Anyone who reads or hears about Portugal probably immediately thinks of beautiful beaches underneath breathtaking cliffs, spectacular surfing and delicious Pastéis de Nata.
Portugal is becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination. The country is experiencing a tourism boom, in fact – and there are good reasons, as this land on the western edge of Europe has so much to offer. Here we look at three of the reasons why a holiday in Portugal is definitely worthwhile.
Summer, Sun & Beaches
Despite its relatively small area (92,212 square kilometres), Portugal has one of the longest coastlines in the world. Overall, the Portuguese can dig their feet in the sand over 3,000 kilometres. The popular holiday islands of Madeira and the Azores are part of this, of course – but even on the mainland, coastline is everywhere. A drive from Faro in the south to Viana do Castelo in the north is particularly recommended, and it provides a comprehensive insight into the culture and beauty of Portugal. You can experience this adventure even during a short break – by car, for example, you can complete this trip in less than seven hours.
Holidays are very important, giving us the opportunity to relax and escape from everyday life. At the same time, however, we also want to develop ourselves. We don’t want to spend all of our time just lying on the beach and drinking cocktails – we also want to experience the country that we visit. Portugal offers many opportunities for this, catering for a range of interests. After all, the country combines beautiful landscapes and beautiful beaches with a rich and distinctive culture. Whether it’s the big cities like Porto or small places on the edge of the streets – visitors will always find new corners and new opportunities to develop themselves.
That’s why Portugal is also the country of road trips. To appreciate it fully, the western side of the Iberian peninsula should really be explored by road. The good news is that the roads of Europe are now safer than they have ever been before – in 2013, the EU even set itself the target of reducing road deaths by 50%. True freedom and opportunities do not appear at the hotel pool, but out there on the road.
If you want to experience the real Portugal, you have to do this in contact with the Portuguese themselves. It’s highly recommended to visit one of the many local wineries, for example. You can buy fine wines for little money directly from the producer, and they often have special offers too.
As well as testing the local foods, that are not as known as Italy’s pizza and pasta but just as mouthwatering. The sweet little pastry cakes ‚Pastéis de Nata‚ can be found at every corner and taste like heaven to me.
No list of Portugal’s highlights is complete without a mention of its capital. This beautiful city is spread over several hills overlooking the Rio Tejo, rewarding the explorer with breathtaking panoramic views at every turn. Whatever you’re looking for – whether it’s history, culture, or an exciting range of bars and cafes – you’ll find it in Lisbon. If you want to escape the tourist crowds, the cobblestoned streets of Alfama is the area of Lisbon for you. Chat with the locals here and relax, watching the world go by. This is the real Portugal.
I visited Lisbon for two days myself last summer and got a general overview of the beauty it has to offer, but I am already keen to go back and explore more! The city is also very famous for great vegan cafés and restaurants, that I want to try myself as well as wandering through the beautiful and colourful streets.
Besides Lisbon, I am also super keen to visit Porto! Another beautiful city in the northern part of the country that I’ve heard many great things from.
Have you been to Portugal yourself? Where have you been & what do you recommend? Is it on your bucket list?
I enjoy travelling alone on the other side of the world by myself (mostly) and it’s very rare that I actually get homesick for my family or friends just because I am having such a great time.
But after my first three months in Australia and my not so great time in Perth I was so so happy to finally be able to hug my parents again and spend time with my family.
They visited me for three weeks over Christmas and New Years and we got to spend three weeks together travelling from Cairns down to Sydney in a Mobilhome and celebrate New Year’s in Sydney together watching the fireworks over the Harbour.
It was a wonderful time and I am really glad I got to spend Christmas with them and experience a different way of travelling through Australia as a family (instead of as a Backpacker)
So we started in Cairns and had an amazing day trip to the Great Barrier Reef to go snorkelling. It was amazing how many big and colourful fish you can see and I was so impressed. The underwater world is just so beautiful and we really need to put an effort into saving it.
We could already see the damage humans cause to the reef. First of all the mass tourism that goes to the Reef day by day and also the climate change and the warmer water that makes the corals die.
That’s why we decided to go to the Reef with „Passions of Paradise„. They advertise being an eco-friendly tour. Not too many people on board (in comparison to others), great food, two beautiful snorkelling/ diving spots (without any other boats there) and they do reef education as well. I really liked and can recommend it and they are honoured with being eco-friendly, but who knows if that‘ actually accurate. But it is certain, that they have to be better than most other companies and if you don’t want to miss the Great Barrier Reef experience, you should go for them!
The next day, we got our camper and started our road trip.
Travelling in a Mobilhome with 4 adults
We already did several Mobilhome trips, but at that time my brother and I haven’t been fully grown adults and in Canada, for example, we also had a bigger and more practical Camper.
So when we got our little home on wheels we were all a bit shocked how this adventure is going to happen because the Mobilhome scene in Australia is not as advanced as in America and our camper wasn’t as big, practical and comfy.
But we made it work and in the end, we got used to it but were also excited to finally sleep in proper beds again.
Our first stop was Townsville but we didn’t see much of that city because we spend our day on Magnetic Island. A beautiful island only a few kilometres from the mainland and actually Paradise.
I made a vlog that day and showed you a bit around. We visited many beautiful places and shot some amazing drone footage and the prettiest sunset. Have fun watching!
Afterwards, we went further south to Airlie Beach from where we went on a three-day sailing tour through the Whitsundays.
We had a wonderful time living the always-barefoot-and-bikini-life and it made me dream of doing a bigger sailing tour one day. I just really enjoy the boat life!
So we had two nights on the water and lot’s of amazing views, snorkelling, stand up paddling, yummy food and obviously visiting Whitehaven Beach. Sadly that day it was a bit rainy, but we still had such an awesome time.
I am also currently working on another short video with drone footage from the sailing boat and underwater shots from the Great Barrier Reef – so stay tuned for that and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel!
With my parents, I obviously also had so much great food! I could finally buy and try all the cool vegan stuff in the supermarkets and we went to so many awesome restaurants and cafés.
I already have a Sydney Food post up, sharing all my favourites with you from the official vegan food heaven city. And there is also a Sunshine Coast Food Guide planned as I got to try so so many restaurants living there for three months.
In the Cape Hillsborough National Park just south of Airlie Beach, we watched the sunrise and Kangaroos on the Beach.
Before we had a beautiful afternoon in Noosa and a lovely evening/night in Brisbane.
Byron Bay had to be a stopover as well obviously. I just love the spirit of this place and even though it was really crowded and touristy, it was still beautiful.
Christmastime is summer, summer holidays and high season for travellers from all around the world & Aussies in Australia. But we have to say that besides the really big hotspots (Byron Bay, Noosa, Sydney for New Years) it wasn’t as crowded as expected and especially when you are already used to Europe in summer and holiday time it was only average crowded.
We usually always had our campgrounds prebooked and for some spots, it was definitely necessary but not for all and sometimes we were surprised by how empty the campgrounds were.
Our schedule was really tight because my brother only got three weeks off from school. But my mom still wanted to make the most of it and travel along the whole East Coast. That meant a lot of driving and many days we spend more time on the road than at a place. But then we also wanted 3 days to spend in Sydney and we did a sailing tour through the Whitsundays for three days as well.
Afterwards, we can now say that we would have prefered to not drive the whole way and rather drive from Cairns to Byron Bay and then fly to Sydney to have at least a few more days to actually do something.
We had many different stops along the way but often not as many as we would have liked because there are so many beautiful places and that’s why I am really glad I am able to do a few things more in depth because I have more time here in Australia.
I had an awesome time travelling with my family. Living the camper life, experiencing travelling Australia from a family point of view, daily family breakfast (one thing that I miss a lot about home) and obviously just spending time with my loved ones.
Byron is for sure a magical place. I can’t really tell if it’s my favourite as I also loved Bondi Beach in Sydney a lot and I had one of the best times in Melbourne with my first friends, as well as on my Surf Camp and the Sunshine Coast has a special place in my heart as well, but it’s on the top list for sure.
I want to tell you about the best places to go to, what to do, where to eat, to shop and to stay in Byron as well as do a little diary and story-telling from the three times and 10 days in total that I spend in Byron Bay.
The first time I went there was with my cousin travelling from Sydney to Brisbane together when she visited me for three weeks. We spend three days there and that was the first time I fell in love for a bit.
When my parents visited me for three weeks over Christmas and New Year’s and we travelled down the East Coast from Cairns to Sydney we also stopped in Byron for one night and even though it was suuuper crowded (because it was holiday season), we fell in love all over.
My third (and probably last time for now) was on my own. Perfect summer weather, great people in my dorm and I had 6 super fun days. I didn’t spend one day alone and it was nice to hang out with others 24/7 after lots of me-time in Sydney and Newcastle.
I could not have been luckier with my 10-bed-dorm as I had 5 people in there, that I can call my friends now. A German and a Spanish girl and three boys from Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands. We had lots of fun times at the beach, walking to the lighthouse for sunrise or sunset, surfing and playing in the waves, playing cards and drinking games at the beach, picnicking with the best view over the beach and the lighthouse and getting some amazing food from the awesome food places Byron has to offer, watching movies at the hostel, partying and having midnight pizza and crêpes – it was a wonderful time that I’ll keep in my memories forever.
Where to Stay
Hostel I stayed at the Nomads Hostel for 6 nights because it is pretty cheap and super well located. Right in the centre, 3 minutes to the beach, one to Aldi, 4 minutes to Woolworths, it’s not the cleanest but still fine, the rooms and common areas are big and nice and they offer a lot of free activities, food etc. Also, the breakfast is great (toast, sweet spreads, cornflakes and fruit! Which is not common).
AirBnB With my cousin I stayed in a really nice Airbnb that is around 8 minutes by bus or 12 minutes by Bike from the city centre. It’s not that much more expensive than a hostel and it was really nice. I am sure there are a ton of cute Airbnb’s around Byron but you need to book early, especially in the season because Byron is a popular town.
Campground When I was travelling with my family, we stayed at the campground in Byron (20 minutes by foot to the centre), Belongil Fields Caravan Park, which I cannot recommend at all. It was the most expensive one we stayed at and the worst of all. No warm water to shower, super small spaces and just not worth the money at all. They know that people will book it because it is one of two near Byron and Tourists need to stay somewhere, but it’s sad that they don’t make an effort at all. Especially for the money they take.
Where to Shop
Cowper St is the main street in Byron and there are lots of restaurants, bars, cafés and of course shops, as well as in the streets branching off from it. You can find the main brands and surf/bikini stores there, but also some beautiful small and unique boutiques that sell wonderful, boho clothes, furniture, accessories and more. I fell in love with so many pieces, but it can get pretty expensive in these small stores.
Where to Eat
I luckily got to try a few nice restaurants, cafés and bistros in Byron and everything I had was just amazing. Byron really has a lot of great places that are unique and have a lot of charm.
No Bones is a completely vegan gourmet restaurant and cocktail bar where I probably had the best vegan burger in my life as well as an amazing peach parfait and blueberry cheesecake for dessert. Their local Kambucha was really yummy as well and the waitresses were very friendly. Overall the restaurant just had an amazing alternative but still elevated vibe and I can only recommend going there. My brother really liked the burger as well and my dad was in love with the vegan pawns he had. This place is really amazing to show non-vegan/veggie people how good kind food can be.
Combi Café is one of these beautiful, hip and boho cafés where you can get Acai Bowls, Avo toast, Smoothies and all that good stuff. The interior is a dream and my breakfast was as well. I had a vegan toasty with avo, vegan cheese, spinach, pumpkin and olive oil between sourdough that was amazing and the best vegan muffin I ever had with pear, lots of cinnamon, chia seeds, dried figs and nuts.
Orgasmic Falafel When you are lucky, this place is giving out sample falafels on the main street to taste and we went there one night to get takeaway vegan pita’s with hummus, falafel, some veggies and a nice sauce to bring to the beach. The falafels are so crispy and probably the best ones I ever ate and the boys I was with also loved the vegan pitas.
Miss Margarita is a Mexican restaurant on the main street close to the beach and I was told it is the highest ranked restaurant on TripAdvisor. It took pretty long to get a table so I would recommend reserving before, but it was so worth it. The place is not just super unique and has a great Mexican vintage vibe, the food was really amazing too. I had a zucchini and mushroom Burrito and it was definitely the best one I ever had. Such a great flavour and the combo of roasted zucchini and mushrooms was amazing.
Crêpes There is a very popular crêpe place at Spar in Byron and you literally see hundreds of people eating them every day on the streets. So we obviously needed to try them and we didn’t get disappointed. Crêpes are pretty expensive in Australia compared to Europe but we got a strawberry one with dark chocolate and it was so good. Super creamy, still cross and the combo of warm melted chocolate and fresh strawberries is just a dream.
Acai Obviously I needed to have Acai before/in between a hot beach day and literally every café/shop sells them. They cost around 13-16$ but there was one place that had them for 10$. It wasn’t the best one I had, but still good and because they used lots of muesli to fill up the bowl, it made you full for longer.
Fresh Coconuts Many places also sell fresh coconuts, but there is a guy at the main beach that sells really amazing fresh cocos. He freshly cuts them open for you, has paper straws and when you finished the water he cuts them completely open and cuts the coconut meat out so that you can eat it as well. It was the first time for me trying a fresh coconut and I already love the store bought coconut water, but this one was a dream!
Other great places that I want to go to next time are Folk and Byron Bay General Store.
What to do
There a plenty of things to do in and around Byron Bay. The most popular ones are day trips to Nimbin (the weed Mecca in Australia), diving and snorkelling, kayaking with dolphins, hiring surfboards, stand up paddle boards or kayaks and walking to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse walk should be a must for everyone visiting Byron Bay as it is super famous and beautiful. Not just at the destination, but also the way up and down. Especially when you take the walk at the coast/beach and not through the rainforest or at the street (even though they are shorter). First, you walk along the main beach, then up some small hills to get to Wategos beach, which is a dream for surfers in the morning and then some more hills until you arrive at the most easterly point of the Australian mainland and head to the lighthouse. If you are lucky you can spot turtles, dolphins or whales in the ocean and especially around sunrise and sunset the light is beautiful. I did the hike twice at daytime, once for sunset and once for sunrise and it was always a great experience. Especially when you can jump in the refreshing water afterwards to cool down again.
The beaches in/around Byron are super beautiful and as they are pretty big/long you can always find a nice calm spot to relax. The water has an amazing temperature, just right to stay in for long but still cold enough to cool you down and the waves are great to play and jump in. If you go at the right time and to the right spots surfing is great as well, I just wasn’t lucky to experience that…If you walk down the main road until the end you find the main beach to your right side and the dog beach to your left (both beautiful), a bit further along the coast in the direction of the lighthouse is Wategos Beach and Tallow Beach on the other side of the cap is wonderful as well and super empty.
It was always my dream to ride a horse at the beach and not far from Byron Bay, at Seven Mile beach it is possible. I booked a two-hour beach ride with Sea Horses Byron Bay and I can highly recommend them. I got the chance to help the owner making the horses ready and driving them to the beach as well as helping with the “after-riding-work” bringing them home, showering and feeding them. Most horses are rescued from the meat industry and live a wonderful life in a big open forest space now. You can tell that the owner really loves them by how she cares for them. They look super healthy, have a wonderful, spacious and natural home, get great food and get pauses from riding regularly. I spend almost the whole day on the ranch and riding and had an awesome and fun experience. It costs 140$ which is a lot, but after seeing how well the horses get looked after, I can say that it was totally worth it.
They say that surfing is awesome in Byron Bay. Especially when you go in the morning and know some nice spots with great waves, but I sadly didn’t get the chance. The Nomads hostel rents surfboards as well as many shops in the city and near the beach.
Nightlife is great in Byron, but a little different than in other backpacker hotspots. There are two clubs (Woodie’s and Cheeky Monkeys) where you can party every night and a lot of cool bars with live music, but Byron Bay is more about the street artists that are playing everywhere on the streets and especially at the park at the main beach. You get an amazing view over the beach, sea and lighthouse and can listen to some wonderful musicians while picnicking, drinking or playing card games with friends. There is also a van that does a silent disco at the beach with headphones which is super fun.
Near the Arts Centre in the western part if Byron there is a Yoga Retreat place that does daily yoga lessons taught by future yoga teachers that are practising teaching for only 5$ for 90 minutes, which is super cheap.
I’ve been three times and I still want to go back because there is still cafés I haven’t tried, waves I haven’t caught and beach days to enjoy… Byron is a dream and I can only recommend to go there if you love this beautiful alternative hippie vibe!