Oh Summer, a time of rising temperatures and…. prices! Are we the only ones who tend to avoid this season for trips abroad? Everything gets so terribly expensive and full of people that if we could we would save our money to travel some other time. But you can’t always get what you want, and sometimes you only get a summer break (so you must use it to the fullest!). We were able to plan a semi-affordable trip abroad during the beginning of the season and opted to explore Portugal during the higher season of July and August. If you are looking for some Summer inspiration, here it is!
Adventure in the Balkans
Our Summer started with a bang, by which we mean an unforgettable trip through the Western Balkans. We will post an itinerary of the trip soon, but we chose three countries to explore: Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We started off in King’s Landing Dubrovnik, making our way down to and around Kotor, and then up again to Mostar and Sarajevo. All were absolutely amazing in their own right. We are still processing the amazing views we were presented with and all the things we got to learn. The photos don’t do justice to the beauty you get to experience in this part of the world.
Portuguese Charm in Cascais
As we returned to Lisbon we had a friend visit and opted to show her around Cascais, a fishing town about 30 minutes away from the capital by train. The beaches were full so we explored the main sights by foot, walking by the seaside until the famous Hell’s Mouth (Boca do Inferno, in portuguese). Nature’s strength is incredible to witness! We ended up having lunch by the sea. Unfortunately, it was not as tasty as we had hoped, but we still had a great time. Cascais has become more famous in the past few years, and it’s easy to understand why. Besides the ocean views, everywhere you look there’s a pretty building to admire and photograph!
Celebrating in Gerês
The middle of July is a time for celebrations so we went up north, and explored one of our favorite parts of Portugal: Gerês National Park. Is it true you know you’re getting old when you start having traditions on where to go and where to stay? We were celebrating the passing of time, but don’t feel old at all! Still, sometimes we enjoy the comfort of staying somewhere we know we love, such as Gerês! We spent 2 nights at the Residencial Verde Pinho. It’s a family run accommodation with a beautiful (and never crowded) pool. The location is also great: close to town and to a lot of sites worth exploring. We visited the famous Tahiti Waterfall (it used to be sort of an undiscovered gem, but is now full of people during the summer), cherished the view from Pedra Bela and went on a memorable canoe ride.
Relaxing in Figueira da Foz
We headed to Figueira da Foz, famous in Portugal for its long beach stretches and for being one of the destinations many families flock to during the Summer. It was therefore surprising that we were visiting for the first time. Better late than never, right? To keep up with tradition, we did go with our family! The weather treated us to some grey skies, but we still had a really wonderful and relaxing time eating all the typical portuguese dishes (I mean, are onion rings and chicken wings traditional yet?). We stayed at the Sweet Residence & Gardens and were glad to have the pool on our doorstep as it was way too windy by the beach.
Roadtrip in Lisbon
After going back to Porto and spending a few days there, it was time to head back south once again. This time on a roadtrip that took us and some friends to some of the most beautiful beaches near Lisbon (and there are many). We explored the coast from Ericeira to Comporta, and one of the days we actually went on our first visit to the Berlengas’ islands, a very unique part of the country (about two hours away from Lisbon). The weather was perfect and we had a wonderful week exploring what is always so close to us, but many times hard to reach (public transportation to nearby beaches is unfortunately scarce in the city, so having a car to move around was a game-changer!).
Slow Summer in Porto
We went north once again to take our friends back home and to enjoy some laid back days in Porto. It was good to catch up with family and friends. Even though the weather was not very summer-y while we were there, we still very much enjoyed the city.
There’s so much happening and changing in Porto that there is this great divide between missing what used to be, and also trying to explore and fall in love with some of the new places. Never have we seen so many tourists in the city and it is very different from what we remember growing up – though only in the centre and the more touristic areas. With all the trendy and unaffordable places filling the centre, we do feel Porto is turning into a Lisbon 2.0. We still love both cities, but do miss the difference and our secret spots (that are definitely not a secret anymore).
All the Green in Alvão Natural Park
You know what still hasn’t changed much in Portugal? The interior rural areas. Time still seems to have stopped in many of these places, that do lit up during the month of August as emigrants return to their motherland for some much deserved holidays. In the last few years we’ve spent quite a few days in a small town near Vila Real, as we have access to a family house there. This area is beautiful, but everytime we go there we are face-to-face with a terrible problem Portugal is very far from solving: fires. Every year is worse than the year before and we can’t begin to imagine the pain inflicted on those who lose everything due to our collective lack of true and meaningful action. Nature is amazing and we should be doing everything to preserve it.
This year we took Rui’s younger cousin to the Alvão Natural Park. It is mostly known for the waterfalls and lagoons, but this time we explored the mountains and the dam. It felt like a proper adventure, specially because there was no one in sight and we had the place all to ourselves.
Tourists at Home in Lisbon
Before properly waving goodbye to Summer we still had some more holidays at home in Lisbon. Family came to visit and, as always, we had a great time walking around and visiting new places. We’ve been living in Lisbon for about 5 years but it’s such a different experience to live in a city and to visit it. The truth is, we end up missing some of the more tourist places and leaving them for some later time. Having people over is the perfect opportunity to scratch some of these places off the list: this time we finally visited the Jerónimos Monastery.
In the end of Summer, we always get the sense that we didn’t do enough and that we could’ve used the time much better. Preparing this post made us realize how happy we are to actually have done so much, and to have spent our time surrounded by family and friends. What about you? What did you do this summer? Is it your favorite time to travel?
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