Wednesday, May 18, 2016

8 Nights in Portugal: An Overview

When hubby and I started planning our trip to Portugal last October, we changed our itinerary about a half dozen times. We knew we had 8 nights, but there was so much we wanted to see!

 Landing in Lisbon

We went back and forth - should we do four nights each in Lisbon and Porto, with accompanying day trips and exploring from each base? Should we work our way around the country with a night in each location? How hard would it be to incorporate a quick overnight to Gibraltar and Morocco? In the end, we decided this hopefully wouldn't be our only trip to Portugal, but we wanted to get a small taste of different parts. We settled on two nights each in Lisbon, Lagos, Sintra and Porto, with the nights in Lisbon book-ending the rest.

We did an awkward sort of backwards figure eight around the country - starting in Lisbon for a night, down to Lagos for two nights, up to Sintra for two night, farther up to Porto for two nights, then back down to Lisbon for our last night. I feel like we got a great taste of different regions of the country, without being as rushed as changing hotels every night would have made us!


Here's what our itinerary looked like (updated to include the posts for some of the spots!):

Hubby arrived in Lisbon from Los Angeles around 11am, and I arrived from my work trip in Cannes around noon. Our friend, RW, had arrived in Lisbon the previous evening - he hung out with us for the first couple days of the trip, as he's in the Navy and based in Naples, Italy at the moment so we don't get to see much of him! Hubby and I met up at the airport, then we trekked via metro to our hotel, where RW met us. We got settled for a minute, then ventured out for a snack and some sight seeing. We wandered around, got a late lunch, then checked out Belem Tower. By the time we cabbed it back to Lisbon, it was late and we were beat, so we stopped for a snack and then crashed at the hotel. (More on Lisbon here!)

 Panorama of Lisbon from one of the many viewpoints.

We had breakfast at the hotel, then went to pick up the rental car. More on that later! Finally got into the car around 11am and heading down towards the Algarve in the south. The drive was smooth and uneventful, and we made it to the hotel in Lagos, then headed east to Benagil beach for a sea cave tour, then back to Lagos for a late dinner. (More on renting a car in Portugal and on our cave tour here!)

 Benagil Cove, from up at a little cafe.

Breakfast at the hotel, and it was an overcast, little rainy day. We spent the day driving around the Algarve, visiting the southernmost point of Portugal - Sagres. We visited the Cape Saint Vincent lighthouse and the Fortaleza de Sagres, then again headed back to Lagos for dinner. (More on the Algarve here!)

So foggy! Good thing there is a lighthouse here... Cape Saint Vincent lighthouse.

After breakfast we jumped back in the car and took a rather long, winding way back up towards Sintra. We hit a couple cute beach towns on the way up, and had a late-ish lunch at a cute spot on the coast in Vila Nova de Milfontes while we watched a fast rain storm come in and pass over us. We arrived in Sintra in the early evening, checked into our hotel, and walked to the historic district for dinner. (More on our road trip here!)

 Houses and a windmill in Odeceixe.

Breakfast at the hotel, and then we ventured up to explore the Moorish Castle before we took RW to the airport in Lisbon for his flight back to Naples. More on the castle, and the Quinta da Regaleira later! We checked out the Quinta da Regaleira after returning from the Lisbon airport (a quick 25 minute drive from Sintra), then headed down to Cascais to have dinner at a friend of a friend's carpaccio restaurant, La Contessa. (More on Sintra and the Quinta da Regaleira here!)

 Moorish Castle in Sintra

All the hotels in Portugal had really nice breakfasts, and after we were stuffed and well caffeinated, we got back in the car and headed towards the westernmost point of continental Europe, the Cabo Da Roca. After a quick visit along with a ton of tour buses, we headed north towards Porto. Quite by accident, we stopped in Óbidos, an fantastic walled city, for lunch. We did a quick drive through of Aveiro (the Venice of Portugal), but determined it to be too touristy and didn't spend time there. We made it to Porto in the early evening and checked into our hotel. We intended to get a quick snack then do some exploring and dinner, but our snack ended up being so delicious and filling we skipped dinner all together! (More on Cabo Da Roca and Óbidos here!)

View of Óbidos from the castle walls.

Breakfast at the hotel, then a (not so) leisurely day spent exploring Porto. We walked down to the river, crossed the bridge to the side of town with all the Port houses, and then took advantage of the hop-on-hop-off bus to check out more of the city. Porto is situated on steep hills, so the bus came in handy! We took the bus all through town and over to the coast, where we hopped off and found an authentic lunch of bbq squid and sardines, then explored more of Porto before returning for another dinner of snacks. (More on our day touring Porto here!)

Porto, from the side of the river with all the Port wine shops.
We skipped the hotel breakfast this morning and headed out quite early for the drive back down to Lisbon to return the rental car by 11am. After the rental car issues (more on that here!) we checked into our hotel in Lisbon and used the free Internet to find a laundromat nearby. Had an amazing tapas style lunch from a tiny little market while hubby did laundry, then spent the rest of the day wandering around Lisbon some more, shopping for some souvenirs, and having coffees by the river to watch the sunset!

Espresso with a cinnamon stick stirrer by the river!

We headed out to London the following morning, and were desperately wishing for the Portuguese weather, prices, and cheese for the rest of our trip! I'll get more in depth with some other Portugal posts, but we ended up being quite happy with our "starter trip" itinerary. There are tons more things we'd like to explore in Portugal, specifically more around Lisbon and outside of Porto - so we'll definitely take another trip sometime down the line.

TRAVEL TIPMy biggest travel tip for Portugal? ALWAYS get the cheese! Most restaurants in Portugal offer a small wheel of cheese when you sit down (sometimes with some olives or beans, etc) It's up to you to keep it or not... if you even remotely like cheese, I highly recommend always keeping it! It's usually about €1-3, and they're always slightly different and (I think) equally delicious! This feature was one of my absolute favorite things about Portugal, and I still crave the cheeses we had on our trip!

More Portugal posts HERE

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