Wanderlust. It’s a word that’s used more commonly in sentences than correct prepositions. You’ll find all kinds of merchandise stamped with WANDERLUST. T-shirts, bags, wallets, bed sheets, coffee mugs; you Google said objects + ‘wanderlust’ and you will end up finding something on Amazon. Isn’t it also the first hashtag you’d use on Instagram if you took a trip anywhere from Lonavala to Lapland? In spite of the casualness with which we’ve been using and abusing this beautifully poetic word, I still find it the best and only way to describe what I feel about travel. It’s the undeniable need to keep exploring new places all the time. And once this phenomenon finds you, there’s no turning back. Talking about travel, random question, are you looking for a great Portgual solo itinerary? Well, I am Pranita, a digital marketing professional from Mumbai, reader, baker and wanderer. And here’s my wanderlust story about my 8 days solo trip to Portugal for ₹1,05,000 including flight tickets.
Taking The Solo Travel Plunge
I’m sure a lot of you are in a similar place like I was a couple of months back, contemplating whether it would be worth taking the big plunge and going on a solo trip. “What if I got bored?” “What if I didn’t like the place?”What if I felt extremely lonely and didn’t know what to do with myself?” These were questions that kept pestering me. There was also the most common concern I got asked from my family, “But what will you do alone on a vacation?!”
Solo travel had been on my mind for a long time, but it was more of a bucket list item in the distant future rather than something I planned actively. With every vacation I took with my friends or family over the last 3-4 years, my confidence in being in a new place and getting around grew increasingly. But the one thing that really gave me a push is this Facebook community called ‘Girls Love Travel’ that I joined last year. It’s a closed community of almost a million female travellers who keep sharing their travel experiences. Here, I came across solo female travellers from all corners of the world, from ages 18 to 80! These women and their stories really gave me the self-confidence and inspired me to try the solo travel thing for myself. My gut instincts said that I should stop over-thinking and just go for it. And thank God I did!
The challenge now was to find the right place to travel alone. As preposterous as it may sound, I believe that many times it’s the destination that chooses the traveller rather than the other way round. I didn’t know a lot about Portugal, but from whatever I’d read and seen, it had found the top spot on my bucket list of places to visit. I researched a lot of solo travel in Portugal and found mostly positive reviews. I had also previously been to Europe a few times with family and friends, so I had a fair idea of the culture and vibe. Once I was totally confident that I really wanted to do it, the next step was to convince my parents. This turned out to be an almost 2-month-long challenge with plenty of debates and emotional pleas. But in the end, I was able to convince them that it was a safe country, and they knew that I would be cautious and responsible at all times.
I chose early October to visit Portugal for the pleasant weather and off-tourist season. Like all my travels so far, I planned this trip completely on my own. After some online research and speaking to a couple of friends who had been to Portugal earlier, I decided to visit the cities of Porto and Lisbon for my 8-day trip. One tip I’d like to share if you’re planning to visit Portugal – the visa process is lengthy and harrowing. It took the Consulate a month to get my visa processed. So, entering another Schengen country like France or Spain first, and then moving to Portugal could be an easier option. So anyway I managed to get my visa for ₹8000 approx, booked my flights to and fro for ₹45,000 and geared up for my Portugal solo trip. So here’s my 8-days solo trip itinerary to Portugal for ₹1,05,000 approx.
The first leg of my trip was in the city of Porto. I landed in Porto by late afternoon and checked into Porto Wine Hostel, which cost me around ₹5000 per night for 3 nights in a private ensuite room.
The main reason for choosing this particular hostel was the close proximity to the city centre. After a little rest to get over my long journey, I was ready to explore the city centre of Porto.
My first stop was Carmo Cathedral which boasts of a beautiful façade of the famous azulejo or blue tiles and has become one of the most ‘Instagrammed’ spots of Porto. Before I tell you about my next stop, let me share some trivia for any fellow Potterheads out there. In her early twenties, JK Rowling spent a couple of years in Porto, teaching English.
This is how the city has lent some of its distinct features to the Harry Potter universe. And this is exactly the reason why I was so excited to visit Livraria Lello aka the Harry Potter bookstore. This old bookstore is the inspiration behind the famous Hogwarts staircase! The place itself was magical with red leather upholstered stairs, vintage lamps and a mosaic ceiling but it was swamped by tourists (majorly co-Potterheads).
I then walked to one of Porto’s most famous landmark, the Clerigos Tour, ate a sandwich and drank a glass of Port wine at an alfresco café, and ended the day on a super sweet note with the most famous desert of Portugal – Pastéis de Nata.
The second day in Porto started early with a free walking tour of the main attractions. For those of you who haven’t tried this concept yet, please do it on your next trip! It’s the best way to get a feel of the city, get local tips from local guides and meet new people.
As the name suggests, these tours are free of cost and in the end, you can tip the tour guide as much or as little as you wish. Did you know, Portugal Is A Perfect Honeymoon Destination?
The walking tour was an amazing experience as I explored the gorgeous old city while listening to fascinating stories of Portuguese history. Trivia: Did you know that Portugal was under the rule of a dictator named Antonio Salazar for 48 years? Does the last name ring a bell, Harry Potter fans?
After the walking tour, I stopped by Café Guarany, an old-fashioned Portuguese café recommended by the tour guide for a leisure lunch. I explored the city by myself for some more time, and in the evening headed out for dinner by the River Duoro with two of my new friends, other solo travellers from South Korea that I met at my hostel.
The next day I decided to explore the areas of Santa Catarina and Bolhão which are known for their food and street-side shopping. Here, I got to visit Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls), another awe-inspiring building covered in azulejo tiles. I shopped for some souvenirs and stopped over for lunch at the popular Confeitaria do Bolhão, a place well-known for its pastries.
You can’t visit Porto and not go for a Port wine tasting tour and that’s exactly how I spent the next 3 hours. The wine tasting tour included a visit to three different Port Wine cellars and EIGHT wine tastings. We visited the cellars in Gaia which is actually another town separated from Porto by the Duoro River and connected by a short bridge.
When we were passing from one cellar to the other. The tour guide stopped by to show us, an amazing artwork, that’s become a very famous spot in Porto. This is a sculpture, which made by the Portuguese artist Bordallo II. He is known for creating animal art with repurposed materials, to create awareness on society’s wastefulness and its impact on the environment.
I met a fantastic bunch of travellers and we shared travel anecdotes while sipping on glasses of delicious Port Wine. What more could one ask for, right? Speaking about wine, you can actually Stay In A Giant Wine Barrel While Visiting Portugal This Summer
The wine tasting tour ended at a lovely rooftop restaurant that presented the best view of Porto. The timing could not have been better as it was almost time for sunset and I spent the rest of my evening gazing at the most breathtaking sunset view I’d ever witnessed.
After spending three idyllic days in enchanting Porto, it was time to move to the capital city of Lisboa. I took a direct train from Porto to Lisbon and ended up spending a majority of the journey chatting with a co-passenger, a 70-year-old British lady who now spent her days farming in Portugal and whose son was settled in India! It’s astounding how you can manage to find commonalities with the most unexpected people. After getting off the train and saying goodbye to my new friend, I headed to Lisboa Central Hostel, which was going to be my home for the next five days. It cost me around ₹2000 per night for a 4-bed female dorm ensuite.
My dorm room was super clean and spacious and I was sharing it with three other girls. At this point, I was starving and found a cute little café just around the corner for a warm cup of coffee and a delicious quiche. The hostel staff had very generously given me an extra metro card so I decided to take the metro and visit one of the many famous Miraduoros(viewpoints) of Lisbon for a great sunset view.
I landed up at the Miraduoro Santa Luzia and spent a good hour, unable to take my eyes off the sunset pink highlights that bathed the whole of Lisbon. I then walked to the main square known as Praca do Comercio which is full of tourists, street artists and over-priced cafes. In spite of the several tourist-traps, it’s still a landmark of Lisbon that’s worth visiting.
My second day in Lisbon was spent visiting Belém which houses the UNESCO world heritage sights of Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, and most importantly, it’s the birthplace of the world-famous custard tarts –Pastéis de Belém! The closely-guarded recipe which is passed down from one generation to another was apparently discovered at the Jerónimos Monastery when the priests and nuns used a lot of egg whites to starch their clothes and did not know what to do with the leftover yolks.
A genius idea struck and voila! The world got the sweet, velvety, crispy and gobsmackingly delicious Pastéis de Belém. After devouring at least a couple of these tarts (let’s not get into specific numbers), my next activity would ensure that I burnt a few calories.
I took a walking tour of downtown Lisbon known as Bairro Alto and Baixa Chiado. Our tour guide was an ex-military guy who shared fascinating and chilling stories of Portuguese history. We also stumbled upon a bookstore, Bertrand Bookshop that holds the Guinness Record of being the oldest running bookstore in the world!
There comes a day in every vacation when you just can’t move your ass out of bed. After almost missing the 11.30 am breakfast deadline, but being served fresh pancakes by Anna, the super sweet hostel staff, I started on foot to randomly explore some more of Lisboa without a set agenda. After a long time of random wandering, I felt like treating myself to a good lunch and with a bit of help from trusty old Zomato, went to a Middle Eastern restaurant called Sumaya for the most delicious mini-mezze platter. I was super excited about what was up next.
I had booked an Airbnb photo experience which I thought was a brilliant idea for solo travellers like me, who are extremely awkward to ask strangers to click their pictures and yet want some decent photographic memories to take back home. It was a fun two hours spent with our group of four and our host Prasad who is originally from India. Prasad snapped us in some vibrant non-touristy locations and shared many local tips.
Also read: Portugal: A Perfect Honeymoon Destination
Anyone who’s even spent a single day in Lisbon would’ve heard about Fado, the soul music of Portugal, which can be traced back to the 1820s in Lisbon. I wanted to experience this traditional art form and so I booked a Fado tour in the evening. The guide took us around the neighbourhood of Mouraria, the birthplace of Fado and told us about its history and origins. We then went to a traditional Fado house – a Portuguese restaurant that hosts Fado performances. It was a one-of-its-kind experience that I’ll never forget. The highlight of the evening was when the chef of the restaurant joined the Fadista for an impromptu duet!
I had booked a day trip to Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca with a travel company called Go2Lisbon. Our group of eight and one tour guide started early morning and headed to the lovely hill-top town of Sintra which is a scenic hour-long drive from Lisbon. The first pit-stop was the Pena Palace, a bright yellow coloured structure that looks straight out of a fairy-tale. We spent an hour exploring the palace interiors and not missing a single photo-op.
After the Pena Palace, it was time to wander around the city centre of Sintra where we tasted the local cuisine at a café and tried the famous Travesseiro de Sintra, literally translating to ‘Sintra’s pillow’; a super light pastry that is honestly one of the loveliest things I’ve ever tasted.
We also tried a shot of Ginja, a traditional cherry liquor served in a chocolate cup. It was just divine.
It was then time to tick off a bucket list item – Cabo da Roca. I can now proudly say that I visited the western-most tip of Europe, gazed at the insanely blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and stood at risk of almost being knocked-off by the crazy winds. The last stop of the day was the beachside city of Cascais where we spent some time walking around the beach, enjoying a gelato. To say that this day was eventful and fun is an understatement. But apart from the amazing sights, what made this day so memorable was the amazing company of another solo traveller – the lovely Adriana from Serbia. We hit it off right from our drive to Sintra, spent the whole journey sharing snippets of our lives and cultures, and ended up becoming great friends.
I have to confess, I am a borderline shopaholic (emphasis on borderline) and I couldn’t stop myself from spending my last afternoon at Primark! If you haven’t been to Primark before, please do. You will not be disappointed. It’s one of the best retail franchises. I would go ahead and say its better than Zara and H&M in Europe. Since it’s not available in Asia at all, I make it a point to visit it whenever I travel to Europe. It’s very reasonable and has an amazing fashion collection.
Anyway, moving on to more enriching experiences, another one of my favourite parts of this whole vacation was the walk around the Alfama district, the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon.
The highlights of Alfama include its gorgeous views of the city, colourful street-art and my favourite part – a heritage project where black and white snapshots of old Alfama residents were hung on the street sides.
The warm smiles of chatty locals sitting outside their homes playing cards and the delicious shot of Ginja served by Avo (grandma) Dora are things that’ll stay with me forever. The last treat I gave myself was a dinner at the Timeout market, a massive food-court with dozens of kiosks. I opted for a slice of pizza, and a plate of shrimp tempura roll and one last Pastéis de Nata to end this trip of a lifetime. Apart from my story, also check out Travel Tales With Kamiya Jani EP 5 | 8-Day Itinerary For Portugal
Approximate Budget For My 8- Days Solo Trip To Portugal
During the course of my 8 days solo trip to Portugal, I spent around ₹1,05,000, including flight tickets. As I had mentioned before, the flight cost me around ₹45,000 and the Visa cost me around ₹8000. The stay at Porto Wine Hostel was around ₹15,000 for 3 nights and the stay at Lisboa Central Hostel was around ₹10,000 for 5 nights. When it comes to sightseeing, day trips and experiences, it all cost me around ₹10,000. My food and drinks amounted to ₹10,000. The internal transfer was around ₹2000 and miscellaneous expenses which includes metro tickets, uber and souvenirs were about ₹5000.
Things I Loved About Portugal
My trip to Portugal has been special for many reasons. But if I had to jot down the top 3 things that stood out for me, they would be:
1. The Perfect Balance of Historic and Chilled-out: Anyone who’s been to Goa must have heard of this infamous term “susegad” to describe the laid-back Goan attitude. Well guess what, this term is derived from the Portuguese word Sossegado, which is no surprise given their absolute love for chilling-out. Portugal has just enough history to keep you engaged without making you feel overwhelmed. The culture is also such that makes you feel at ease without being intimidated by rigid norms.
2. Pastéis de Nata and Portuguese Wine: The food scene in Portugal is insanely good. Not just the traditional Portuguese cuisine that is primarily sea-food and meat, you can try out many other authentic cuisines from all over the world and find plenty of vegetarian options too. The two things that I found most special were Pastéis de Nata and the wine, both of which I’ve already rambled a lot about but can never get enough of. You’ll find a confetaria in every little corner that serves hot, melt-in-the-mouth custard tarts with a perfect cup of espresso. Some of the ones I visited and loved were Pastéis de Belem, Manteigaria and Fabrica de Nata. And last but not the least, from vinho verde (green wine) to the sweet Port, Portugal is simply a wine lovers’ paradise!
3. Azulejo Tiles and Yellow Trams: While there are a thousand beautiful sights in both Porto and Lisbon, the things that I now most associates with Portugal are the pretty blue tiles and the bright yellow trams. According to me, these two iconic symbols are what make Portugal unique from all its European cousins and have been the subject of 75% of all my Instagram stories.
Final Thoughts On My First Solo Travel Experience
I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that solo travel is life-changing. But what I mean by life-changing is not a dramatic movie-like moment where I return home with a new walk, hair flying in the wind and ready to quit my job. Life-changing for me was finding out things about myself that I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken this trip. For example, I found out that I really do enjoy my own company and that being alone does not rattle me. Check out 7 Life Lessons Solo Traveling Taught Me
That not being able to discuss every little good or bad detail is sometimes a blessing. That it’s not so hard to walk up to a complete stranger and strike a conversation and more often than not, you’ll end up making friends. Solo travel can teach you a hundred things. It teaches you to rely on your instincts, be accepting of different situations and people, and be fiercely independent. But most importantly, it teaches you self-love and I think we could all do with a bit of that right now.
If you wish to know more about Pranita’s travel adventures click here
To check out Kamiya Jani’s 8 day Portugal itinerary, watch this:
This article was contributed to Curly Tales by Pranita. If you have an article or similar experience to share, do write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org