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Ilha Do Sal is always a sunny and picturesque island in Cape Verde. Sal is a popular holiday destination for many, but its relaxed lifestyle and tranquil beachfront atmosphere can also tempt you for a longer visit.
Sal is one of the ten islands of Cape Verde and here you will find a beautiful light sandy coastline with clear turquoise ocean water shining in the background. In the wintertime the island is windy, but temperatures still remain favorable for beach vacations throughout the year. The capital of the island is called Espargos, where I also visited quickly, but my own trip was mainly on the beaches and the colourful small streets of the lovely beachfront city of Santa Maria.
My own journey ended up being anything but what I had originally planned. Usually when I travel I try to get to know the places as well as possible, but this time I was totally caught up with the stress-free and relaxed atmosphere of Sal and ended up taking it really easy on this trip. I found myself enjoying the no stress -life to the fullest.
Cape Verde has been popular with many tourists this spring, but my own reason for the trip was primarily to get to meet one of my best friends after a long time, because she is currently living in Sal for work. My friend and I met here in Portugal when we started working together in the same job at the same time and have been an inseparable crazy duo ever since. The reunion at the sunny heat of Sal was really wonderful and was followed by an almost two-week adventure with beach life, exploring places and partying with new local acquaintances until the late night.
ILHA DO SAL – WHAT AND WHY?
Sal is the oldest island in the Cape Verde archipelago off the coast of West Africa in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, born about 50 million years ago after a volcanic eruption (source: Wikipedia). The size of Sal is around 216 km² and it is only a little over 30 km long from the north to the south. The local currency is Escudo, but the euro also works well and local money can be easily withdrawn from the ATM, so it is not necessary or worth exchanging money in advance. Various half-day and full-day excursions are organized on the island, where you can easily explore the best pieces of the island from end to end in one day with a professional tour guide. You can also get around the island with your own rental car or public transport options, but be careful when considering renting your own car, as the roads are really bad in some places.
The most popular places to visit in Sal are the town of Santa Maria and its relaxed beach life, the capital Espargos, the blue eye of Buracona, the coastal village of Murdeira, the fishing village of Palmeira, Shark Bay and of course the old Pedra Lume salt mine, where you can still visit and float on the salt water lake created in an old volcanic crater. This was a very fun experience and this also is really good for the skin.
In Sal, water sports are really popular and in addition to lounging on the beach, you can easily find yourself trying out, for example, surfing or kite surfing, which is a big hit on the island. Diving and snorkelling, as well as dolphin and whale watching, can also be done here.
IS SAL A SAFE DESTINATION?
Travelling in Sal is safe, but common sense should be used here as well. Pocket thefts are quite common, especially in bars, so it is a good idea to keep your valuables in your home or safety deposit box and not give the thieves a chance. It is also not advisable to wander the dark streets alone at night, if it is not absolutely necessary and you should keep an eye on your own drink so that no one can slip anything there even half-accidentally. Also don’t leave with strangers whether it is an acquaintance found in the nightlife or a merchant who tries to attract you to his boutique during the day, but these are of course choices that everyone can make for themselves and decide what to do.
The highlights of my own trip, instead of doing a lot of sightseeing, were spending time with my dear friend, and getting to know new wonderful people on the island. Through my friend who has already lived on the island for a longer time, I had the opportunity to get to know many fun and nice locals and these encounters and new friendships really made the trip the best it could be.
Sal left me with such a big desire to travel back, that a new trip to Cape Verde is already under planning, and I can’t wait to see what the next time will bring. <3
TRAVELLING TO SAL? EXPERIENCE THESE AT LEAST:
- The capital city Espargos
- The relaxed beach vibes of Santa Maria
- Palmeira fishing town
- The Blue Eye of Buracona
- Shark Bay – Go chill in the water with Lemon sharks!
- The old salt mine of Pedra da Lume
In the next post, I’ll tell more deeply about the island’s attractions and different cities, so stay tuned for more about Sal Island!
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HAVE YOU BEEN TO CAPE VERDE AND ILHA DO SAL? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES ON THE COMMENTS BELOW! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna
*Photos: Tiina Johanna, blogger
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Sintra is definitely one of the most popular and magnificent places to visit in all of Portugal, and in addition to the idyllic village itself, its attractions consist of as many as seven different castles and palaces with their own parks and gardens. The most beautiful and at the same time the most famous gem of Sintra is, of course, the magnificent Palacio da Pena, or Pena Palace, which stands high on the top of the mountain and offers the most magical views down to the greenery of the park and the beautiful village of Sintra with all its cafés and shops.
I have already visited Sintra several times to see the different palaces and to enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of the village with good food and a hot cup of coffee, or even a sweet mojito. Sintra is just over an hour’s train ride from central Lisbon and is easy and hassle-free to travel to. You can hop on a train to Sintra from the train stations of Rossio, Entrecampos or Sete Rios in the city center, and the LISBOA CARD * is definitely the best option for tourists. With the Lisboa Card you get great offers and free entries to different sights in Lisbon and you can use the public transportation including the metro, bus, tram and train to Sintra, Cascais and other surrounding areas as much as you want and need, all included in the card.
Pre-tailored tours of Sintra are also available, with great guides that also provide wider range of tours to the rest of Sintra’s surrounding area, starting from the wonderful fishing village of Cascais to the magnificent cliffs of Cabo da Roca.
SINTRA, THE MAGICAL UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Sintra is a well-known UNESCO World Heritage Site and its magical atmosphere attracts visitors from all over the world. Sintra is perfect for everyone from backpackers, tourist groups, friends, solo travellers, the culture-hungry, nature lovers and couples on a romantic trip. Only one day is enough to visit Sintra, if one day is the only thing in your schedule to give space to this beautiful place. In this case, the Pena Palace is a must with its beautiful garden area. The village of Sintra is full of lovely cafes and places to have lunch, so you don’t have to spend a day feeling hungry.
While one day is definitely enough for Sintra if you want it to be, it is worth remembering that in addition to Pena Palace, there are still six other castles and palaces in Sintra that are also well worth a visit and unfortunately you won’t have time to go through everything in one day no matter how hard you try (trust me, I speak from experience).
Here’s a list of Sintra’s best attractions and tips for you to easily pick up your favorites for your own amazing Sintra trip:
PALACIO DA PENA – PENA PALACE
Pena Palace is located high on the top of the mountain in Sintra and offers the most beautiful views down over the valley, its lush nature and the village of Sintra with all its surroundings. This is also Sintra’s most popular attraction and at the same time an absolute must-see destination if time in Sintra is limited. Both inside and out, the charming Pena Palace was built in the 19th century in a romantic Roman architectural style and its color and splendor can be seen from afar. The palace is surrounded by an interesting park of about 200 hectares, where you can take a relaxing walk in the heart of nature or get a good workout in the form of a longer uphill run if you wish (or sometimes accidentally, as I have).
Now during the corona, it has been a pleasure to enjoy this attraction quite peacefully and without crowds, but at least before the restrictions, the destination has been really crowded and it is best to take this in consideration while planning your own visit. To avoid long queues at the ticket office, you can conveniently get your admission in advance online:
QUINTA DA REGALEIRA
Quinta da Regaleira is certainly the most popular place to visit in Sintra after Pena Palace, and I don’t wonder why. This place is like stepping into a kind of fairytale world full of caves, ponds, nature and massive old trees, large wells that reach deep underground and, of course, the romantic palace of Quinta da Regaleira and the chapel. It’s easy to spend time here twice as much as Pena palace, so I don’t recommend these two for the same day, or if you absolutely want to do so, nothing else will surely fit in the day.
In addition to Pena, Quinta da Regaleira is my own favorite of Sintra’s sights and I surely have to go back there again, because on the first time, unfortunately, we didn’t even get inside the palace after walking all around the garden area and it was already quite late, so we didn’t have time to see the most popular underground well either. However, we got to enjoy the enchantment of the park in the warmth of the sunshine and we just happened to be there right during the rehearsals of an Italian opera, so I can’t really complain about that, can I?
To make your day in Sintra easier, you can also choose a guided tour to my favourite destinations, Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira!
CASTELO DOS MOUROS – CASTLE OF THE MOORS
In addition to the above, Castelo dos Mouros is also one of the most popular destinations in Sintra. Built in the 700s and 800s, this high-walled fort once again offers magnificent views of the village of Sintra and the surrounding nature, as well as, of course, great views towards the Pena Palace.
SINTRA NATIONAL PALACE
Sintra National Palace is the oldest palace in Portugal. It is located right in the old town of the village of Sintra and the white chimneys of the palace can be seen all the way to the train station. As a destination, this is easy and fairly quick due to its central location and the inside is very beautiful and worth the experience.
Palácio de Monserrate is a palace/villa that beautifully combines both Arabic and Gothic architecture and is surrounded by a very magnificent garden with its large aloe plants. The palace of Monserrate is not as big an attraction as the other sites maybe, but I myself really liked this and especially the garden, so I can warmly recommend visiting here too if there is enough time.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN SINTRA?
Of course, walking in and around Sintra is possible and also nice, but the distances are quite long and the differences in altitude can surprise a first-timer. If you arrive in Sintra by train, you can conveniently grab a taxi or a tuktuk in front of the train station, but I would recommend the cheapest option myself: a bus. The bus, which passes through all the palaces and sights, runs right next to the train station and takes you around Sintra in a hop-on-hop-off style. It is very easy and simple to go around with the bus and you will not have to pay too much for one way taxi rides at least. However, if a taxi is more your style, I recommend downloading the locally-favored Bolt app, which provides by far the cheapest taxi rides.
Take advantage of my discount code “TIINALKQ” and get 5€ discount from your first Bolt ride!
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HAVE YOU ALREADY BEEN TO SINTRA? WHAT PLACES DID YOU VISIT? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES BELOW IN THE COMMENTS! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna
*All photos on article (unless mentioned otherwise): Tiina Johanna, the blogger
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