LUXURY TRAVEL TO PORTUGAL
Portugal was once hidden in the shadows of European tourist hot spots like Italy and France. But it's hidden no more with 23 million visitors in 2017, proving it's on its way to coming out of the shadows.
One of the unique things about Portugal is that it feels like several countries all wrapped up into one. You can take a car ride twenty minutes from your hotel and feel like you're in a different country.
If you're considering a trip to Portugal, you should familiarize yourself with the country beforehand. What is it that makes this country such a tourist hot spot? We're about to tell you.
Keep reading to find out why going to Portugal should be on your trip list this year!
1. Spend Time in Sintra
Located around 30 minutes away from Lisbon, Sintra is a Unesco World Heritage Site. This designation makes it a must-see for history buffs and those who want to take in the authentic culture of the country.
Found within the Sintra Mountain Range, this is one of the most beautiful things to see in Portugal. Not to mention, it has some of the continent's best castles. If you're an architecture aficionado, you need to add Sintra to your to-see list.
2. Visit the Castle of The Moors
If you are in Sintra, the Castle of The Moors is a must-see. The Moors built this medieval castle in the 8th and 9th centuries. The castle is nestled amongst lush forests, making it a great place for both history and nature lovers.
3. See Braga
Braga is a city near Porto and Amarante. It's home to some of the country's most brilliant architecture and impressive history.
Braga is the third-largest city in Portugal, though it doesn't have a big city vibe. It boasts a population of young and vibrant folks and is home to one of Portugal's most prominent universities.
4. Visit Bom Jesus de Monte
No visit to Braga would be complete with a stop at Bom Jesus do Monte. This Portuguese sanctuary is outside of Braga. Be sure to bring a bottle of water to help you climb up the 116-meter stairway.
The Bom Jesus de Monte its tucked away on a slope amidst a lush woodland. Aside from its grand stairwell, you'll find chapels, fountains, and intricately carved Bible scenes.
5. See Porto
You can't visit Portugal and not see the sights in one of its largest cities. Porto is in the Northern part of the country and has something for everyone.
This hilly city boasts Instagram-worthy architecture and is a foodie and winos dream destination. Fancy a bit of fresh seafood or a glass of port? Porto has it!
One of the great things about Porto is that it's a very affordable place to visit. Food is inexpensive, and you won't have to break the bank on a hotel.
6. Take in the Ribeira District
Be sure to visit the Ribeira District, the old quarter of Porto. It's situated over the beautiful River Douro and is the place to go for thriving nightlife.
If you don't want to party until the sun comes up, you can visit the Cais da Ribeira. Here you'll find countless places to stop to eat, drink, or enjoy the beautiful nearby monuments.
The River Duoro is best taken in by boat. If you want to see all the Ribeira District has to offer, try booking a boat tour. If you wish to embark on a relaxing sail or charter a private yacht, there are options for you.
7. Explore the Azores
Though it will take a little more time (and a fair bit of money), a visit to the Azores is more than worth it. It's most time-efficient to get there via a 2.5-hour flight from Lisbon.
Once you arrive, you'll find a mid-Atlantic volcanic archipelago. The Azores is one of the continent's most dramatic sets of islands. Full of stunning trails, unbelievable scenery, and lush landscapes, you won't regret your visit.
We recommend taking a few days to give yourself enough time to see what these islands have to offer. You can spend a whole day hiking in one area.
8. Hike Salto do Prego
Salto do Prego is one of our favorite must-hike trails in the Azores. This would be a challenging hike for beginners, but it's not unreasonable. Give yourself a few extra hours if you've not done a lot of hiking recently.
There's a lot of inclines, and rocky terrain on the Salto do Prego hike, but it's worth it in the end. You'll come across one of the most beautiful waterfalls Portugal near the end. Take some time to swim in the waterfall pool and reward yourself for a job well done.
9. Visit Oceanario de Lisboa
The Oceanario de Lisboa is an oceanarium located in Lisbon. It's the biggest aquarium in Europe, so it's a must-see for anyone who loves marine life.
There are 450 species and over 16,000 individual marine animals found here. Look for sharks, penguins, sharks, jellyfish, and sea otters on your visit.
The Oceanario de Lisboa is one of the only places in the world to house a sunfish. These bony fishes have unique needs that most aquariums are not set up to meet. Be sure to spot out the sunfish on your visit!
10. Explore Benagil
If you find yourself in the Algarve region of Portugal, you need to visit Benagil.
Benagil is a small fishing village near the southern coast of the central Algarve. It is a trendy tourist destination, so there are plenty of things to do to make a full day of it.
Rent a kayak with a friend and explore the Algarve coastline. Have lunch in a restaurant off the beach. Visit shops and buy handmade goods from the locals.
11. See the Benagil Caves
No visit to Benagil is complete without a stop at the caves.
These sea caves, located around the corner from the main beach, are very easy to access. You can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards to make your way to the caves alone. Once inside the large cavern, you can park your board or kayak and relax on the beach inside.
If you prefer to see the cave by boat, there are plenty of options for you to do so. Boat companies operate from the main beach, making it simple for tourists to book when they arrive. The benefit of visiting the cave via boat is that you can go further and see more caves than you would be able to via kayak or paddleboard.
12. Surf on Matosinhos Beach
Matosinhos Beach is Porto's main most famous beach. Though it might not have the cleanest waters in Portugal, it's still worth a visit.
If you're a surfer or love to watch surfers, Matosinhos Beach should be on your to-visit list. It's famous for surfing because there aren't any dangerous sharp rocks along the beach.
13. Eat Your Way Through Matosinhos Beach
Not into surfing or tanning? How about food? The area along the beach is well-known for its incredible restaurants and cafes.
If you like to indulge in a good coffee while traveling, Matosinhos Beach is the place to do it in Portugal.
14. Take in the Weather
Lisbon is Europe's sunniest capital, averaging nearly 2800 hours of sunlight per year. Perhaps this is why Portugal is one of the most popular expat destinations.
The coldest month of the year is January, with an average temperature of 52°F. The summer months are much warmer, with averages around 75°F. It gets wet in November, but the temperatures are so mild they make up a little rain.
15. Drink the Wine
What visit to Portugal would be complete without drinking the national drink of port on your travels? The country is home to grape varieties that don't grow anywhere else in the world. With over 250 indigenous grape types, Portugal's wines are unlike any in the world.
16. Visit Douro Valley
Perhaps the most well-known wine region in the country is in the Douro Valley outside of Porto. Try the port to get an authentic taste of the area.
Visits during autumn can include participating in the farm works. You can assist cutting grapes from the vines and treading the grapes in a wine press. The Douro Valley is one of the only places left that still squash grapes by foot, though you won't be expected to partake.
17. Try the National Dessert
Pastéis de Nata is the national dessert of Portugal, and it's an absolute must-try. Try it with an afternoon coffee by the beach or as an after-dinner dessert.
18. Visit Madeira
Madeira is an autonomous island of Portugal known for its namesake wine. During your visit, you'll take in the regions lush forests, mountains, and botanical gardens.
Rent a car for a day and see all that the island has to offer.
19. Save Your Money
Portugal is one of the most affordable places to visit in Europe. It was named the third-best vacation destination for those on a budget.
20. Celebrate Accessibility
Portugal was recently given the Accessible Tourism award from the World Tourism Organization. People with disabilities can visit the country with fewer barriers than other countries around the world.
21. Festa de São João do Porto
The Festa de São João do Porto (or St John’s Day) is widely celebrated throughout Portugal in June of every year.
Thousands of people gather in Porto on this day to celebrate Saint John the Baptist. If fireworks, raves, national dress, and bonfires tickle your fancy, plan to be in Porto on June 23.
22. Capela dos Ossos
If you'd like your vacation to be more on the morbid side, you need to visit Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones). This chapel in Évora features an interior wall made of skulls and bones from 5000 corpses.
Going to Portugal is For Everyone
Though we only listed our top 22 reasons for going to Portugal, the possibilities there are quite endless. Whether you're traveling alone, with friends or with your young family, there are activities you can all enjoy.
Contact us if you need help planning your next getaway. Our friendly team made of world travelers are here to help you get the most out of your vacation.