My girlfriend and I are arriving April 1st and spending our first 3 nights in Lisbon with plans of a day trip to Cascais and Sintra. Can both be seen together in one full day?
We then plan to rent a car and split the rest of our 5 nights between Porto and the beaches of southern Portugal. Is 2 nights enough for Porto? And what would be the best town to stay in Southern Portugal? Best beaches?
I definitely would not try to visit Sintraand Cascais in the same day because both are such wonderfully beautiful places so I wouldn't want to rush it! Especially if you love to walk and hike, trekking around Sintra is a real treat! The Palácio Nacional de Sintra has beautiful gardens you can go for a stroll in and then head over to the Castelo dos Mouros In Caiscais you can spend time along the seashore, go diving or snorkeling, wander around town and eat some great seafood on the shore. They can both easily occupy a full day of sightseeing.
I can't speak much to Southern Portugal although I have heard that the Algarve area is beautiful.
However, I can speak to my love of Porto! This may be partially because of my obsession with port wine, but the whole city is just lovely. Be sure to visit the port wine cellars like Ramos Pinto, my personal favorite! And if you'd like some more in depth reviews of my time in Portugal please check out my blog posts at http://thesportysightseer.com/category/portugal/
Hope you have a fantastic time in one of my favorite countries!!
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It sounds like you have a pretty good outline so far.
You can definitely visit both Cascais and Sintra in the same day from Lisbon if you are fine just spending a few hours in each. Taking the train in the morning from Lisbon the Sintra takes 30-45 minutes. Once you are done there you can take bus 477 from near the Sintra train station to downtown Cascais which also takes around 45 minutes. You can have lunch there and do some sightseeing. After that you can take the train back to Lisbon, another 30-45 minutes. That train leaves every 20 minutes and continues until 1:30AM, so you could stay for dinner and drinks too if you like.
The most popular "must sees" for Lisbon (just to name a few) are:
St Georges Castle
Calouste Gublenkian Museum
Parque Das Nacoes
Sao Roque Church
Top attractions for Cascais include:
Parque Marechal Carmona
Casa das Historias Paula Rego
Boca do Inferno
The Marina (Marina de Cascais)
Top things to see in Sintra are:
The Moorish Castle
Quinta Da Regaleira
Cabo da Roca
Another option you to consider is to spend one less night in Lisbon and picking up the rental car one day early. You can take the car to see both Sintra and Cascais in a day. This gives you more liberty to stop and see things as you like along the coast near Cascais, or check out some things in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. You can spend the night in or near either town and then continue to Porto the next day. It might even save you a little money depending on the cost of the rental car versus the price of buying two train tickets and a bus ticket for two people. Praia da Adragais not too far from Sintra and is very nice beach as well.
There are a couple of options for tackling Porto and then the southern coast. The one thing to decide is if you are OK with driving a lot to see both as they are in opposite directions. One option is staying close to the Porto region and only visiting the beaches that would be more on route (and forgo the southern portion). As I mentioned Adraga near Sintra is a great choice, as well as Miramar which is fairly isolated and just 7 miles south of Porto.
However if you feel drawn to seeing both Porto and the south and you are looking forward to the road trip aspect of your vacation then by all means drive the 5 or so hours (if you drive non-stop) from Porto down to the Lagos region, you will pass many quaint towns along the way.
If you decide you would like to do both Porto and the southern beaches, I would probably make Porto a two day visit. It is possible to see a lot of the highlights of Porto in that amount of time.
On the other hand...
Porto is a great place to kick back and most people could easily spend 3 enjoyable and relaxing days here and in the vicinity. If you think you might fall into that category I recommend sticking to the beaches of Central/Northern Portugal to spend less time in transit and more time actually on those beaches.
I would be happy to give you more specific recommendations on how to spend your time in Portugal if I knew a little bit more about your travel style and preferences as well as about how much money you were looking to spend on accommodations and activities. If you would like to continue the conversation contact me through this website:
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