Exploring PortugalOur Travel Guide
Portugal is, as the Portuguese often mention, a little paradise planted by the Atlantic. With Spain as their neighbors, they’re the most western country in Europe! Portugal has 943 km of length and a maximum width of 561 km but if you want to compare it, it has almost the size of Maine in the US. Luckily for them, the country is not measured by its size (measured in palms – as they say!) and they count with more than 900 years of history to prove it! With Lisbon as their capital (Europe’s Leading City Break Destination of 2019 according to the World Travel Awards), Portugal was considered in 2019, according to the Institute for Economics & Peace, the safest country in Europe and the 3rd safest country in the world to travel to!
Portugal at a Glance
Currency: Euro (€)
Language: Portuguese (the Portuguese are fairly good at speaking English, French, or Spanish, so you’ll get by easily).
Visa: EU and Schengen space visitors can enter with just a valid ID card. All others need a valid passport of 6 months. You can stay in Portugal as a tourist for 90 days and after you can ask SEF for your visa to be extended.
Cost: Portugal is one of the cheapest countries in western Europe. Even though the difference in accommodation prices is not that big, eating out, groceries, transports, and all the rest are fairly cheap.
Mobility in the country: In big cities like Porto and Lisbon you can easily use the metro, bus, or tram. You can also use other platforms like Uber to go around these two cities. Trains and long-distance buses can be used to visit different cities. You can also fly: Portugal has airports in the islands, Faro, Lisbon, and Porto. If you’re looking for a deeper look into the country, rent a car, it’s worth it.
- Sight Seeing 80% 80%
- Cost 65% 65%
- Ease of Travel 80% 80%
- Activities 85% 85%
Kati and I discovered Portugal with Tap Airlines. They allow up to 5 days layover with no additional costs in either Porto or Lisbon. It was a perfect way to get to know the country while traveling to another destination.
Top Experiences in Portugal
Portugal’s capital and a beautiful bohemian city. You’ll need 4 to 5 days to see it properly counting already with a day trip to the magical village of Sintra. Do a Free Walking Tour go see the cities highlights and take the other half of the day to explore Lisbon’s most wanted neighborhood of Belém (make sure you indulge in their Pastel de Belém – Portugal’s signature dessert) where you can visit the Pattern of the Discoveries, the Tower of Belém and the Monastery of Jerónimos. Don’t leave Lisbon without visiting the Museum of Freedom and Resistance (old political prison where you can learn about the Portuguese Dictatorship), listening to Fado (a genre of song that is UNESCO’s Immaterial Property) in Alfama or Mouraria, or visiting all the amazing viewpoints the capital has. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s much more to discover there.
The north’s most popular city and, let’s be fair, there’s a reason for that. You’ll find there one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops (Livraria Lello), breathtaking views of the Douro River, the Port Wine Cellars, lots of streets filled with history, and the feeling of just arriving home. You’ll find its people very friendly and passionate about their city (you’re not born in Porto, Porto is born in you), the food is delicious (no matter what you hear, don’t skip Francesinha and Tripas!) and you’ll need at least 2 to 3 days to see it well. You can save some time by doing a 3 hour Free Walking Tour and get some tips from local guides on what to do in the city.
3. Douro Valley
This is a must in Portugal. It’s the first certified wine region in the world and the home of Port Wine/Douro wine. The terraces filled with vineyards, the colors of the Valley, the peace of the region, and the mesmerizing views will for sure conquer any tourist’s heart. But watch out! Going on your own is only a good idea if you’re going by car because you lack public transports in the main villages and there’s not much information once you’re there. It’s easier to program everything in advance and even better if you ask the advice of a local or a tour guide. You can easily spend 2 to 3 days exploring this region of Portugal but if you can only go for one day then take a one-day tour. The prices will always pay off for what you get (wine tastings, lunch, honey, olive oil, tour guide, and driver) – they cost an average of 85€ / person.
Probably one of Portugal’s most underestimated regions and for sure one of the most beautiful. If you’re staying in Lisbon and planning to head south to the Algarve, then stopping here for a minimum of 1 day is a must. Where can you go? Évora, for example. It’s an old Roman city, with the biggest cathedral in the country, a chapel made entirely of bones (yes, you read correctly), and a culinary paradise for foodies. You can spend one full day exploring Évora and it’s easy to get here if you don’t want to drive and prefer public transports. If you’re up for renting a car then you’re in for a treat. Not only can you pass by Évora but you sure can’t miss the area of Alqueva (you can thank us later). Alqueva has the biggest artificial lake in Europe and one of the most beautiful starry skies you’ll see (they’re the first Starlight Tourism Destination in the world), there are many villages to visit like the historical village of Monsaraz or Campinho: the perfect place for a picnic to slow down the rhythm. Make sure you book your experience with Dark Sky Alqueva in the village of Cumeada to have an amazing evening seeing the moon, the stars, and the constellations!
Located in the south of Portugal, this is a world-known destination if you like to relax on the beach and enjoy nature. You can do everything from golfing, aquatic activities like kayaking, canoeing, and surf lessons to bird watching, beautiful bike rides, and trekking! Don’t be fooled by this because if you’re not that type of tourist there are also many historical villages nearby to enjoy! You can choose to stay in one of the main cities like Albufeira, Portimão, Faro or Lagos (and you won’t be disappointed) or you can tour through the smaller ones.
Many people are not aware but Portugal has an archipelago right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. In all it’s beauty, the Azores are for sure worth visiting. You can combine it with one week in continental Portugal and then another week to visit Açores. Flights are departing from both Porto and Lisbon and landing in Ponta Delgada on the island of S. Miguel. Take your time here because you’ll be lost for words! Here are a few things you can’t miss: The Lagoon of the 7 cities, the Lagoon of the Fire, the Grout of Coal (the largest lava tunnel on the island), the Pineapple and Tea plantations, Caldeira Velha, and the park of Terra Nostra (a huge park with two natural heated pools), Caldeira das Furnas (to see the volcanic hot spots and have their Cozido – a traditional pot stew of different meats, potatoes, and greens cooked in natural ovens heated but the volcano sulfurous water) and all their mesmerizing viewpoints! Here’s a tip: buy the cheapest plane ticket you can find from S. Miguel to another island and then you can ask Sata (the airline) to change the destination to an island of your choice! So you get the best price for any Island you would prefer! If you’re a nature lover, the island of Santa Maria will be a place you’ll never forget! For the foodies don’t miss this: Grilled ham and cheese (island cheese!) toast made with their typical bread Bolo Lêvedo; Grilled Lapas (an amazing garlicky seafood dish that cooks in its shell); Any type of grilled fish but tuna is exquisite!
If instead of the Açores you’re looking for something more tropical, you have the Madeira Island! The birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo is filled with adventures for you to find! You can hike the island from end to end passing by the most impressive viewpoints! Make sure you spend at least two days in Funchal and then hit the road! While there, try “Bolo do Caco” garlic pork sandwich and wash it down with Poncha da Madeira (a very tasty alcoholic drink made with passion fruit or tangerine, aguardente, lime juice, and ice!)
It is very unfair to resume Portugal to just these 7 items because it has much more to see. We can’t leave unmentioned the Minho Region, Serra da Estrela, Aveiro, Coimbra, Nazaré, and all the central coast, Costa Vicentina, Serra da Arrábida, etc! Even after this, there would still be many things left out! Make sure you try all the local delicacies (you can find anything from fish and seafood to the most tender meats and sweet desserts), enjoy their wines (Portugal produces wine from coast to coast/north to south) and if you’re a beer lover there’s an increasing craft beer movement in the country! Whatever you do, wherever you go, this will be for sure an one of a kind experience. “Bem-vindos a Portugal” (Welcome to Portugal)!
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