The Portuguese lust for adventure saw them sail around the seven seas long before everybody else got in on it. And their love for slightly stronger wines saw them invent Port. The formal imperial past of Portugal has left a lasting legacy on the world in the form of its architecture and language which are visible in such vast ranging regions as Brazil in S. America, Mozambique in Africa and Macao in Asia.
Part of the Iberian Peninsula it is on the most western point of mainland Europe, and is known for its fine beaches, its good surf, its traditional villages and castles and obviously its fortified wine. Another one of those popular escapes from the cold northern climes, it receives its fair share of visitors and expats alike.
In Algarve there is a hidden cove waiting to be discovered by just about anybody, and further up in Lisbon you can wander down(or up if your legs allow it) the cobbled streets of Alfama, for some Port tasting head up Douro Valley or sit and sip in in one of the many wine caves and cellars along the riverside in Porto. Inland there are plenty of possibilities to hike and get a glimpse of traditional Portuguese life, together with an abundance of castles and pretty towns and villages. Perhaps Portugal’s best kept treasure is the island group of the Azores, which has specialised in sustainable tourism and is known for its stunning nature, unique biosphere, diving and whale and dolphin watching and a plethora of other adventurous activities to boot.
So, go west as the song goes, and discover your own hidden gem in this country by the sea.
Highlights from Portugal
- For sunshine, beaches, hidden coves, surfing, and fabulous cuisine head down to Algarve, you won’t regret it
- Stroll Lisbon’s cobbled streets (aka Lisboa), taking in the views and in the evening enjoy the vibrant nightlife
- Just west of Lisbon lies Sintra full of palaces and villa’s in a hillside setting
- For some whale watching, hiking, paragliding, or diving the Azores are a great destination
- Another Atlantic Island you might want to visit is Madeira, known for its wines and lush green scenery
- If you like Port, there is no better place than Porto (aka Oporto) or some of the other towns up Douro Valley to taste it
- For a taste of university life head to Coimbra which hosts one of Europe’s oldest universities and much more
- Évora, a World Heritage Site, lying inland is a beautiful historic town worth visiting
- The castle and fortified walls of Obidos located on a hilltop are a good place for wandering around
- For a lesson in history, Guimarães is where Portugal made its first steps in becoming a sovereign nation back in the 12th century, it is also a World Heritage Site.
Hints and Tips for Portugal
- You might want to take a phrasebook with you, as English isn’t widely spoken.
- As most countries around the Mediterranean, dinners are late!
- Flying to the Azores is becoming cheaper, with more competition, so it might not be as dear as it sounds to get there.