Portugal was an unexpected gem.
Confession time – when I planned my trip, I was definitely trying to tick places of the list. I couldn’t explain why I wanted to go to Portugal. It’s near Morocco and Spain, so it just seemed logical. I decided to visit Lagos, because it’s pretty, Lisbon, because it’s the capital, and Porto because it’s the home of port wine. Yep, sound reasoning.
Because it was such a short stay, here is a short recap:
Lagos: Easily the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, because of the caves and grottos. I recommend doing the kayak tour around the coast, which goes in and around of the caves and grottos that can’t be reached on foot. Wear sunscreen. Oh my god, wear sunscreen. Also, my first ever stay in a hostel was in Lagos, which was a nice experience, made only better by a huge, beautiful dog named Urso (bear).
Lisbon: Very pretty cobblestoned city, loads of shopping and beautiful food. Portuguese egg tarts for days, mate. And I recommend trying the hot stone steak at Cabacas and the best ever Piri Piri chicken at Bonjardim. At Bonjardim I tried to ask the waiter what was in the Piri Piri sauce. He definitely didn’t understand me, because he hurried off to the kitchen and returned with a full bottle of the sauce for me to take home. I couldn’t take it, but wow. Bless.
Porto: Of the cities I’ve visited in Portugal, Porto would probably be my favourite. More city than beach, but more quaint than neat. Not to mention the plentiful supply of delicious port wine. I recommend the cellar tours and tastings, particularly the one at Croft Port, the oldest cellar in Porto. I almost bought a 1938 bottle, but fate stopped me. I checked my pockets thoroughly, but simply didn’t have the €568 lying around.
It turned out to be a great time. Admittedly, I did not get to see as much of the historical sights as I probably should have, but there’s always time to go back. I think I liked Portugal because of the laid back feel. Somehow its people, bars, restaurants and general vibe is just chill, particularly when compared with its buzzing neighbour, Spain.
It’s probably worth mentioning that Portugal is where I started my solo travels. That is to say, not travelling or staying with family or friends, and not on an organised tour. I prepared to fly from Marrakech to Faro and take a shuttle bus to my hostel in Lagos and started thinking insane thoughts, like ‘what if the shuttle bus doesn’t come? What if I get to the hostel and there’s no record of my booking? What if, for whatever reason, I miss my flight?’ Utter rubbish, I planned it all perfectly. But this is the beginning of solo travelling for the natural self-doubter.
Europe is made for the young, solo traveller, being packed with quality hostels, most of which are designed to foster new friendships, and they did. Whether they last or not, it was unforgettable because it softened the whole experience. Portugal has had some of the best hostels I’ve stayed in so far, so I’ve added the details of the hostels I used below, if ever you plan on visiting the same places. Moving between cities takes only a few hours by bus or train and most people can speak at least some English.
Note: Food in Portugal is quite cheap, but take the trouble to do research and find the good spots to eat :)
Portugal, a chilled out taste of Europe.
Tag Hostel Lagos
Lisbon Destination Hostel
Tattva Design Hostel Porto