Destination Guide: Portugal
Situated in Southern Europe, Portugal is a country that has it all: outstanding national parks in the north, stunning beaches in the south, an eclectic and buzzing capital, subtropical islands waiting to be explored, and a tantalising Mediterranean cuisine. With so much to see and do, it can be a mean feat knowing where to start. If you're planning a Portugese adventure, here is a list of our top places to visit.
Situated on the Tagus and built on seven hills, the vibrant and bustling capital city simply must be on your agenda. Be captivated by the winding side streets, beautiful plazas and rickety trams (be sure to take Tram 28 as a perfect introduction to Lisbon). Numerous restaurants, cafes and boutiques align the streets, while the city's glistening waterside makes for an idyllic evening stroll.
Of course, sun, sea and sand have become synonymous with Portugal's famous Algarve, and many are drawn to its white, sandy beaches and charming little villages. But it has also become known for its world-renowned golf courses, so makes the ideal holiday for any golf enthusiast. The Algarve is also popular for its mild climate; with an average of 3,000 hours of sun per year, it's not hard to see why.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, expect to see some exceptional shabby-chic architecture in Porto. Be sure to visit the Cais de Riberia riverfront in the heart of the city – said to be the most picturesque and romantic part of Porto. And, of course, it would be a crime to visit the city and not sample some of its world famous port!
Often compared to a Caribbean island, Madeira certainly has a tropical feel to it. Its capital, Funchal, is a cosmopolitan city but is easily walkable, and home to a 500-year-old cathedral and an extremely pretty harbour. For a bit of fun, take a ride in a wicker toboggan to experience a one-mile downhill journey into Funchal. Amazingly, a half-hour drive to the north will take you into the centre of a UNESCO-protected laurel forest.
5. The Minho
Described as a microcosm of Portugal, the Minho is easily accessible straight out of Porto airport. The Rio Minho is a broad river which marks the border with neighbouring Spain, and its name has been lent to the entire northwest province. Here, you'll find picture-postcard landscapes, with its magical river scenes, rolling vineyards, towering mountains and cultural towns. The Minho is ideal for anyone looking for a "Portugal in a nutshell" experience.
Said to be the "must-do day trip" in Portugal, Sintra's fairy tale atmosphere ensures visitors return year after year to see its shimmering palaces, lush forests and rippling mountains. The star of the palaces has to be Palácio Nacional de Sintra (the main abode of Portuguese royalty until the early 20th century), with its standout twin conical chimneys and lavish, whimsical interior.
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