Golden beaches and emerald valleys, majestic medieval fortresses and cozy fishing villages, Gothic monasteries and ancient forests — Portugal definitely has everything to enchant even an experienced traveler. Stretching along the Atlantic coast, the country, unlike neighboring Spain, has not been invaded by huge tourist crowds, but yet boasts lots of gems to explore. Now let us find out what places are worth being included in your trip to Portugal and why.
Portugal hides an impressive number of appetizing locations you would not want to miss. For your convenience, we decided to structure our overview, starting from the north and moving to the south of charming Portugal:
Getting Around The Northern Destinations
Touring the north of Portugal, you simply cannot overlook beautiful Porto. Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe as well as the former capital of the country and the present capital of port wine. The historical part of Porto was included in UNESCO World Heritage list so if the city is on your agenda, do not miss the chance to go up to the observation deck of the Baroque Clerigos church tower, admire the beauty of the Church of Saint Francis, and get inspired by the bizarre tiled side facade of the Carmelite Church.
However, “the northern capital” of Porto is interesting not only for its lovely narrow streets and unique sights. Wine lovers will be pleased by the unique opportunity to try authentic port wine, as well as to visit local wineries and even take part in the process of wine producing, such as pressing the grapes with your own feet if you would like!
For surreal natural landscapes, set off on a trip around one of the most outstanding regions in Europe and the world, the Archbishop’s Palace and medieval Braga Cathedral. You can also spend a nice day in the city of Guimaraes, possessing some fine examples of medieval architecture as well.
The Heart And The Soul Of Portugal
The westernmost European capital and the heart of Portugal, Lisbon, is the city with some special charms that are impossible to resist. You can easily reach the city, taking a train from Porto to Lisbon that will get you from the north to the central part of the country in 2.5 hours. Conserving a unique spirit, Lisbon is full of pleasant surprises waiting for tourists at every corner. It is the place where luxury shopping areas are adjacent to cozy streets, where majestic temples stand along with tiny houses decorated with multicolored tiles. Why not even go on a Lisbon food tour? Foodies have raved about the cuisine from Lisbon for years!
One of the best ways to explore the historic center of Lisbon is to have a ride on the famous yellow tram. The tram is the true symbol of the Portuguese capital, similar to the red telephone booths on the streets of London. The most interesting route is #28 that passes the most interesting sights of the city like the Lisbon Cathedral, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, and Sao Jorge Castle. Sometimes the tram makes its way along such narrow streets that, sticking your hand out of the window, you can touch the walls of the passing houses (but safety first, so do not get carried away).
Only a half an hour drive from Lisbon, there is a lovely town of Sintra, the pride of Portugal protected by the UNESCO. The main hallmark of the city is the colorful castle of Pena, the summer residence of Portuguese kings. Exploring the royal chambers of the castle, walking around the picturesque garden, seeing swans swimming in the lake will definitely add to your experience. Moreover, Sintra is located only about 20 km from the picturesque Cabo de Roca, the westernmost point of Europe, where you’ll be able to adore breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean from “the edge of the world”.
Sun-kissed Coasts Of The South
And of course, you will not feel the taste of Portugal completely without getting to the southern regions. Albufeira stands among the most popular places for spending an amazing beach holiday. Having been a fishing village in the past, contemporary Albufeira has transformed into an elite modern resort town with posh hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs. Fortunately, this modernity left ancient white-stone Moorish houses and fruit groves untouched so you will run into some traces of the past here and there as well.
In any case, the main attraction of Albufeira are the beaches: from wide golden-sand dunes to tiny picturesque bays, surrounded by rugged rocks. Some of them are not so easy to get to, for example, the path to the Peneco Beach lies through a rock tunnel. Plus the legendary sea caves of Marinha Beach with remarkable rock formations are an absolute must-visit in the Algarve region. So, bottom line, the coasts of Albufeira should be on your bucket list.
One more brilliant spot for a memorable Portugal vacation is Lagos. Set on the banks of the Bensafrim River, ancient Lagos is a beautiful city with cobbled streets and narrow courtyards, still surrounded by fortress walls. Everyone will find something to their taste there: rich history, wonderful nature, amazing tourist infrastructure, and popular resorts. Lagos combines everything you need for a relaxing “turn-your-head-off” holiday.
To sum up, despite the fact that Portugal is a comparatively small country, it will not be enough to come here only once. And it is not only because of the huge number of great attractions and UNESCO monuments which make Portugal so special, it is the special vibe, that, felt once, will allure you to come back again and again!