Top 10 Things to See and Do
1. Both naturally stunning and culturally fascinating, the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela is Portugal’s largest protected area and was one of its first designated parks. Encompassing boulder-strewn meadows, glassy lakes, gushing rivers and soaring mountains, it is a favourite with hikers and climbers, as well as a beautifully scenic place to visit at any time of year.
2. Abundant in sprawling vineyards and rustic wineries, a wine tour is an absolute must iwhen visiting the Portuguese countryside. Call ahead to arrange visits and tastings, and enjoy a number of native breeds with rich, distinctive flavours.
3. Algarve is home to what one of Europe’s most beautiful and diverse coastlines, counting several blue-flag beaches among its clutch of stunning sandy stretches. Whether you’re searching for a premier surfing spot, a family-friendly beach with calm waters or simply a sun-drenched stretch of sand to work on your tan, Algarve provides them all.
4. The majestic fort of the charming town of Castelo de Vide is well worth a visit. The remains of a small inner village and a church can still be viewed within its walls; climb to the top of the brick tower (thought to be the oldest part) to enjoy gorgeous views across the towns red roofs and olive hills.
5. Water sports enthusiasts will find plenty to do along Portugal’s coast, where perfect wind conditions and waves make it something of a have for surfers and windsurfers. A whole host of other water-based activities can also be enjoyed, including kayaking, sailing, jet-skiing and even dolphin watching!
6. A trip to Cape St Vincent (Cabo St Vincent), Europe’s southwesternmost point, is an excursion that is sure to be well worth your time. Visit the excellent Museu dos Farois and the lighthouse at the end of the cape, and stay until sunset to experience the cape at its most atmospheric.
7. Take a meandering trip across the country to explore Portugal’s charming, historic towns, cultural treasures as yet virtually untouched by the spread of mass tourism. From imposing hilltop fortresses and medieval cathedrals to small, rustic markets and winding cobbled lanes, these peaceful settings dotted throughout the country are alive with history and tradition.
8. With over a thousand kilometres of mainland coast, eight marine parks and an abundance of colourful marine life, Portugal is one of the best diving destinations in Europe. All dive sites are located in the Atlantic Ocean, the least polluted on the planet; visibility is excellent, and you will have the chance to come face to face with schools of colourful fish, manta rays and even dolphins!
9. The sprawling Roman ruins at Cominbriga bring history to life with vivid candour through their intricate mosaics, fountains and heated baths that belie a sophisticated underground heating system. Particularly fascinating features include the remnants of an aqueduct stretching to three kilometres long, which led up to a hilltop bathing complex.
10. Set aside at least a day or two to discover the beauty and intrigue of Portugal’s charismatic capital of Lisbon. Sprawling across steep hillsides overlooking the Rio Tejo, the city offers the rich history and charm of the old quarters and UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, the European cosmopolitanism of the many outdoor café terraces and the infectious revelry of the lively nightlife.
Culture in Portugal
Having been inhabited for thousands of years, Portugal boasts a rich culture that dates back to prehistoric times, and the Portuguese have a great appreciation for art, music, theatre and dance. The family is at the centre of Portuguese life, and the Catholic Church also still has a distinct influence, with churches prevalent in every city and town. Portuguese people are generally reserved but very welcoming and tolerant.