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Portugal

White sandy beaches, laid-back way of life and a rich history –

Three excellent reasons to travel to Portugal!

Fishing boats in Portugal

Photo: Jussi Ryynänen

About Portugal

The TOP 5 destinations in Portugal

Lisbon

The colorful and atmospheric Lisbon is the perfect destination for a combined city and beach holiday, thanks to the white-sand beaches being located only a stone’s throw away from one of the sunniest European capitals.

The beaches of Algarve

The most popular beach destinations of Portugal draw holidaymakers to the Algarve coast, where the paradise-like beaches are lined with sandy rock formations and whitewashed villages.

Sintra

The magical Sintra is a spectacular day trip destination from Lisbon. The royal palaces, fairytale gardens and medieval knight tales come alive in this town spreading into the forested mountains.

The Monserrate Palace

The Monserrate Palace is one of the lesser-known things to do in Sintra. Photo: Johanna Maldonado

Porto and the Douro Valley

Famous for port wine, the second city of Portugal is one of the best cities to visit in Europe, from where it’s also possible to enjoy the surrounding gorgeous beaches or take a river cruise to the vineyards of the Douro Valley.

Islands – Madeira and the Azores

The lush archipelagos of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean make a dream destination for nature lovers, where hiking on mountain trails, swimming in natural pools and hot springs, and whale-watching are some of the most memorable activities.

Lagoa de Canario, Azores

The Azores are home to endless breathtaking sceneries. Photo: Johanna Maldonado

Where to travel in Portugal, if you…

Long for a beach holiday

Located in Southern Portugal, the Algarve coast has been the most popular beach holiday destination of Portugal for decades, and righteously so. The golden beaches continuously hold top places among the best European beaches and in the Algarve province they are combined with turquoise water and white coastal villages, creating a gorgeous setting for a vacation. Many are also framed by dramatic rock formations and caves. Popular destinations in the Algarve include Lagos, Portimão (Praia da Rocha) and Albufeira.

It’s not only about Algarve though, since the whole coast of Portugal is dotted with beautiful sandy stretches. It’s however noteworthy that the Atlantic waters get colder the more north you go. In the southern Algarve, the sea water temperature is at its warmest in August, at around 22 °C, whereas off the coasts of Lisbon and Porto the water doesn’t reach 20 °C even in the summer.

Beach in Arrabida, Portugal

The beaches of Portugal are among the best beach holiday destinations in Europe. Photo: Johanna Maldonado

Portugal is a great destination for a combined city and beach holiday, because there are several tempting beaches close to both Lisbon and Porto. From Lisbon, one can easily catch a train and head to the coastal town of Cascais for a relaxed holiday vibe, whereas in Porto the beach of Matosinhos is only a metro ride away.

During the winter months, it’s possible to find comfortable beach weather on the tranquil Madeira island of Porto Santo, where the kilometers long beach draws sunbathers to its golden sand. The warmest sea water temperatures are also found in Madeira and the Azores, where the passing Gulf Stream heats the water up to 25 °C in the summer months.

Are interested in history

Évora is the top destination in Portugal for those who are interested in history, thanks to the city’s vast portfolio of sites to visit, including Roman ruins, such as a temple and a spa, but also medieval cathedrals, convents and other buildings – the most famous being a chapel decorated with human bones. In addition, one can explore the largest ancient stone circle in the Iberian Peninsula, the Almendres Cromlech, located on the countryside not far from Évora.

The Cathedral of Évora

The Cathedral of Évora has great views over the city and its surroundings. Photo: Johanna Maldonado

Coimbra is one of the oldest cities of Portugal and also home to one of the first universities of Europe. Besides the beautiful old town of Coimbra, the Conimbriga ruins constitute the best preserved Roman city of the country and are located close by.

Located in Central Portugal, the town of Tomar is another interesting historical destination, where the Knight Templars once had their base. The medieval town has a lot to see from castles to churches and convents. It’s even possible to travel to the Jurassic era in the Tomar area, since the most important dinosaur footprint site of Portugal is located at the close-by Serra de Aire.

Sintra is one of the most popular travel destinations of the country, where one can admire the glory of the 17th century and older palaces as well as the royal glamour of the former times, whilst wandering in the mythical gardens and the old town alleys.

Want to hike on the mountains

Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range of Continental Portugal and a natural park offering a network of 375 kilometers of hiking trails in rugged landscapes. The only skiing centre of Portugal is located on the mountain top at an altitude of 1993 meters, and the hikes travel through rocky glacial valleys and mountain lakes.

The Serra da Estrela mountain

The Serra da Estrela mountain range gets a snowcap in the wintertime. Photo: Johanna Maldonado

The mountains of the interior Central Portugal, reaching to over 1000 meters in height, have been given a common name: Montanhas Mágicas, Magical Mountains. Here, one can hike through the tranquil mountain landscapes and wonder at the emptying schist villages and geological curiosities of the region. The longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, 516 Arouca, is located at the Passadiços do Paiva walking route. Information: 516arouca.pt

The scenic mountains of Madeira offer not only more demanding mountain hikes but also easier walks on the famous levadas of the island. The highest peak of the island, Pico Ruivo, rises up to 1862 meters and the views from the trails winding above the clouds are just absolutely breathtaking.

Pico, Azores, Portugal

A hike up the dormant volcano of Mount Pico is an experience to remember. Photo: Johanna Maldonado

The highest mountain peak in all of Portugal can be conquered on the island of Pico in the Azores. The cone-shaped volcano Mount Pico has a height of 2351 meters and there are also night hikes available in order to watch the sunrise from the mountaintop.

Dream of vineyards

The wine region of Douro is perhaps the most interesting wine production area in Portugal, because it not only offers many spectacular wineries, but also gorgeous views over the protected Douro River Valley. In autumn, it’s also possible to participate in the traditional wine production method, vindima, carried out by stepping on the grapes.

Douro River in Portugal

Landscapes of the Douro Valley near the village of Pinhão. Photo: Ville Ryynänen

One can also explore the Douro River on a river cruise complemented by wine tasting, most of which depart from Porto. If time is of the essence, the wine cellars of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia offer faster tours especially for port wine lovers.

The Alentejo Wine Route winds through the rolling landscapes and cork oak forests of the province, guiding the guest to sample some of the best quality wines of Portugal. The dozens of vineyards dotting the large region have been marked in a handy interactive map.

Close to Lisbon, the best place for a vineyard visit is Azeitão. This village is home to several wine estates where one can taste the aromatic wines of the Setúbal region. There are also some wineries located north of Lisbon offering great day trips.

Want to visit local villages

Built on a hill and surrounded by ancient town walls, Óbidos is perhaps the most picturesque medieval village of Portugal. There is of course a castle on the highest top of the hill.

Monsanto has been titled as the most Portuguese village of Portugal, where the houses are built among, on top and under huge boulders. The peculiar village is guarded by medieval fortress ruins occupying the mountaintop.

Also the schist villages of Northern and Central Portugal have their stories to tell, the best known of them being probably Piódão. Almost every single building here is made of stacked schist in its natural color, even the cobblestone streets.

Are a nature traveler

In Portugal there are a total of 13 natural parks and one national park, all of which have a lot of interesting things to see and explore for a nature lover. Especially the remote natural parks in the interior, such as the Douro Internacional and Montesinho natural parks that are located in the Northeastern corner of Portugal, are peaceful havens where it’s possible to spot some wildlife as well.

Natural park in Portugal

Many Portuguese natural parks combine mountain sceneries with rural landscapes. Photo: Johanna Maldonado

The only national park of Portugal, Peneda-Gerês, is known for its magnificent views, waterfalls and wild horses, offering nature experiences while hiking on the rocky mountain slopes and on the Roman road leading through the park. After a long day of exploring, it’s heavenly to relax in the hot springs of the region.

If the exotic wonders of volcanic nature are high on your list, the holiday destination should be set at the Azores. When visiting this archipelago belonging to Portugal, one can admire its lush nature and volcanic activity, such as the steaming fumaroles and the hot springs, hike in the ancient laurel forests and spot whales on a boat trip. Known for its levada trails, also the island of Madeira is a wonderful nature destination.

A small vocabulary

English

Hello

Good morning

Good afternoon

Good night

Thank you

Please

Excuse me

Sorry

I would like…

A water

A coffee

A beer

Dish of the day

ATM, card payment

Train

Bus

Portuguese

Olá

Bom Dia

Boa tarde

Boa noite

Obrigado/-a

Se faz favor

Com licença

Desculpa

Queria…

Uma água

Um café

Uma cerveja

Prato do dia

Multibanco

Comboio

Autocarro

Travel guides to Portugal

The Azores is a Portuguese archipelago of nine volcanic islands, offering a variety of things to see and do in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The lush volcanic nature of the exotic Azores is complemented by relaxing activities and the tranquility of the historic coastal villages in a comfortable subtropical climate.

Read more: The Azores

The luxurious holiday vibe of Cascais and Estoril make them popular destinations on the Portuguese Riviera. The beautiful Cascais beaches, shopping possibilities and exciting activities guarantee an enjoyable holiday.

Read more: Cascais

Espinho is a cozy holiday destination by the Atlantic Ocean. The climate is ideal for a relaxed beach holiday in summer.

Read more: Espinho

Blessed with rich history, Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the interior of Portugal. The city combines several historic sights with culinary experiences under the Alentejo sun.

Read more: Évora

The versatile Lisbon is a travel destination that combines exploring the Portuguese capital and a sunny beach vacation. The historical sights of the colorful city, the rhythms of fado and the cobblestone alleys are just a stone's throw away from the white sand beaches.

Read more: Lisbon

Matosinhos is a town in the district of Porto. It is known as the center of surfing in the area and famous for its excellent fish restaurants. The spacious beach of Matosinhos consists of fine and light sand.

Read more: Matosinhos

A visit to Porto can be a combination of a city break and a beach holiday; the beaches are situated close to the center. The convenient summer climate on the northern coast guarantees a successful city holiday in one of the coziest cities in Europe.

Read more: Porto

Sesimbra is a picture-perfect holiday destination just south of Lisbon. The turquoise-water beaches, nature destinations and the atmosphere of the historical fishing village make a memorable vacation.

Read more: Sesimbra

Known for its fairytale palaces and castles, Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage destination close to Lisbon. Things to do in Sintra include cooling off in the mountainous palace gardens, exploring waterfalls and relaxing on the wild beaches of the rugged Atlantic coast.

Read more: Sintra

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Text: Johanna Maldonado
Photos: Johanna Maldonado, Jussi Ryynänen, Ville Ryynänen

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