Portugal is STUNNING. I had never been before last summer. It was definitely the focus of my trip. In conjunction with Spain, I did a week and half in Spain and Portugal (plus a night in London).
From Sevilla I took a bus to Lagos, Portugal. While there's a train between Madrid and Lisbon, the only way to get to the Algarve coast from Southern Spain is by bus or car. It was about a 4.5 hour ride. On the way to Lagos you pass these quaint coastal towns as well as vineyards. In Lagos, the largest of the towns on the Algarve coast, I transferred to a smaller, local bus that would take me even further west- to the most South-Western town in Portugal: Sagres.
I chose this destination after speaking with a friend and doing research. The main reason was also to go surfing. I had a friend who spent the previous summer living outside of Lisbon and surfing all the time. Another friend suggested I stay in Sagres over Lagos because Sagres is a small fishing town and feels less touristy than Lagos but I didn't stay in Lagos so I don't have the first-hand experience. I'm glad I listened to her though because Sagres is a quiet town. The bus stop was near various restaurants and surf shops. There was a nostalgic feel to it. Maybe it reminded me of other surf towns?
I arrived mid-afternoon with the summer sun overhead. It was certainly good exercise walking to my Airbnb. I arrived and was greeted by my warm and cheerful host Myriam. Later that evening, I was joined by two women my age. It wasn't until I got to chatting with them the next day did I find out they were from Switzerland from a city close to where I'd studied abroad during college.
They were eager to try surfing and I attempted to contact surf schools with no luck. Thankfully, because I've surfed before, I didn't need to go to a school. One of the sweetest people I came into contact with in Portugal was the owner of Maretta Surf Shop. He was friendly and helpful. I inquired the day before I wanted to surf and then I walked there the following morning to get a wet suit (yes, the Atlantic is cold even in September!) and a board. He then dropped me off at Tonel beach and we agreed on a time to pick me up.
The surf is a point break and I don't have as much experience with fast, short waves. Additionally, I'm not used to wearing wetsuits and I find them harder to move in and therefore I would tire easily. These waves were no joke. Now I know why surfers flock to Portugal but they also have much more experience than I do. I didn't even attempt the larger waves. I will need more practice in colder water with wetsuits before I try to surf in Portugal. I'm definitely a spoiled Hawaii girl in terms of waves and water temperature. Eventually I had to give in before my exhaustion resulted in negative results. The rest of the time I just sat on the beach and watched other surfers and waited for my ride.
My best meal in Sagres was definitely a recommendation from my Airbnb host in addition to an Indian restaurant I found after searching online. After Spain, I was craving spicy food and for lunch one day I got a take out and enjoyed it in the beautiful yard at my Airbnb. Dinners out in Portugal are quite reasonable. I had salad, grilled sardines, a carafe of wine and decide for about 12 euros.
If I wasn't traveling alone I would have rented a car like they did. This is my recommendation after having been in Sagres- rent a car. I chose Sagres so I could go surfing however, many beaches aren't easy or almost impossible to get to by public transportation.
Have you wanted to visit Portugal or visited before? If you've never been and have been wanting to, where is it you're just dying to visit? Comment below, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Stay tuned for part two where I make my way up to Lisbon!