While its cities all offer fabulous treasures and the chance to get stuck in to the local way of life, one of Portugal’s crowning gems is its natural landscape. If you don’t have the chance to do more than go for a quick walk in the stunning space outside the town walls, you’ll just have to come back as you’ll be missing out on the nature-filled holiday of a lifetime. National parks stretch from one end of the country to the other, packed with forests, beaches, wide open grasslands and more, ideal for family adventures, photography trips, hiking groups and other outdoor enthusiasts.
If you want to know who the Visigoths were, find out more about the life of the Moors or brush up on your knowledge of the Celts, then a holiday to Portugal is the ideal thing to do. All of these civilisations and more left their signature traces on the Iberian landscape. From UNESCO World Heritage sites like that of Belém Tower to out-of-the-way castles with their mysterious glamour, you’ll see hints of the Romans, the early Christians and more. And with a host of incredible monuments to bygone eras on your doorstep throughout the country, you’ll never be far from a fascinating historical discovery in this heritage-laden area.
No matter when you choose to visit, Portugal will be waiting with some kind of festival to fill your nights and days with colour and fun. Get those toes tapping and ready yourselves for a whirl of parties and revelries which will last all night long. Whether you want to twirl to the rhythm of a big event like Lisbon’s Festa de Santo António or enjoy a more local but equally high-energy affair in one of the smaller seaside towns, you’ll find that these age-old traditions are unmissable shows that everyone should get a taste of.
Food is at the centre of Portuguese culture, so if you’re invited to dinner in Portugal, you know you’ve made a good impression with the locals. Remember to pack your appetite when you go as the country is known for its wonderfully fresh cuisine and distinctly Mediterranean flavours. Visitors will be treated to feasts of deliciousness, including seafood suppers, smoked game, ever-flowing red wine and an endless supply of home-baked bread. But it isn’t only savoury dishes that you’ll be tempted by; the Portuguese are also famed for their perfect pastries, which will make the trip a decadent delight for all.
The ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ whether the ancient ones or the modern additions, can do little more than hold a candle to the fabulous array of treasures that make up the seven wonders of Portugal. With such a wealth of wonders at their disposal, the decision process for this category was long and difficult, with surveys, public votes and more to help determine the outcome. The end result were seven fantastic sites which were felt to show Portuguese’s most poignant cultural moments and which visitors simply have to see. Why not make a road trip of it and explore Portugal by searching for the seven wonders of Belem Tower, Pena Palace, Jerónimos Monastery, Alcobaça Monastery, Batalha Monastery, the Castle of Óbidos and the Castle of Guimarães.
Established in 1971, the National Park of Peneda-Gerês extends from Castro Laboreiro to Mourela, with every kind of stunning natural feature in between, including the mountain ranges of Peneda, Soajo, Amarela and Gerês. While one of Europe’s most scenic hikes is obviously first on the agenda here, visitors also have the opportunities to engage in activities such as meeting locals in the traditional villages within the park and sampling some of their cuisine. Or you could try animal spotting and see if you can catch a glimpse of the park’s secret inhabitants like wolf or the Golden Eagle.
A stretch of beach that epitomises the natural beauty of Portugal’s coastline, Praia da Falesia is a must on any serious itinerary of a Portugal holiday. And as the ultimate purpose of a holiday is relaxation, where better to do so than on these perfect sandy shores. The refreshingly gentle sea breeze keeps the warmth of the sun from becoming unbearable, while the sun itself provides plenty of tan-topping rays for you to lap up. Being the longest stretch of sand in Portugal, the area is ideal for a romantic sunset stroll. If walking doesn’t sound like part of your relaxation regime, Praia da Falesia is also not far from fabulous five star eateries so you can keep the good times rolling.
Even if your Portuguese break is only a quick weekend trip, you can’t leave without sampling the local delicacy; Pastéis de Nata. This tempting treat is a deceptively small tart made up of layers of puff pastry and generous lashings of spiced custard and will have you coming back for more in no time. It’s not just the dish itself which makes it the pride of the nation though, there are plenty of local legends around its top secret recipe that involve intrigue, stolen recipes and more. To sample the dessert in its best and most original form, visitors should check out the Lisbon bakery, Pastéis de Belém, where the original treat was made and which sells up to 50,000 of them a day. Local legends claim that the tart’s secret recipe was sold by a monk to a bakery in Lisbon, after the monasteries were closed by the state.
Get the best of both worlds by avoiding the rain, the crowds, the cold and the heavy heat during the Portuguese early autumn, between September to October. Alternatively, if you want to enjoy your holiday in the light of the summer sun, you should look to visit from the beginning of June to the end of August.
If you hold a British Citizen passport or an EU National passport, you don’t need a visa to enter Portugal and are visa exempt for 90 days. For the latest information on travel regulations, visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/portugal/entry-requirements.
In Portugal, the currency is the Euro (EUR).
The main language spoken in Portugal is Portuguese.