Solo Travel in Portugal: My Trip to Lagos, Lisbon & Porto

 Sunrise on the stairs at Camilo Beach.

Sunrise on the stairs at Camilo Beach.

A trip through sunny Portugal piqued my interest because it offered both beach and city adventures. It was also highly recommended as being safe and welcoming for women traveling alone. I decided to split my trip between three places: the beaches of Lagos, the quiet streets of Porto, and the bustling capital, Lisbon. Here’s where I stayed and what I loved about each stop.

 Standing on the cliffs of Lagos.

THE ITINERARY - Traveling in May

LAGOS: 4 Nights

No trip to Portugal is complete without spending some time soaking in the coastline of the Algarve - it’s stunning and I knew I wanted to dedicate a chunk of my trip here. I flew into Lisbon airport and hopped straight on a bus for the 5-hour journey down the coast. If I were doing it again, I would take the train to avoid traffic and winding roads.

Lodging: Carvi Beach Hotel
In Lagos, you can choose to stay in town (near shops and restaurants), or out on the cliffs (isolated, but near great views/beaches). I knew I wanted to be out on the cliffs for sunrise and sunset, and I wasn’t interested in the nightlife, so I decided to stay further out. I was still able to walk into town (~30 minutes), or call an Uber for a quicker trip in. Carvi Beach Hotel is situated right on the coast, and I had a water view from my room. The price was reasonable and I highly recommend it!

Things To Do:

  • Visit Camilo Beach. You may recognize Praia do Camilo from Instagram - it’s one of the most photographed beaches in Lagos, with over 200 steps down the cliffs to the sand. I went just before sunrise and had the entire beach to myself for about an hour.

  • Ponta da Piedade. Just a bit past Camilo Beach, Ponta da Piedade features another huge set of stairs that leads you down to a beautiful cove with arches. It’s like descending into a lost world.

  • Stand up paddle to the Benagil Cave. The Benagil Cave has been ranked one of the top sea caves in the world, and it’s only accessible by sea! Upside: not packed with tourists. Downside: you have to find a way to get in. Boat tours are not allowed to let people off and into the cave, so the only way to get your feet in the sand is to swim (very dangerous), or paddle (kayak or SUP). I decided to take the SUP tour with BlueXperiences and it was the highlight of my entire trip. It’s a small group tour (there were only two other people), and the guide was patient, fun, informative, and took lots of pictures on his GoPro to email afterward. We paddled to 8 different caves, and finished at Benagil. If you are new to paddle boarding, don’t fear! The two other people in our group had never done it, and if all else fails, it’s entirely acceptable to sit cross-legged and paddle (which I did a lot of the time anyway!).

Tips:

  • Use Uber! Uber is available all over Lagos and it worked very well. I even used it to get over to Lagoa for the Benagil Cave paddle (~30 minute drive).

 Standing in the Benagil Sea Cave
 Overhead drone footage of beach
 Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade

PORTO: 1 Night

From Lagos, I caught the train back through Lisbon and to the north side of Portugal to spend a night in Porto. Known for its port wine, Porto is much quieter than Lisbon, full of cobbled streets and little restaurants.

Lodging: Cale Guest House
What a gem of a find! Cale Guest House is actually old apartments that have been renovated into a hotel, so my room was enormous and had two balconies overlooking the street. There wasn’t an elevator though, so you’ll be lugging your bags up to your floor.

Things To Do:

  • Marvel at the architecture of Sao Bento Station. You will likely arrive in Porto through this station, and you are in for a treat. The architecture is incredible.

  • Porto Bridge Climb. The Porto Bridge is the only bridge climb in Europe. I booked for the sunset climb and was the only one there, so I got an especially personal experience.

  • Visit Livraria Lello. J.K. Rowling used to live in Porto, and this bookstore served as inspiration for the Harry Potter world. Check it out and you’ll see why! Beware, people line up before it opens, so it will likely be very crowded.

Good Eats: Majestic Cafe (breakfast/lunch) - a 1920s cafe filled with ornate wood, mirrors, and chandeliers.

 Sao Bento station in Porto / Photo: Ivo at  Flytographer

Sao Bento station in Porto / Photo: Ivo at Flytographer

 Photo: Ivo at  Flytographer

Photo: Ivo at Flytographer

LISBON: 3 Nights

I flew in and out of Portugal through Lisbon, so I decided to make Lisbon my final stop of the trip to avoid traveling far on the day of my flight home. Lisbon is your typical capital city: it offers a mix of old and new, from historical neighborhoods to high-end shopping.

Lodging: Esqina Urban Lodge
Another fantastic find - Portugal really does hotels well. I lucked out with an upgrade upon check-in, and my room was superb. Modern, great bathroom and shower, and I (again) had two balconies that opened over the street below. The hotel doesn’t have an elevator from the ground floor, so you have to carry your luggage up one flight, where an elevator is then available.

Things To Do:

  • Walk through the Alfama neighborhood. I strolled through the streets at sunrise and it’s like walking through a different world. Be sure to stop at Miradouro de Santa Luzia, and walk to the observation point at Portas do Sol for excellent views.

  • Praca do Comercio. Another beautiful sunrise spot. You can walk right down to the two pillars and put your feet in the water, watching boats pass.

  • Take a day trip to Sintra. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Sintra sits in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra mountains. It’s an easy train ride from Lisbon and features sites such as Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors. Sintra is HUGE. You can walk miles between sites (uphill and downhill, wear good shoes), so your best bet is to pick one or two you really want to see, or plan a multi-day trip. There is a bus service that loops through the park and is your best bet for getting around, but beware that crowds can be overwhelming and sometimes you have to wait in line to get on a free bus.

Good Eats: Brunch Cafe (brunch), Fabrica Lisboa (brunch)

 The waterfront of Lisbon
 Photo: Claudia at  Flytographer

Photo: Claudia at Flytographer

 View from my hotel balcony at  Esqina Urban Lodge

View from my hotel balcony at Esqina Urban Lodge

 Rooftops of Lisbon
 Alfama neighborhood in Lisbon

Alfama neighborhood in Lisbon

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 Pena Palace in Sintra

Pena Palace in Sintra

Overall, I loved Portugal and highly recommend it for solo travelers. My trip had just the right balance of beach time and city time, and the weather was perfect.

Have you been to Portugal? What were your favorite bits?