Portugal holiday info and destination guide
Portugal is situated in south-western Europe, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and sharing the Iberian peninsula with Spain to the north and east. The Azores and Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean are also a part of Portugal. The climate is Mediterranean and it is one of the warmest European countries. In mainland Portugal, yearly temperature averages are about 15°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south.
Portugal has lately seen a an increase in popularity as a tourist destination and also a significant increase in prosperity.
Portugal has everything to offer the visitor, a rich, unique culture, lively cities and beautiful countryside with outstanding landscape diversity. It is possible to travel from green mountains in the North, covered with vines and all varieties of trees to rocky mountains, with spectacular slopes and falls in the Central Portugal, to a near-desert landscape in the Alentejo region and finally to the glamorous beach holidays destination of the Algarve – and all this in a single day. For those who like to combine their holiday with leisure and sport, Portugal is a golfing haven with an excellent golfing infrastructure. Fourteen of Portugal’s golf courses are rated in the top 100 best in Europe.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, its contemporary culture is alive and thriving, making it one of the most ‘happening’ places in Europe today.
Stretching along the northern bank of the river Tejo and perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is a city that uses water as a defining element where as the land rises away from the water, steep streets and stairways form the old tangled neighbourhoods or give way to squares and green parks. It is an enchanting city with its white bleached limestone buildings, intimate alleyways and an easy going charm mixed with a nostalgia reflected in the traditional music of the fado performed in cafes and small night clubs in the old quarter of the city, the Alfama district.
Still bearing signs of a long ago Moorish presence in the city, the buildings are very close to each other with irregular streets, winding alleys and the azulejo-covered crumbling walls of ancient buildings. It is a great place in which to wander around.
For people watching the Rossio, the main square in Lisbon, and the equivalent of London’s Trafalgar Square is the meeting place for locals and a great way to experience the lively city life of Lisbon.
Other ‘must-sees’ in any visit to Lisbon are the Belem Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries and the Cristo Rei, which is similar to the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro, standing over 100 meters tall on the opposite bank of the Tejo from downtown Lisbon.
Further afield but within an easy day trip from Lisbon is Estoril. Here you will find a coastline with fabulous beaches interspersed with impressive cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. It used to be the playground of European royalty and this glamorous past is reflected in its many gardens, villas and palaces. Estoril is renowned nowadays for its fresh fish and seafood restaurants, the Estoril Spa, renowned for its regenerative therapies, the Casino Estoril, the largest in Europe, and its golf courses where it is considered one of the top destinations.
Porto is the second largest city, the capital of the historic region of northern Portugal. Porto is above all renowned for the production of port wine but it is also a busy industrial and commercial centre. It has a semi-Mediterranean climate, but it can be cooler than other cities with this climate because it is strongly affected by the Atlantic Ocean. The city is built along hills that overlook the Douro river estuary. It has a historical centre whose buildings are granite and monumental unlike other major Portuguese cities which tend towards the baroque. It has UNESCO World Heritage status.
Coimbra is a small university city full of interesting places. The medieval centre of Coimbra is wonderful for just wandering around in and getting lost there is a pleasure. It is unusual in still having a number of independent bookshops, boutiques, toy shops, galleries, antique shops, restaurants and interesting museums.
Evora is the largest city in the central Alentejo region. It has a magnificent cathedral and cloisters and its historic centre also has UNESCO World Heritage listing.
The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It has stunning coastlines, wonderful beaches and excellent golf courses. The water along its coastline tends to be warmer and calmer than the water along the west coast. In winter, it is a beautiful, peaceful corner of southern Europe with plenty of sun bleaching its white-washed towns with their Iberian and Moorish-influenced architecture.
Faro is the regional capital and main airport for the Algarve but it is popular destination in it’s own right. There is an impressive beach party and night life scene but many visitors might prefer to use Faro as a base to explore other more remote areas of the Algarve in the off-season.
Albufeira, once a small fishing village has now developed into being a very popular tourist area with lovely beaches, a very good climate, and many restaurants, bars and pubs. Algarve holiday homes and villas can be found near some of the most popular beaches and may offer access to some of the finest golf courses in the region. There is a diverse range of luxury holiday home lets and fabulous villas for rent in the Algarve to choose from.
Madeira is 310 miles from the African coast and 620 miles from the European continent. It is known worldwide as the island of eternal spring, or the Garden Island. It has a mild if rather wet climate throughout the year.
Funchal, the island’s capital is home to resorts, gorgeous panoramas and lots of local colour. ‘Must-sees’ with any visit to Madeira are the levadas, an impressive system of aqueducts started in the 15th century to bring water from the mountains to farmlands, Cabo Girão, one of the world’s highest ocean cliffs, the magnificent gardens of the Jardim do Monte Palace and the Jardim Orquídea orchid gardens, for which Madeira is justly renowned.
A holiday home or villa in Madeira would be the perfect base for a holiday on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
For info on accommodation in Portugal visit: Portugal Holiday Homes and Villas to let