesser known of Western Europe? Why are Italy, Spain, and France such bigger destinations, that were all places we could each name something about. I’m the type of person who likes to go on adventures not knowing much before hand, and getting the chance to discover some things along the way. Portugal, was a lovely place to do this. Lisbon is a quickly changing place, as tourism has boomed in the last few years, so I really hope for the sake of the Portuguese that they are able to hold onto the things that make it a special place, with kind and lovely people. By the time we got to Lisbon, we were going on week 3 of travel, so I did not get to experience as much as I liked, as I also got very sick the last couple of days I was there, but I still enjoyed my time there greatly, and can't wait to go back!
Bairro do Avillez Delicious, trendy restaurant, with Michelin rated chef, at modest prices :)
Time Out Lisbon Kind of insane, and full of tourists, but worth a stop.
A Cevicheria We did not make it here, but also came highly recommended by many people
The Mill Oddly enough, coffee is not great in Portugal, but things are staring to happen there, so if coffee is very important to you, this is the place to go. We made several friends here :)
Park Trendy rooftop bar. Also a bit crazy, but a nice view, and if you get there early, you might get a seat.
Pensao Amor A local favorite. Everyone told us this was the best bar in Lisbon, but we went at an off time, so not much going on. I think it's more of a late night scene.
LX Factory Cool area with shops, restaurants, rooftop bar, and street art.
Amoieras Shopping Mall We went here because it's the highest point in Lisbon, and you can get a really nice overall view of the city. It's 5 Euro to go up.
Day Trip to Sintra/ We did not end up doing this, but everyone everywhere told us it was a must.
Thanks for reading friends! I hope you get a chance to go, and experience this beautiful country!