Journey to the end of the European World
This is one of my best trips yet (I think I say this all the time LOL). I’m usually a planner but this was the first time that nothing whatsoever was planned. I actually didn’t know what to expect on the trip but my instincts said if everything goes okay at the car rental, then it was meant to be. This trip, though completely unplanned and random, was perfect from start to finish.
I went on a road trip with a few of my classmates to the Algarve Region of Portugal in February. Here is how the trip went down:
Day 1: We took a random road trip to the Algarve district of Southern Portugal. After class, we packed our weekend bags and took the bus to the airport to the car rental office. We got a car from RecordGo company and it cost only 20 euros for the entire weekend (it was ridiculously cheap and we paid about 180 euros for gas). My roommate was able to use her European license to get the car which was really great. The car wasn’t in the greatest condition but it got us there and back. It wasn’t until we got to the airport that I realized I had left my passport at home! Anyways, it was too late then so I just prayed we didn’t get stopped by the police at the border or throughout our journey. So glad that didn’t happen!
Anywhoo, we got in the car and we didn’t have a destination or a place to stay but we figured we’d drive in the direction of Portimao, Portugal and when we get there we would figure things out – so we set out on our adventure. Thanks to TMobile, I was able to use my unlimited data for Google Maps to navigate to Algarve. (Quick shout out T-Mobile for coming through – if you guys are reading this, I wouldn’t mind being an ambassador or paid spokesperson 😉 ) The drive to Portimao from Spain was very peaceful and nice (I enjoyed my road trips in Europe; the views are amazing – it reminded me of my drive from New Jersey to New Hampshire).
The drive from Malaga to Portimao is about 6 hours. Halfway through our trip, I messaged my friend in DC to look up some hotels we could stay at, and she found a couple which helped me narrow down my search. Somehow I was able to find a hotel online (Again, really grateful to Tmobile for this new unlimited international data plan!). We decided to drive to the hotel (since we didn’t have any destination anyways) and then we would decide from there if we wanted to stay there. After 6 hours of driving, we arrived at the hotel called Tivoli Marina at about 10pm.
When we got there, we were very impressed with what we saw. We were just hoping it wasn’t ridiculously expensive; the other alternative was to sleep in the car haha! We got to the front desk, asked about the rooms and thankfully, the rates were quite affordable. It was about 60 euros per night – we even got the two-room suite. The staff here was very nice and helpful – you see why I said I must be Portuguese, we are really nice people 🙂. The hotel was super nice, the location was perfect – right by the port and Prao Da Rocha beach – and breakfast was included. The hotel is known for its nice golf course – so if you’re into golfing, this is a great place to stay. The trip was getting even better.
Day 2: Unfortunately I didn’t wake up early enough to watch the sun rise, but I was able to make it in time for breakfast at the hotel. We were quite impressed with the breakfast – it was a full continental breakfast and buffet. While we were eating, one of the waiters told us to visit Lagos and Sagres, so we added that to our itinerary (Best travel advice we could have gotten!). After breakfast, we decided to get our morning tan at the beach so we laid on the beach listening to music. The water was so cold but the sun was out and it was simply perfect – great day to be on the beach! We walked around the beach and all the way to the caves, and I must say, it was worth the 45-minute walk from the main beach. Everything was just so beautiful! Portimao’s hidden treasure is behind those caves – pure bliss and paradise on earth. The trip couldn’t get any better with what we had experienced that morning.
At about 5pm, we left the beach and headed out to the town of Lagos, about 30 minutes from Portimao. We walked around the city for about 2 hours. Every where was closed because of the time we got there (you know in Europe everything closes after lunch and opens later in the evening for dinner). At around 7pm we decided to go to Sagres, the end/beginning of the European world, to watch the sunset. The drive to Sagres was like something out of a movie. We were driving on a long straight road, middle of nowhere, to the end of the world, to the cliff of Cape Saint Vincent, the lighthouse landmark there. Honestly, words cannot describe the experience – this is something you have to experience yourself. At this point, this trip was at the peak of its best. We watched the sunset, took pictures and we talked about the beauty of the place and how perfect our trip was.
Our loyal car – we had to take a picture of it (approx 1200 Km on this bad boy)
After about 30 minutes, we started our 1-hour drive back to Portimao. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were so hungry and exhausted. We asked the concierge for restaurant suggestions in the downtown area of Portimao. They suggested Dona Barca, Taberna da Mare, Forye e Forye but we ended up at La Dolce Vita on Avenida Tomas Cabrera. The food here was great, and the pitcher of sangria made it the perfect end to the perfect day.
Day 3/Last day: On Sunday we decided to drive to the town of Faro since it was on our way back to Malaga. We wanted to visit the island called Ilha Cabo de Santa Maria – Ilha Deserta. When we go to Faro, the next ferry option to the island was in 2 hours and was not convenient for us since we still had about a 5-hour drive back to Malaga. So we decided we would walk around the downtown Faro district. As we were walking, we met a guy who worked for the company, Animaris ilha Deserta, we were looking for to get to the island. He saw us holding the flyer and asked if we wanted to go to the island – we said YES. He cut us a good deal and took us to the island on his speed boat (which was an awesome adrenaline rush).
As soon as we got off the boat and stepped on the island, we knew we’d made the right decision. Ilha Deserta is a secluded island in the Faro District of Portugal. The sand there is clean and it was just peaceful and beautiful. It was exactly what we needed to end our trip and reflect on life’s beauty – this is a great place to relax and just enjoy the beach with no crowds or tourists. We spent about an hour and a half there – I walked around the beach and later just sat down, watching the water. At 4pm, we got on the ferry back to the port and then hopped in the car back to Malaga.
We made it back to Malaga right in time before the car rental closed. After we returned the car, we took the airport bus back to the city and then the city bus back home (I mentioned this because the city bus back home was right on time which never happens in Malaga especially at night-time). We made it back home before midnight. The entire trip we were waiting on “the catch”. I mean everything went perfectly well even though it was not planned. Overall, it was one of the best travel experiences I have had. Driving around southern Portugal was an amazing experience. It is such a great place to enjoy a blissful vacation.
I took some time to reminisce on the trip and my conclusion was this: In life, some things are just meant to be or not meant to be. Everything happens the way it was designed to be. So here’s my advice to you: Once in a while, let go of the plans and the structure, and therein lies perfection.
I plan on taking another unplanned trip around Eastern Europe very soon – I can’t wait to see what it has to offer me.
Oh btw – you will never understand the tolls in Southern Portugal – we didn’t know how it worked, so we just enjoyed the ride 🙂