“I just wanna go on more adventures. Be around good energy. Connect with people. Learn new things. Grow” – The Khoolhaus
I had never even heard of Cascais before until I reached Lisbon. It had been described to me as the ‘jewel of Portugal’ and being only 30km away – we figured it was worth the trip. We left our bags in a hostel in Lisbon (free of charge) and just took a small backpack with a change of clothes and a bikini. We planned to visit the beaches, stay overnight and come back early the next day to continue onto Spain. That didn’t happen. We fell in love and ended up staying a week.
We caught a 30 minute train to Cascais from Lisbon and wandered the town looking for a hostel for the night. We came across Niceway Hostel down a small peaceful laneway. The owner Miguel was immediately welcoming and so lovely. He was shocked to hear we had come to visit for only 1 night and sold us on staying at least 2! The hostel had a serene backyard with hammocks, a BBQ and a grassy patch for yoga classes. It was such a beautiful setting – we kinda knew we wanted to stay longer already.
TOP 5 EXPERIENCES IN CASCAIS
1. V I S I T T H E B E A C H E S
We had come from a very busy city so we immediately engaged in a yoga class to relax ourselves. The hostel runs daily classes in the park across the road. It was so beautiful and the instructor made it quite easy for beginners. As soon as we had finished, we were in relax mode. We headed straight for the beach. The prettiest by far was Praia da Rainha. It has soft white sand and insanely clear water. You could swim out for 100metres and still see the bottom clearly 4 metres below. People were paddle boarding and there was a bar on the beach serving drinks. The atmosphere was marvellous and with weather to match – we sat here all day!
TIP: Buy sunscreen before coming to Portugal. The standard price for a small bottle in Portugal is about 15 euros!!!
All over Europe, I had been sun baking topless. I love the freedom and it never feels strange like it would in Sydney. However this beach was a tiny bit crowded to do so. The stranger lying next to me was literally touching my towel so figured I would keep the twins hidden that day. So if you are the same – maybe try a different beach!
2. T R Y S U R F I N G
The Niceway Hostel had a surf school attached. Shortly after we had come back from the beach – we met David. A local Portugese man who owned and ran the surf school along with 5 staff members. He encouraged us to take a lesson (and it was significantly cheaper than home) so we agreed to go early the next day. We traveled to a beach about 6km further west where the surf was best. We started with a pep talk. “It is going to be cold. Really cold”. I had been to Portugal before and I had totally forgotten about this when I agreed to take a surfing lesson. The entire coastline from Lisbon to the north is freezing. So cold in fact that I remember I couldn’t swim despite the hot days. I think it has something to do with the arctic current. Anyway, we were given 4 inch wetsuits to put on and we told to take a break and get out of the water every 20 minutes to “thaw”. We practised on the beach a bit – paddling and then standing up. But all I could focus on was how cold the water was going to be. I was right. It felt like a thousand knives in my skin but the thick wetsuit helped. We got straight in (otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to) and started paddling out. David was ecstatic with the surf conditions. He said it was perfect. I thought it was insane! The waves were huge. I don’t think I have ever been so tossed around in my life and with the cold – I think I went delusional. Laura and I were constantly laughing and were terrible surfers. We got up a few times but I think my feet were so frozen I couldn’t balance myself. It was hilarious. We kept getting out, as recommended, so that our feet and hands would return to their normal colour. The surf instructors were great though. They really persisted with us and went to every effort to make sure we rode a proper wave. And we did eventually. Thank god.
By the time we got back to the hostel, we had warmed up and sat around a BBQ reminiscing funny moments from the day. And after all bashing we got – we deserved a drink. We went out and partied at Flamingos Bar all night and it was ridiculous fun!
3. E A T G E L A T O
I will eat gelato wherever I go. I try it in every country I visit. But gelato in Portugal was the best BY FAR!
We stumbled across a gelato store called Santini. I had heard of it before from blogs I had read, so we gave it a go. We sat out the front of the store – stunned. Neither Laura or I spoke for about 10 minutes as we devoured the gelato cone. We stared at each other in disbelief. I had never tasted gelato so good in my life. We never normally do this, but we both walked back inside and ordered it all over again. I still can’t believe we did that. 4 huge scoops of gelato within 30 mins. That’s loyalty! It was absolutely amazing. We couldn’t stop talking about it.
FUN FACT: Santini is the official supplier of premium gelato to all of the Royal families in Europe! However they only sell to the public in their 3 stores within Portugal.
We eat a lot in general – not just gelato. Cascais is famous for it’s seafood too so we went to a local cafe by the beach and had a fresh fish with salad. It was delicious and quite cheap! We decided then that we would stay in Cascais longer. There was a lot more we wanted to see and more food we wanted to try. We would just have to make do with the 1 outfit we had brought with us! When you travel long enough, you tend to care less and less about how you look. I think I even wore my bed t-shirt to dinner that night. That says enough.
4. C Y C L E T O G U I N C H O B E AC H
Considering Santini gelato store was our new local hangout, we decided we needed to do some exercise. The local park in Cascais offers free bike rental! You just need to get there early enough before they all go! We went over at about 9am and managed to get the last 2 free bikes which was lucky! I recommend going earlier to be safe. We rode the bikes all the way to Guincho Beach, 6km away. It was the same beach we had surfed at the previous day and we then realised why it was so popular for surfing. The wind was insane. We were almost blown off our bikes which was very funny. We stopped to take a picture but then continued to ride back before we were blown into oncoming traffic.
For some reason, my bicycle was stuck in high gear making the peddles really hard to turn. Laura’s was the opposite so she zoomed way ahead of me. My legs were jelly by the end of the day but she was fine. Make sure you test the bike before taking it! The ride was beautiful. It has set cycle paths to ride along and the entire way was scenic. It was the perfect day and we stopped along the way for coffee and photo opportunities. Perfect!
5. TA K E A T R I P T O S I N T R A
We woke up one day and was chatting with the owner – Miguel. He told us he owned another hostel called Niceway 2 up in the mountains about 30 mins away. He was going to drive up there to check on things and stay the night and wanted to see if we’d join for a road trip and check out the area. A free ride and a chance to explore somewhere new? Great!
The Hostel was located in Sintra. I had never heard of the place before but after a few google searches, I was hooked. It housed the most stunning palace I had ever seen and really wanted to visit for myself. We left in the morning and we stopped along the way at Copa De Roca – Europe’s most Western point and got a photo. It was incredibly windy (like most of Portugal) but the fresh air was magic. It was crisp and a bit cooler than Cascais. We continued onto Sintra and fell in love with the town straight away. The hostel was much bigger than cascais and had a very homey feel to it.
The backgarden was huge. It had beautiful coloured flowers and the cutest bungalows to lounge in. The only problem was that it was freezing! We only had a bikini and a beach dress with us (because we had originally only planned a single night away) and here we were in the mountains in a ridiculous outfit. We were stared at everywhere we went. We knew we looked stupid but we found it very funny and used laughter to warm us up.
We saw a long line coming out of a tiny little pastry kitchen. That’s definitely a good sign. We wanted to see what was so popular so we wandered back later and bought a range of goodies to try. We went back to the hostel and sat in the beautiful garden with newly made friends and ate. They were magnificent and we lazed around with a food coma for hours. Such a great afternoon.
The next day went to see the Palacais De Pena brightly painted in eye catching yellows, reds and purples. It’s 12 euros for entry and in my opinion – totally worth it! It was built in the 19th century and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. You can get a bus up or choose to walk. Everyone had told us that it was too far, but we wanted the challenge and walked against advice. It was fine! In fact, it was beautiful. The walk up takes you through various different terrains like forest, wooden bridges, a river and road. I will admit we were tired when we reached the top but loved it nonetheless. It looked like something out a fairytale. We wandered through the various parts of the castle and climbed to the outer walls for a spectacular outlook over the mountain region! They have a coffee shop on one of the levels so we sat outside and soaked in the view. Apparently on a clear day, you can see the enchanting castle from Lisbon!
TIP: Leave some time to explore the surrounding gardens – they are just as stunning!
We got a lift back with Miguel the next day and continued our journey back to Lisbon (where we happened to find another Santini gelato store, which made our day!)