Europe is a continent blessed with absolutely incredible countries to explore. Of course there are the best known names such as Italy, Spain, France and the UK which are absolutely worth visiting, but there are other countries equally as fascinating and beautiful that you may have missed out on. One of these, Portugal, is a destination you definitely need to discover now.
Portugal is a place that really does have something for everyone with a perfect combination of fascinating culture and history, breathtaking natural beauty and stunning diverse landscapes, an excellent year-round climate with plenty of sun, delicious authentic food and drink with plenty of culinary delights, friendly, hospitable locals, and a myriad of things to see and do.
A trip to Portugal is ideal for families, groups of friends, couples or solo travellers looking to explore somewhere new. Even if you have visited Portugal before, there is almost certainly plenty more for you to discover as this is such a diverse destination. What’s more there is also the stunning Portuguese island of Madeira off the coast in the Atlantic, if you are looking for a relaxing island break.
An Excellent Year Round Climate
Portugal boasts an excellent climate with an average of 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, making it perfect for outdoor adventures. While there is certainly beauty in Northern European countries such as the UK, there is definitely something to be said about Portugal with its South-West location, as it is blessed with many more blue sky days and generally warmer conditions, even in the winter.
This isn’t to say that the climate of Portugal is completely uniform, as it can vary considerably from one region to the next, being influenced by geographical features such as latitude, relief and proximity to the ocean, that provides mild winters along the coast, especially in the Algarve, the southernmost region of the country.
While some areas of Portugal can get cold enough for snow fall and even skiing conditions in the winter; mostly in the Serra da Estrela mountains, where you will find the highest point in the mainland (1,991 m), generally, due to its latitudinal position in the south of Europe, temperatures are still mild in the winter compared to the rest of the continent. Inland, during the summer temperatures can soar, but towards the coast they remain slightly lower due to the sea’s influence, perfect for keeping cooler in the summer months.
Overall the country boasts one of the best climates in Europe, making this a major draw if you are looking for sunny conditions throughout the year. The Algarve region, is especially popular for European sun-seekers and as a winter sun destination for those looking to escape gloomy Northern Europe. With one of the most stable climates in the world and 3,300 hours of sunshine per year, this particular region of Portugal has more sunny days than almost any other part of Europe.
If you decide to head to Lisbon, which is highly recommended, then you will also more than likely be treated to glorious sunshine, as this is Europe’s sunniest capital city, with 2,799 hours of sunshine per year. Just don’t forget to pack your sunglasses!
Again, while maybe not as globally well-renowned as destinations such as Italy, Spain or France for its food and drink, Portuguese cuisine is certainly something you are going to love when you visit there, as it is as rich and varied as its landscape.
Owing to its long coastline stretching down the whole of the West and South of the country, it stands to reason that one of the defining characteristics and most distinctive features of Portuguese cuisine is its seafood. As you tuck into any number of fresh seafood choices from the menu, such as simple but delicious grilled fish dishes, you will appreciate the quality of this area of Portuguese gastronomy.
In fact the quality of Portuguese food and drink abounds in all areas of the cuisine, whether that is the seafood, meats or vegetables, with the locals being very much focused on fresh, delicious flavours in a similar way to Mediterranean countries like Spain and Italy. Food is very often organic and cooked in the traditional ways, with high quality Portuguese olive oil being part of virtually every dish.
Again just like other Southern European nations, wine is also a big part of dining in Portugal, with the right dish matched to the right wine. While Port wine is the most famous variety, there are many other types that are equally as excellent.
Portugal also has many delicious delicacies for those with a sweet tooth with roots back to the convents where they were originally prepared. While visiting, it is almost a must to try the famous and absolutely delicious pastel de nata (custard tart) which is a perfect accompaniment to a coffee. We must warn you though, one will probably not be enough!
Beautiful Nature and Landscapes
Despite its relatively small smize, you will discover a country rich in beautiful natural landscapes and a variety of different species. There are vast plains to towering mountain ranges, and a stunning jagged coastline with wide sandy beaches and waves from the beautiful Atlantic ocean rolling in. The mainland of Portugal seemingly does have something of every different type of natural landscape.
There is also the island of Madeira which feels like a tranquil oasis in the middle of the Atlantic. This too has incredible natural beauty including extinct volcanoes, lush vegetation, caves and waterfalls.
Much of the natural environment of Portugal offers places that have been preserved seemingly since the beginning of time, creating perfect sanctuaries that are the habitat for rare species of animal and plant life. These enjoy the ideal conditions to survive and flourish, in the perfect climate of the mainland and Madeira.
A Host of Outdoor Activities to Enjoy
Whether you are on the mainland of Portugal or the islands you will almost certainly be bathed in sunlight and enjoying the warm climate that is perfect for appreciating the outdoors and nature. You can enjoy the beautiful nature and landscapes in Portugal either with a relaxed stroll and quiet contemplation, or by doing one of the many different adrenaline filled activities that are on offer.
Owing to the fantastic year round climate you can enjoy the great outdoors in Portugal at almost any time of the year, and take part in a variety of activities. You will notice that the Portuguese on the whole love to be outdoors with friends and family, taking part in various activities. When you visit the country, it is the perfect opportunity to disconnect from technology and be active again outside in nature.
There are different activities to suit almost every interest and ability from sedate bike rides and walks, to zip lining, rock climbing and abseiling if you’re feeling more adventurous. If fact the possibilities are almost endless.
With such a large coastline, there are plenty of ocean based activities such as surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing and sailing. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, why not try going paragliding soaring high up in the sky, or parasailing above the ocean waves.
Beautiful Beaches, Sun, Sand and Sea
As you will have already noticed, the beautiful beaches of Portugal are by no means all that the country has to offer, but that doesn’t discount from the fact that the gorgeous sun, sand and sea is one of its biggest draws. If you are looking for a perfect beach holiday in Europe, then Portugal should be one of the places that are top of your list.
Even in terms of beaches, there is an amazing array of variety on the mainland of Portugal with everything from immense stretches of sandy coastline as far as the eye can see, to hidden coves sheltered by rocks. Every beach is unique and has something different to offer. Some are popular with tourists and locals with plenty of entertainment, while others are completely deserted and perfect for disconnecting.
Whatever your mood, Portugal has a beach to suit. Perhaps you just want to stretch out on a secluded stretch of sand and relax with the sound of waves, or maybe you want to have different amenities close by such as activities and bars and restaurants. Although the beaches of Portugal are all distinct in their characteristics and appearance, they do almost all hold a certain similarity: their quality. The excellent condition of the beaches and amenities are shown by the high number of EU blue flags awarded throughout Portugal each year.
While Madeira should perhaps not be the top choice if you are looking for strictly beach holiday as most of the coastline is made of volcanic rocks or pebbles, but there are still beaches to enjoy there. These are either in the form of artificial beaches with sand imported from Morocco on the main island of Madeira or on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo you will find a sheltered gorgeous natural golden sandy beach. This is perfect for a either a day trip from Madeira.
As well as all of the natural beauty that Portugal is able to offer visitors, it can also fascinate you with its culture, tradition and history. In fact this is a country rich in heritage, where tradition and modernity blend together. The land that is now modern day Portugal has been inhabited for 1000s of years and for eight centuries it has had its borders.
You will find throughout the country that there is a unique blend of different cultures owning to the mixture of different peoples who have settled here over the centuries, plus also from the various peoples who the Portuguese came into contact with during their journeys of discovery.
This mixture can be seen in the various cities, towns and villages and the architecture, traditions and monuments which bring together a variety of different creative influences from around the world.
You may wish to explore Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal and one of the most attractive and iconic capital cities of Europe. It is perfect for those fascinated by history and tradition as this is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years. This is a city perfect to discover while on holiday as there is so much to see and experience, plus it is accessible and affordable, and not overly crowded, with about 1.9 million people living there (including its suburbs).
There are beautiful brightly coloured buildings,seven different hills with amazing views across the city, an old fashioned but well maintained tram system, plenty of excellent places to eat and drink including 5 Michelin starred restaurants and a wonderful contrast of modern and old architecture.
Close by to Lisbon there is the incredible Sintra, the aristocratic hilltop West of the city resplendent with wild woodlands, manicured floral gardens and incredible fairytale castles. It is well worth the 40 minute train trip from Lisbon for the memories and the envy inducing photos you’ll be able to take.
Throughout Portugal the other villages, towns and cities such as Porto, the second largest city, in the north of the country are brimming with culture, traditions and history just waiting to be discovered.
Our friend @mariandthecity says: First time exploring Porto and loving every single corner of this city. These classic blue and white mosaic tiles are found everywhere here on the exterior of churches, palaces and houses. Did you know that these two tones represent Portugal’s maritime history and refer to its role on the Age of Discoveries? #CantSkipPortugal #VisitPortugal #Porto
You can also find extensive history, tradition and culture of interest in Madeira too which has been under Portuguese control for many centuries.
Beautiful Places to Stay
As you can see, Portugal and Madeira are places that you should definitely aim to discover this year, as they have so much to offer whether you are with your family, friends, with your partner or on a solo trip.
What’s even better is that you will be able to find some incredible hotels and resorts across Portugal that are perfect to suit every taste and budget. To find out more about these head over to these different websites:
If you have any recommendations of places to visit or things to see in Portugal, let us know in the comments below. Enjoy your next trip to Portugal!