• Marta

There's nothing like you, Portugal! (Days 1-3)

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

Portugal has it all. And when I say it, I mean - beautiful nature and nature parks with mountains and waterfalls, ocean with sandy beaches and impressive cliffs, as well as picturesque cities and towns with colourful castles, cobblestone streets and cute houses. And let's not forget - rich and tasty local food.

This was the reason we decided to spend our autumn holidays exploring Portugal from coast to mountains, spending there 10 days and experiencing as much as we could. Although November is not the typical tourism season there, we were more than happy we didn't have to deal with tourist crowds in popular attractions and difficulties with finding a place to park our car. Laying on the beach and sunbathing is not our thing anyways.

Belém Tower, Lisbon

Wednesday, 7 November (Day 1)

Lisbon. The secret thing about travelling is waking up early and visiting popular tourist attractions. This picture in front of Belém Tower - one of the most prominent landmarks of Lisbon - would usually be packed with tourists. Actually we managed to take some pictures just 30 seconds before it was "attacked" by a group Asian tourists. The tower itself is quite majestic - built in 16th century it served as a defence tower of the city.

Next we strolled along the promenade at the Tagus river (probably the flattest part of Lisbon), saw Monument to the Discoveries, Jerónimos Monastery - a Gothic-style religious complex and a burial site for kings. Also, I definitely needed a picture in a typically narrow Lisbon street with colourful houses. Some of them are realllllly narrow. Check!

When visiting any city, I always like to take a look at it from above. Well, we could not take a helicopter ride, but I would suggest the Santa Justa Elevator - a 45-meters high public lift that was built in 1902 and is still operating. There is an entrance fee though, but if you are not into waiting in long lines, then you can just google any viewing terraces - there are many in Lisbon (for example, Miradouro de Santa Luzia). And the view can be just as nice. One thing I would definitely suggest for breakfast, dinner, lunch or any other mealtime - visit Time Out Market in Lisbon. It is a huge pavilion with small catering kiosks around the hall. Some of our favourite dishes in Portugal were green wine, local cheese plate and typical breakfast pastry - pastel de nata. Find something for your taste and enjoy!

At the riverside we visited one of the most famous square in Lisbon - Comércio Square. Even a royal palace was located here some time ago. It is full of people and there are many restaurants next to it, so this is a great place, if you are one of those who just like to sit and watch people. Very close to the square you can find an interesting architectural piece - a House of Spikes. Literally, it has spikes all over it.

When in Lisbon, it is a must to see Lisbon-typical yellow trams. Don't worry, is you miss it, because they go quite often and you can catch them any time - their route is long and goes through all places you would normally visit in the centre of Lisbon. You can also ride in the tram, the ticket was at a cheap price - something around 2 EUR. Just take into consideration that many tourists usually like to do it and sometimes it gets very crowded.

Before leaving Lisbon and going to a hotel somewhere closer to the next day's adventures, we stopped near Vasco da Gama bridge and Vasco da Gama tower. There is a nice promenade for walking between the waters of River Tagus. A perfect spot for watching sunset and the night lights of the city. Then off we went over the famous and longest-in-Europe cable-stayed bridge (17.2km) towards the next adventures.

Thursday, 8 November (Day 2)

Day two for us started in a special place at the Atlantic ocean - Cabo Espichel. It is a remote, beautiful and wild place where you can really feel the strength of the ocean - the waves and the wind have been testing the limits of the coast of Portugal for thousands of years and made them strong. Near Cabo Espichel you will find Chapel of Memory or Memory Hermitage - small white building at the coast of the ocean.

Next we stopped at Sesimbra - a coastal town with beautiful sandy beach and an old fortress of Saint James of Sesimbra right at the beach. I believe that during more windy days the wall of the fortress is being washed by waves. This is definitely a nice place to rest in, and you can see it is a very popular resort because of many hotels built at the beach.

We continued our trip towards Setúbal - another coastal city with beautiful castle de São Filipe. And just as I like, you can see the whole city from above. The thing about travelling to the South part of Portugal is that the coast of Portugal is generally very high - sometimes we saw cliffs of 50 metres of height. But hidden along the way are small beaches - usually it is a small piece of shore bending into the land. Sometimes there were stairs leading to the beach, sometimes there was a road, but sometimes it was not really accessible - especially during bad weather conditions and big waves. So if you like remote and hidden beaches, just search the map, go and explore!

So we ended the day just like that - with a breathtaking view of sun setting into the ocean and us as the Zambujeira beach and standing on a huge cliff of Praia dos Alteirinhos. There was a stairwalk down to the beach where we went down and said goodbye to the sun. We noticed, that when the sun sets in Portugal, it disappears very quickly and it becomes dark very soon. So do not expect long hours of dusk.

Friday, 9 November (Day 3)

Day three was one of the most spectacular days in our trip. First stop was at Sagres Fortress - the most most Southwestern point in Portugal or you could also say - lower left corner of Portugal. Cape Sagres is a remote place. Some locals enjoy fishing there (from the 50-metres-high cliffs). Apparently they are trained to stand strong in the wind just like the coast of Portugal does. This is not a place to go for a swim as the waves are huge and strong and could easily throw anyone into the rocks.

After that we also visited Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente. There is a cafe where we enjoyed the morning with a coffee and pastel de nata. A wonderful way to start the day. After the breakfast it was time to start our beach marathon or a beach day - no, we did not lay in the sun, but we visited as many beaches as we could in a day!

This beautiful Beliche Beach was a perfect example of how interesting beaches can be here in Portugal - a sandy area that bends into the mainland and is enclosed by massive and steep cliffs. Nice staircase lead to the beach and a sign said that during bad weather or high tide it is not advisable to go there. You could get stuck and caught into the water.

So this might be one of the most amazing and interesting places in whole Portugal - Ponta da Piedade. Actually it is not just one place, but an area along the coast of Lagos city with yellow cliff and rock formations, caves and arches. We visited many of the famous places. You can even take a boat tour to the rocks or to visit some caves (we didn't!). We enjoyed this a lot! I mean, look at this view...

Although Ponta da Piedade is THE place, there are many beaches you can visit nearby - for example, Praia do Camilo, Praia Dona Ana, Praia dos Três Irmãos and Praia da Rocha - just go and explore! We could only imagine what happens here during summer season, when the beaches are fully packed with locals and tourists! We were very happy that we decided to come here in November, because the beaches were fairly empty and we could easily take pictures and walk around totally undisturbed.

When it could not get any more impressive, we found ourselves in Marinha Beach. Oh, dear, this was something. The beach has been awarded as many awards as you can get and voted among the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, Europe and World. There is a nice parking place and a hiking route to many directions, where you can explore the coastal line, cliffs and rocks. We would have loved to spend there more time and walk all the route, but it was too long for our schedule. At least I found the famous spot with two arches in the rock and, when standing in a specific spot, you can see a heart. A heart of rocks and filled with ocean. So cool! ;)

Last, but not least on our coastal journey was Praia dos Arrifes - just another group of wonderful rock formations in a very accessible place. After that we left behind the beaches, the beautiful Albufeira with cute colourful houses and headed to Faro where we took a walk and had dinner before calling it a day and going to sleep. Such magical day it was. But more adventures to come!

All places we visited by date HERE and in the map below:

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