I don’t doubt that you’ve seen tones of blogs about why you should visit this or that country. This one is one of those posts. I’m also sure everyone has quite different motivations for travelling to a destination but, being a bit self-assured in my ability to persuade, I’m even more certain that you’ll find some good arguments here to go to Portugal. Let’s see if I can win you over.
I spent about a week in Portugal this summer, stayed in buzzing Lisbon and drove down to gorgeous Algarve, the most southern region of the country. Having had the pleasure to explore both urban and coastal-rural Portugal, I guess I might be able to give you some good insights into both. Hope I got you curious.
#1 Beaches and coastal scenery
I’m afraid I was too self-assured about persuading you. Sorry to disappoint you right away. I’m afraid you don’t want to visit for the beaches. Just forget it. Beaches in Portugal? Seriously. Not even worth to consider. I mean dreadful, right? Just look at these photos! Nothing to see at all.
You do agree that these beaches are just awful, right? Joke aside, I’ve seen quite a few beaches, including some in Hawaii and the Bahamas, but Portugal stunned me with its dramatic coasts, diverse coastal landscapes and it’s roaring waves. Which brings to my next point.
#2 Sun and wind
The weather is exquisite the whole year round – for my taste that is. It does get somewhat hot in the summer; between June and August temperatures are between 25-30°C (round 75-85°F) and, depending where you are, the ocean is refreshingly cool or delightfully warm. You can visit Portugal at any time of the year, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how nice the weather is. There’s an endless amount of sunshine over the country, with little to practically no rain in the summer months. And here comes the best part. The wind. Even if temperatures are reaching the upper mark, as they did in July this year, there is always a refreshing breeze coming from the ocean. Whether you are a city-stroller or a beach-goer, you’ll appreciate it for sure. If you’re a passionate surfer, you’ll be loving it.
The entire west coast of Portugal is a surfers paradise, with constant winds and all the wave types you can imagine. Although there are surely hot-spots for professionals, you’ll find suitable stretches for all levels pretty much anywhere along the seaside. There are golden spots not far away from Lisbon and practically everywhere in Algarve. The bottom line is, if you’re planning a road trip in Portugal, drive along the coast and don’t leave out visiting one of the surfers’ hotspots to get that genuine Portuguese beach-vibe. For a good comparison of the top locations (including levels of difficulty and wave types), check this brilliant post on Momondo.
For a combined beach-and-surf trip my top-tip would be Praia da Amoreira with its stunning scenery and far from crowded shore. There are several parking lots for a camper for a longer stay, but it’s also a perfect location for day trip. Make sure you arrive early in the morning and you’ll have the whole beach to yourself.
#3 Cities and towns
Apart from its remarkably beautiful landscapes, Portugal has some buzzing city life to offer. Lisbon is, of course, top of the list. The Portuguese capital is not only the biggest city in the country, but also the one with most choices in activities, including night life and gorgeous museums. Although it doesn’t quite have it’s own beach, there are several nice locations near by you can visit either by car or by public transportation. Given Lisbon’s rather central position along the coast, most other destinations are easily reachable from here. It’s restaurants and bars are exquisite, the night life vibrant. If you’re a city-stroller, whatever you are looking for, you’ll find it in Lisbon. It’s also an excellent weekend destination.
#4 The people
Whether you are enjoying a city trip, sun worshipping at one of the remarkable beaches, surfing wild waves, or emerging into nature, you’ll be stunned by the friendliness and hospitality of the locals. Even thought the Portuguese might often not able to respond to your questions in English, they will always be extremely polite and help you to the best of their knowledge. Of course, there is the odd case, but that is clearly a rare exception. I can’t tell you how wonderful my Portuguese hosts were offering me essentials, fresh beach towels, and even clothes amid a lost-luggage-drama.
The genuine warmth of the locals will make your holidays more pleasant than you’ve ever could imagine.
#5 Laid-back atmosphere
Unlike Spain or Italy, Portugal has a much more relaxed atmosphere. For one, the Portuguese seem to have a somewhat different pace and an air of calm about them. Another reason for this might be that it’s one of Europe’s least densely populated countries – meaning no masses. Apart from this, it’s not yet such a frequented destination as it’s more commonly visited neighbour. So, if you’re looking for a quiet getaway, book a trip somewhere outside Lisbon and you’ll be able to unwind without the noise of the crowds. Mind you, although the capital is full of hustle and bustle, you’ll still be able to enjoy strolling in downtown without being crushed by the throng of tourists even in the summer months. Portugal equals serious chill.
#6 Paradise for foodies
All the food, all the wine. Deliciously fresh sea food, rich pasta, juicy steaks. Loads of garlic. Don’t forget a clove or two. Or three. In one bowl of pasta. I suppose the Portuguese do love garlic. Upon asking for some oil to make dinner on one of my first nights, my darling host added a handful of garlic cloves and said this is good for anything I want to cook. And when eating out later that week, I repeatedly realised garlic was there in most of the dishes I’ve ordered, whether it was pasta, soup, or meat. But I tell you, the meals were a hearty portion and tasty.
I don’t quite drink, so I can’t give you a firs-hand review on this, but I happen to know that Portugal is famous for its luscious wines. Porto wine that is. But, lucky me, the Portuguese are also stars in making great coffee, so I could indulge in fantastic lattes instead. Whichever is your thing, you won’t be disappointed.
If you have a sweet tooth, beware of the Portuguese pastry. Especially those luscious custard tarts. You. Just. Can’t. Get. Enough. Of them. For the week I’ve spent in the country, I couldn’t stop stuffing my face with those silky smooth custard pies surrounded with a crunchy crust. Delicious. You’ll be able to get them in any local shop or patisserie.
Even though I’m not much of a foodie, I loved the Portuguese cuisine. If you travel to please your gums, I say head towards Portugal!
History. History everywhere. Portugal has many stories to tell. Stories of Celtic migrations, the Romans, emperors, explorations, great discoveries, Nobel prize winners, saints, footballers, you name it.
Most of you will know about Portugal’s glorious colonial history, frequently referred to as the golden age of discovery. For us Europeans of course. The natives of South America, Asia and Africa were well aware that they existed, perhaps not much of a lucky discovery for them I guess. But, one thing is for sure, the world would be a different place without the geographical pioneering of the Portuguese. Names you’ll probably associate with the era are great explorers such as Vasco da Gama or Ferdinand Magellan.
Other famous Portuguese that come to mind are a footballer and a saint – two distinct individuals, of course. The saint is St. Anthony of Padua, who’s more often than not mistaken for being Italian, but apparently he must have been one of Portugal’s first celebrities, well before and probably for a better reason than Christiano Rolando.
Little do know that the beloved English tea was actually made popular on the British Isles by Portuguese Princess Catarina de Bragança. Well before the English developed their unstoppable love for tea, the Portuguese aristocracy has long been sipping this expensive refreshment. Legend has it (and the NatGeo guide, too) that when Princess Catarina arrived to England in 1662 to marry King Charles II, she was served ale. Apparently, she was so disgusted that she started importing tea. And that’s where it all started.
You must agree, Portugal is the hotspot for history lovers and all of those who wish to experience traces of the long-ago. Those who rather love the modern, don’t you worry. Portugal has it all.
#8 Tradition meets modern
The juxtaposition of traditional and modern are most visible in urban locations where the modernity of the city meets the traditional ways of the local population. Imagine walking down a lane in Lisbon, where stylish shops are neatly attached, side by side, offering the latest fashion. Cars and mopeds drive by. You turn your gaze up and suddenly notice a different place. On top of the modern stores you’ll see rustic buildings with brilliant red geraniums leaning out of their windows. As you wander around, bright coloured flamboyant Portuguese tiles attract your attention on every corner. You see automatic rickshaws scoot by. You visit Belém, one of Lisbon’s historic neighbourhoods dotted with monuments and brilliant historic building, including the Mosterio dos Jerónimos and the iconic Torre de Belém erected in the Age of Discovery to protect the city’s harbour.
Then you take the yellow tram. The golden coach is possibly the most recognised symbol of Lisbon. You scoot down the cobbled streets to get to a residential are where shopkeepers would sit in front of their stores watching people bass by, where locals meet and chat on the streets or in front of the grocers, where you continuously bump into fresh laundry hanging above and in front of you (mind you, no fuss about underwear at all). All this reminds you of traditional community life between the walls of a modern capital.
Absolute bliss and what a great opportunity for some great captures.
All I can say, that Portugal is worth every penny (more precisely cent, Portugal uses the Euro). The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a great holiday there.
Accommodation prices are moderate, even if not booked in advance. AirBnB rooms are available from about €30, BnBs from €50. We stayed in the most amazing AirBnB apartment in Lisbon with a pair of super-hosts and paid approximately €380 for the week in main season. If you’re booking a place with somebody, that’s less than €200. Pretty good price I’d say.
Food prices are also reasonable. If you’re travelling on a budget, you can buy all the essential at pretty much any super market or 24h corner shop. I don’t eat out much, but when I do, I’m one of those people who tends to look at the menu first. The few times I had a lunch or coffee in downtown I was satisfied both with quality and pricing. A toast-and-coffee breakfast is round €5, a pasta between €6-8, soft drinks and beer round €2.5-4.
If you’re still not persuaded, then have a glance at my last point.
#10 Portugal won the 2016 UEFA European Championship
I’m not much of a soccer fan, and especially not a fan of Christiano Ronaldo (for whatever inexplicable reason), but I know you might be one of those enthusiasts. So, just imagine. Travelling around in a country of football victory. Amazing.
Fascinating landscapes, beautiful beaches, colourful and vivacious cities, interesting history, delightful cuisine, luscious wines, great coffee, loads of possibilities for entertaining activities or an active holiday. What else can you crave for? Book a ticket to Portugal.
If you liked this post keep tuned in for my upcoming posts ^^