I’M SO EXCITED WRITING THIS POST BECAUSE HOW GOOD THIS TRIP WAS. This hands down has to be one of my favourite trips! Personally, I think this was one of the best trips because I planned it and travelled solo! If you asked me 4 months ago if I’d ever go on a trip by myself, I would probably laugh (and so would my dad.) But I DID it, and as lame as it sounds, I’m so incredibly proud of myself for doing something like this.
I don’t even know where to begin to explain how amazing this trip was. Amazing? That word definitely does NOT do it justice. This trip had everything- from adventure, culture, language, food, relaxation…It was a week like no other.
I booked my plane tickets for Portugal a month in advance. First, because I was so excited, and second, because I wanted to save money. Additionally, as I was travelling alone, I wanted to make sure a majority of my trip was planned and it was easy to get from point A to point B.
Leading up to the trip, I felt nothing but nervous. I had so much time to think about the trip because I booked so early, and I’ve been really scared! I like being on my own, but honestly, I’m directionally challenged, so I was nervous to be on my own and seem vulnerable for not knowing where I was going…But I planning trips and being in charger of where I’m going. I was excited to see where this takes me and how much I can accomplish on my own. I’ve had some weird hostel experiences in the past, so I was a little anxious to settle into each of them. Travelling alone as a woman, I didn’t mind spending a little more on hostels to ensure they were safer and in the most central location. Compared to my previous trips if I’m travelling with a friend or with a group of guys, having a prime location isn’t always a priority because we can travel together and we’d all feel safe.
ANYWAYS, back to my actual trip:
I left June 1st for Vienna International Airport early in the morning to catch an early plane to Faro, Portugal.
The only reason I decided to Faro because it is the only city in the Algarve with an airport, so I thought it would be pretty good. When I was reading up on the Algarve on tripadvisor, many people said to just spend a day in Faro, and then all your time in Lagos, so that’s what I did, and I think the time allocated was perfect.
I arrived in the afternoon and settled into my hostel, got a map, and set out to see the town. I stayed at the El Penguin Hostel and I highly recommend it. It was exactly what I was looking for in a hostel and set me at ease for the rest of my trip, staying in hostels on my own. It was a small hostel and extremely welcoming, making it super easy to meet people.
Being in a new city with no data on my phone is a little stressful at times, but it makes you a lot more aware of your surroundings. I had a map to direct me around Faro, which is fairly small, and I was fine. I only asked for directions twice! I walked around the town for a couple hours and then ended up at the beach. The beach, Ilha de Faro, required about a 20 minute bus ride and it was so worth it. The bus dropped you off at the beginning of the bridge, and then you had to walk across it to get to the beach and all the restaurants and shops. It was super busy when I went, and there was a traffic jam that was about 50 cars long.
When I returned in the evening, I met a girl in my dorm who was from Montreal, studying abroad as well! We connected our travel plans and travelled the next day to Lagos together, along with other girls in our hostel from Germany and the Netherlands. As I said before, the hostel was super welcoming. As I was just getting back from my day of travelling, one of the girls working there came into our room and invited us down for some beers and to go the bar with everyone else in the hostel. I honestly couldn’t believe that hostels did this, because all the hostels I’ve stayed at have been big and everyone does their own thing.
I think the day I spent in Faro was enough to see the whole town and get a good feel for it. I suggest going to it just for the day, even to see the difference of parts of the Algarve!
Continuing on…..the next day, I set out for Lagos with 3 girls from my hostel. Lagos hands down is my favourite place so far. I got the inspiration to go from my cousin, who went there with my dad yeeeeeears ago, and it by far is the best recommendation I’ve gotten so far (Thanks Dada Di ❤ )
Lagos is another city in the Algarve and it was beautiful. The city centre, the beach, the caves…EVERYTHING. I arrived in Lagos after spending 2 hours on the bus from Faro and of course, was lost. I think it took me maybe an hour to find my hostel…Anyways, I don’t want to dwell on the past. I got to my hostel, settled in, and we set out for the beaches.
There are so many beaches that connect in Lagos, and are all surrounded by caves and cliffs. We walked along the cliffs, and when it got to hot, we went for a swim. Game changer: the water is FREEZING. Like colder than the lake at your cottage cold. The beaches were also packed with people of all different age groups, so it was a lot of fun. Also, if you went swimming around the caves, you could see private beaches! It was really cool.
We continued our walk and ended up at the most touristy point in Lagos called Ponta da Piedade. It was stunning. We were able to walk to the very tip of Lagos and see it from every angle. I was honestly in shock- I just couldn’t believe a place this beautiful exists. It was truly surreal.
That evening when I got back to my hostel, I met girls from Canada and the USA. The hostel was great as well, Old Town Lagos Hostel. It was probably the most perfect location and a really reasonable price. It was right in town, but closest to the beach. Anyways, the hostel made a family dinner of truuuuuuly authentic Portuguese food for 5 euro! It was a great way to meet people, and everyone I met was from Canada as well. I think small hostels are ideal when you’re alone because you’re almost forced to be with new people and get out of your comfort zone.
The next day, I woke up early to check out town and go to the beach. Later that day, I had decided to meet up with two of the girls I met in Faro the previous night and go on a Kayak Tour! It was 25 euro for about 3.5 and it was probably one of my favourite experiences. The day before, I had the perspective of the cliffs from walking on top of them and from the beach, but being able to kayak through them and go inside was unreal. I still can’t believe I did! I also have 0 upper body strength and have never kayaked before SO this was a real life changing experience. Being the cool solo travel that I am, I almost had to kayak alone, but thankfully I made a last minute friend!! Who ended up being in my hostel and was from Ontario! Really, really small world! We got along great, and even got yelled at by the instructors for kayaking too slow because we were stopping to take so many pictures. It was the end of their shift, I don’t blame them.
I went out for a delicious fish dinner because #WhenInPortugal with a few people from my hostel. We went through town again, stopping in the cute little stores, and then went back to get ready for a night out!
I was leaving the next day with the girl I met from my hostel to Lisbon. The bus from Lagos to Lisbon was 20 euros and about 4.5 hours. It was such a beautiful and scenic bus ride. I felt guilty dozing off during it because I didn’t want to miss what was around me. I got to Lisbon late afternoon and met up with two guys from Laurier who are studying at another Austrian university. It was great to see some familiar faces! We ended up preeing with some people in our hostel and heading out to a street festival to celebrate Santo Antonio. The best part of being in Portugal in June is that there’s a month long celebration! The streets were decorated and there were huge street parties every night. Live music, food, beer, and sangria everywhere you turned. It was so much fun.
For my first full day in Lisbon, the guys wanted to go to the beach to go surfing. Yes, you read that right…I was going surfing. Me with the 0 body strength was going surfing in Portugal. Challenge accepted. We took a metro that was about 30 minutes to one of the beaches most well known for surfing. It was not hard to find a surf instructor and get going! We paid under 30 euro for wet suits, a board, and almost 3 hours of lessons.
I’m not going to lie to you, this was so difficult and I had 0 expectations going into this because I literally had no idea what to do, and never thought I would actually go surfing…in Portugal. BUT I DID. And it was so much fun!!! I think I caught maybe half a wave? Meaning, I stood up actually one time. And then fell back into the water. But the point of the story is that I tried something that I never thought I would and it was so much fun. The instructor was super helpful, but I think I’m going to blame it on a language barrier because he seemed very confused as to why I only stood up once and kept falling off the board. Whatever. It was an EXPERIENCE. But I highly recommend. 🙂
Next. The next day we did a walking tour of Lisbon, but it was not just of the city centre, we were taken up to the smaller streets and into neighbourhoods. I think this was a lot cooler than just seeing big monuments.
Later that day, I ventured off to Sintra. Sintra is a small town about 45 minutes from Lisbon and it was well worth it. It was all gardens and hills and it was so picturesque. I stayed there for a couple hours and had a seafood dinner before returning back to Lisbon.
The next day was my final full day in Lisbon and I was on my own. I have heard so much about the old trams in Lisbon, so I wanted to see for myself, and eventually get to the flea market, that’s only opened twice a week. I asked the guy at my hostel how to get to tram 28, which takes you around the whole city and he strongly advised me not to go on it…He said it is notorious for pick pocketers. But honestly, I was up for the challenge.
I put my knapsack on my front and I was good to go! This has to be the biggest tourist thing ever to do it Lisbon because it took about 45 minutes for me to go on the tram…
All in all, I had an amazing week in Portugal. I can’t believe I met so many people and that I actually went through with going on my own. I would 100% go back to Portugal! I loved every minute of it.
This was my LAST trip of the semester! I am finishing up the semester and backpacking for 7.5 weeks! I’m so excited.
Until next time,