The Portuguese have always had a close affinity to the sea. It’s Mariners led the way in exploration of far flung lands. This relationship with the sea has changed somewhat but Portugal is still known as a coastal paradise, with fabulous beaches, a laid back lifestyle, stunning scenery, and wonderful people.
Most visitors will head for the Algarve, Portugal’s southern coastline, some for the golf, some for the nightlife, and many for a relaxed family beach holiday, but all visitors to The Algarve have one thing in common – they are seeking the sunshine, and this region certainly has plenty of it! Superb sandy beaches sheltered by golden cliffs with whitewashed traditional villages, olive groves, and pretty fishing harbours make this a beautiful region to visit. Then there is the nightlife of Albufeira which all adds up to a complete holiday destination.
Portugal’s Islands are fascinating too… The lone Island of Madeira with its dark volcanic cliffs is known as the ‘Floating Garden’ due to its amazing displays of flora and fauna, all flourishing under the warm sun. The Azores, a far flung outpost of Europe half-way to the Caribbean is a beautiful volcanic archipelago offering the visitor get away from it all holiday of peace and relaxation with craters, clear lakes, and sheer black cliffs plunging into the ocean. Both are less known for beaches but are perfect for exploration.
The cities of Lisbon and Porto are enticing, both set on rivers. Lisbon exudes a sense of Portugal’s colonial past with all the glamour of a cosmopolitan capital city. Porto, home of the famous fortified wine, is smaller but the setting on the Rio Douro is dramatic and unparalleled.
Our top things to do in Portugal & Madeira
- Ponte De Dom Luis I. Porto. A huge double deck bridge, spanning the Douro, with the top deck reserved for pedestrians and the tram. Impressive views await.
- Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima. An hour from Lisbon, here lies one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in the world attracting six million visitors each year.
- Elevador da Gloria, Lisbon. Climbing up from the Praca dos Restauradores up one of Lisbon’s seven hills, this tiny funicular rewards riders stunning views from the summit.
- Algarve Caves & Dolphin cruise. Take a cruise from Albufeira viewing dramatic cliffs and rock formations, into dramatic caves and grottos, stop for a swim, and see playful dolphins along the way.
- Madeira Guided Walk. Take a trip inland to see Madeira’s dramatic interior rising 6000ft out of the Atlantic. Walk along Levada das, and take in the stunning colour of the flora in Spring.
- Vinho do Porto tasting. Visit one of the many wineries around Porto and discover the delicate sweet varieties of this world-famous dessert wine.
- Navy Museum, Lisbon. Discover times gone-by when Portugal was the world’s maritime superpower. Exhibits date back to the 15th century.
- Elevador de Santa Justa. Lisbon. One of Lisbons many lifts, but the onbly remaining vertical one, linking the district of Baixa with the Carmo Square above.
- Sintra National Palace. A UNESCO World Heritage site in Sintra, this remains the best preserved Royal Palace in Portugal.
- Jeronimos Monastery. One of the most prominent examples of Late Gothic Manueline Style architecture. A true gem.
When to go?
This depends where you are in the country. In the North around Porto the seasons are more defined with hot summers and cool but often sunny winters and a pleasant Spring & Autumn. Lisbon is hote in summer and has milder winters being further south. The Algarve is a year-round destination where summer temperatures exceed 30c, and winter rarely dips below 20c. Madeira is best visited from May to October when the flowers are in season and there is plenty of warm sunshine.