We can't get enough of Portugal, and out highlights are sure to tempt you to visit!
1. It’s at the helm of seafaring history
During the Age of Discovery, from the 15th to the 17th centuries, Portuguese sailors were the first to discover and map the coasts of Africa, Canada, Asia and Brazil. Many of the country’s monuments were built in honour of both the period and homegrown explorers such as Vasco da Gama, who was the first European to reach India. Stand before Lisbon’s Monument to the Discoveries and you’ll be at the very spot that these voyages began.
2. Wherever you go, you’re surrounded by beauty
No matter where your travels take you in Portugal, beauty surrounds you. Inland is the stunning Douro Valley, where terraced vineyards have been producing wine for more than 2,000 years. Further south, step into a landscape straight out of the pages of a fairy tale in Sintra, dotted with turreted castles and carpeted by forest. The real showstopper is the country’s dramatic coastline. When Vasco da Gama left the Belém district of Lisbon on his voyages of discovery, he didn’t know what he might find. Standing on the Atlantic cliffs at Cascais or Cabo da Roca, you’ll experience a similar sense of wonder.
3. Sensational cities boast Latin influences
Portugal’s lively and vibrant cities are a joy to explore. You don’t have to look too closely to see that they take their influences more from South America than Europe. Cosmopolitan capital Lisbon sits on seven hills and tumbles down to the banks of the River Tagus. Admire the Manueline architecture of its Jerónimos Monastery, which symbolises the country’s power and wealth during the Age of Discovery. Second city Oporto boasts historic districts seemingly untouched by time and is famed for the production of port wine and numerous cellars hosting tastings – cheers!
4. There’s even more to see on its islands
The Portuguese archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores lie to the west of the country and both offer a diverse range of attractions. Madeira is a living botanical garden, whose tropical climate and volcanic soil encourage almost anything to grow, hence its moniker ‘the floating garden’. On the largest of the nine islands of the Azores, São Miguel, breathtaking sights take many forms. On land, gaze at the incredible twin lakes, Sete Cidades, carved deep into a volcanic crater, and in the waters that surround you whale sightings are common. Due to the archipelago’s location, it’s a point of passage for more than a third of the world’s population of whales and dolphins throughout the year.
5. Delicious fresh ingredients are always on the menu
Sardines plucked fresh from the sea, salt cod, crispy suckling pig and slow-cooked wild boar stew are the kind of rustic dishes found on the menu in Portugal. As you eat, clink glasses of Vinho Verde – a young, crisp unoaked wine usually consumed shortly after bottling. And if you’ve a sweet tooth, thank the monks of the Jerónimos Monastery, who are said to have invented pastéis de nata. These little custard tarts with a crispy, flaking pastry case and a sweet, creamy filling sprinkled with cinnamon really are heavenly.