A country of blessed contradictions, Portugal is strewn with medieval castles, cobbled villages, a wide range of stunning landscapes and of course, some truly unique places to stay. You’ll also discover almost 530 miles of Atlantic Ocean-bathed beaches, drenched in 3,000 glorious hours of golden sunshine every year.
With fine wines, mouthwatering cuisine, and a variety of unusual places to stay too, we’ve got to ask: what’s stopping you? Particularly when this fascinating country is so conveniently located, just a few hours from most other European capital cities.
The two main cities, the capital Lisbon and Porto, are wonderful places to begin your exploration. Both are located by rivers, the Tagus and the Douro respectively, and you’ll find them filled with beauty, culture, shopping and nightlife.
Wander into Lisbon’s Belém district for coffee and a famous Portuguese custard tart, and take in the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower while you’re there – both UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you’ve got a head for heights, the Moorish São Jorge Castle sits high on a hilltop that overlooks medieval Alfama, with spectacular views of the Tagus estuary.
Porto’s historic centre is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, which includes the Sé cathedral and the Gothic Church of São Francisco, with its delightfully baroque interior. Finish your sightseeing, then take a leisurely stroll along the lively Ribiera.
The Algarve has long been a favourite of European sun-seekers, and with its clear, warm water and seemingly endless white-sand beaches, you can understand why.
You’ll find around 150 beaches to choose from here, the majority of which are ideal for family fun, book reading, watersports and calm relaxation alike. Praia da Marinha on the southern coast has it all, and is regularly voted one of the best beaches in Europe.
If you’re more of a nature lover than a beach lounger, Portugal’s only national park, the Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês, offers 700 square kilometres of lush valleys and rare plant species to discover.
Don’t leave out the Portuguese islands on your trip – they’re well worth a visit. The volcanic Azores are ideal for hiking and whale-watching, while Madeira is a favourite in winter due to its mild year-round climate. Try some of Madeira’s famous fortified wine and traditional honey cake while you’re there…it’d be rude not to!
Round off your tour of Portugal with a stopover at the breathtakingly beautiful hilltop town of Sintra, once a haven for Portuguese royalty and the inspiration for scores of writers, including Lord Byron.
Wherever you end up, you can expect sumptuous local cuisine, friendly people, and some of the finest wines you’ll ever sample. Who could possibly ask for more?
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