Portugal offers visitors a rich, unique culture, lively cities, amazing beaches and beautiful countryside. The long country stretching across Spain’s western boarder boasts outstanding landscape diversity. In a single day visitors can travel from lush, green mountains in the North to rocky mountains, with spectacular slopes and falls in the center, to a near-desert landscape in the Alentejo region and then to the glamorous beach destination Algarve. . Active travelers may opt to cycle through the mountainous terrain of Geres or go white-water rafting in the Douro. Portugal has also developed into a golfing haven due to its amazing terrain and climate. Honeymoon couples looking for a taste of culture, long beaches and a bit of adventure will enjoy what Portugal has to offer.
When To Go: Portugal at its best
Best weather: Portugal is relatively warm year-round. The weather is dry and hot in the summers and warm and sunny in the autumn. Go between July and September when the weather is usually in the 70s and the climate remains fairly dry.
What To Do:
Drink Port: Like sherry from Spain, the world and especially the British, have grown very fond of port. Made in the Portuguese city of Porto the rich dessert wine must traditionally travel across the harbour in order to be officially recognised as port. For this reason, many of the cellars where the drink is matured are on the opposite banks of the Douro. Available in dry, off-dry and white varieties it is Portugal’s biggest export.
Visit the shrine at Fatima: On the feast days of May and October 13, over a million pilgrims crowd the roads around the village of Fatima, visiting the shrine where in 1917 three children reputedly saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary who spoke to them saying that the was ‘Our Lady of the Rosary’. Since that day, millions of Catholic pilgrims have visited the shrine and the village’s economy has evolved in supplying their needs.
Lay on an Algarve beach: The Algarve is the main tourist area of Portugal with over 7 million visitors each year. It extends over an area of nearly five and a half thousand square kilometres and is particularly stunning in the unique coastal scenery near Lagos. Whilst lazing on the beach is a wonderful way to enjoy the coastal scenery, those more intrepid tourists can visit the huge Ria Formosa Lagoon nature reserve, the temporary home each year of hundreds of water birds. Still, if that’s too much like hard work, give in, lay back and enjoy the view.
Walk the Douro Valley: The Douro Valley is beautiful at all times of year but it really comes into its own on two occasions, the fist when the vines have come into full leaf and the sides of the valley are a sea of lime green. The second, and my favourite time of year, is in late September/early October when the grapes are being harvested and the air is full of the pungent aroma of grapes, warmed by the sun. Soon, the leaves will be turning the shades of autumn and the valley will blaze with colour again before the nakedness of winter hits.
Get religious in Braga: Braga is one of the oldest Christian cities in the world and is the seat of the Primate of Portugal. It developed from a tribal village to become capital of the Roman region of Gallaecia and maintained its importance during the dark ages and subsequent conquest by the Moors. Toady it still retains its religious importance and is the subject of many religious tours to Portugal. Braga cathedral is acknowledged to be one of the most important buildings in the whole of the country with its architectural and religious attributes.
Play golf: Whilst on the Iberian peninsula, Spain lays claim to great golf courses, Portugal has many that rival or exceed them and often for lower fees. The proximity of Portugal to the moist air of the Atlantic means that its courses are often more natural than those of Spain even if a little more susceptible to the weather. So if you had thought of taking off to Spain for a round, think again and try Portugal.
Drive Through Peneda-Geres: Portugal’s only National Park, the Peneda-Geres tries to balance the need to protect nature with the wishes of the public to enjoy it. The park is traversed by mountain ridges, separating the coastal plains from the inland area of the park and has many rivers, streams, waterfalls and lakes adding to its attractiveness. It can be enjoyed by driving along the good roads that traverse it or by stopping and following the many hiking trails marked in the park
Climb the Torre de Belem: Belem is a beautiful town full of history and historic buildings. It has held many memories for Portuguese travellers of old who often set out from here. The last sight of their homeland as they drifted off towards the horizon would have been the Torre de Belem from where Vasco da Gama’s family and friends watched him set sail. Climb the tower yourself and reflect wistfully on those who left this shore, never to return.
Listen to Fado: If you’re prone to depression, this is probably not for you! Fado is a musical form, unique to Portugal which has mournful tunes and lyrics. Traditionally about loss, the lives of the poor or seafaring it follows a particular structure. Fado clubs are to be found all over Portugal and if you can stand the utter despair, the best exponents perform it beautifully.
Eat sardines on the beach washed down with beer: Portugal is famed for its fish and there’s none better than freshly caught sardines. I went to a beach at Albufeira last summer and whilst soaking up the atmosphere and sun, a small fishing boat pitched up. A variety of people, locals, fish merchants and a very enterprising young man turned up. Whilst the others haggled over the price for the catch, he set up a barbecue, opened a sack of bread, a cool box of salad and another of beer and for five euros a head a delicious meal of grilled sardines, local bread and salad was supplied, washed down with ice cold beer.