At the edge of Europe, Portugal
When deciding what our vacation destination would be this year, Portugal seemed like an interesting place. The nature is beautiful, very diverse and Portugal has some of Europes finest beaches. And not to mention the jawdropping cliffs to the west.
We started our trip in Lisbon, and by pure coincidence we arrived on the same day the St. Antonio -festival started. The streets were packed with people, streetfood-cars and beer-stands, and people danced and sang together. One local told us that by numbers of participants, St. Antonio is the biggest festival in Europe – And it sure felt like that! After the 4-day festival we headed outside the city and visited the famous Castle of the Moors, and the idyllic beaches in Cascais. Sintra was definitely worth the trip and the history of the town is just mindblowing. The place is packed with old monuments, structures, castles and mansions – and I bet you could explore it for weeks and still find new interesting places. We only had the day to explore so we headed straight for the castle. It was a cold and rainy day with a lot of fog, we didn’t see a thing when looking down the mountain. The small walking path up to the castle was surrounded by big trees and old fortification walls – and in some parts it kind of felt like a jungle. Once on top we entered the castle (like Mario, yay) and explored the whole site. Although it seems large on maps and pictures – it’s fairly small in real life. I won’t spoil the things we saw there but it’s definitely worth it to visit! We took another way down and walked this really curvy road through the woods with amazing views. The town of Sintra itself also has a lot to offer, numerous parks and monuments, mansions and churches. We also visited Cascais, which I believe is the “richer” part of Lisbon, with its shopping malls, white beaches and beautiful seaside roads. We stayed at the beach for a while, and walked back to town along the coast. After a week in Lisbon we rented a car and took off to Algarve, the southern part of Portugal.
Once in Algarve, we rented a small house in a village called Rogil, on the west coast – about 3km from the ocean. We took a lot of daytrips from here to explore the majority of Algarve. One of the coolest places was the lighthouse Sao Vicente, which also is Europes most southwesternly point and the lighthouse itself, is in fact Europes strongest shining lighthouse. Standing on the cliff it really felt like the edge of the world, I definitely recommend visiting this place. When going there you will be driving through Sagres and some of the most popular surfing beaches. The beaches looked amazing, but are packed with people and surfers so if you don’t like crowds, you won’t like the beaches either. We probably visited about 10 beaches and the one we liked the most was actually the one closest to us. We watched the sun set here every evening and had the whole beach to ourselves. These moments, were probably the best of the whole trip.
On another daytrip, we set our sights on Monchique, the highest mountain in southern Portugal. Driving there was pretty scary, some of the roads are so narrow only 1 car can fit it, with really steep drops of the mountain. Once on top you can see most of the coastline, with a lot of hills and windmills. The view was pretty cool, but I think the drive to and from there was better! On this same trip we visited Portimao.
After exploring the Algarve for some 4 days we headed back to northern Lisbon and stayed in a suburb called Massama. From here we visited Cabo da Roca, Europes most westernly point, the point where Europe literally ends, or begins. Amazing place, sure makes you feel small when standing on the cliffs and looking out to a seemingly endless ocean. On our drive here we drove through the mountains of Sintra and had a chance to revisit the forests there.
I loved Portugal, and I will visit it again someday, but probably the northern parts this time.