Portugal Travel Guide – Part 1
Portugal is a very popular destination for travellers and tourists from all around the world for many years already and it is safe to say that the country offers a lot and has a lot to attract people with. Besides an amazing destination for journeys and holidays, Portugal is very alluring with one of the greatest nature and historical heritage. There is no doubt that, although a small land, Portugal will quickly become one of the most favourite places you have ever been to and you will desire to come again before you have left the airport.
Portugal is known as one of the European countries with the oldest extant nations, so you can expect Portugal to offer a really rich, diverse and amazing culture that, when mixed with all modern influences, make the country a truly mesmerizing, attractive, charming and distinctive place to experience and enjoy. The history of Portugal shares the story of this ancient kingdom with castles cosily nestled between hills and spectacular views and landscapes, defeated by all enemies. If you are a first-time visitor we promise you that you will be impressed by the hospitality and the friendliness of the locals and you will quickly start feeling like you are right at home.
The country is also alluring with all the extremely delicious and affordable food and some of the best wine in the world. Furthermore, Portugal is a very diverse country, so it is entirely sure that you won’t feel bored for a second, there is always something to experience and enjoy. Although the country is fascinating with its rich history and the two main cities Lisbon and Porto are yet another evidence for the impressive past of this maritime European power. Portugal is also a buzzing, vivid and lively place with many clubs, bars and restaurants.
Portugal is a favourite destination for many travellers all around the world mainly because of the diversity it offers. From family holidays to backpackers, everyone is going to find something for themselves here. Furthermore, there are many great opportunities for spending your time great inland – touring wine estates, walking, cycling, kayaking, the coast with its cliff-backed coves and endless beaches, surfing, laid back beach experience and a lot more.
The boarding areas are definitely another attractive part of the country because early Portuguese monarchs have built walls around these areas to defeat the enemies. From beaches to high mountains, from valleys to rolling hills dotted with charming stone-built villages, Portugal is truly a diverse country with many must-visits and must-dos to offer, so make sure you allow yourself enough time to fully enjoy everything. To add even more spiciness to the whole mix, Portugal is also partly influenced by its former colonies in Africa, Asia and Brazil, Angola and Mozambique in particular.
Portugal is a strongly Catholic country, where you can find ancient churches in every community and on almost every corner, while traditional values remain strong in the country. Portuguese people are also strongly family-orientated, focusing on their families and children especially. It is a very interesting experience how Portuguese have adopted the modern life, but without leaving their ancient history and culture, so it is definitely not an exception to see medieval stone-built towns with a strong Wi-Fi access spots and all the comfort and convenience of the modern age. Here, professionals with modern careers are working along with people with all sorts of old professions, like butcher, baker and even a candlestick maker. With so many things to see, hear, feel and touch in the country, there is no way that you won’t enjoy your visit, so prepare to be charmed!
Lisbon and around
Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and also one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing areas of the country. Lisbon is an inspirational place to visit, mostly attracting tourists and travellers with its beautiful waterfront location, quirky selection of places to visit and enjoy and mostly the fascinating mixture of old and the modern and vibrant spirit of a developed western European capital. Although the suburbs of the city is definitely worth visiting, a day or two will be perfectly ok to explore the compact and beautiful centre of the city. The oldest part of Lisbon is a labyrinth of small cobbled streets that is named Alfama and sits below the spectacularly sited Moorish Castelo de San Jorge that faces another beautiful hill on the upper side of the town called Bairro Alto that is mostly visited because of its famous bars, fancy restaurants and a buzzing and vibrant nightlife in general.
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The valley between these two beautiful hills is known as the Baixa or lower town, which is a home to many eighteenth-century buildings and historical places. From here starts the main artery inland that is named Avenida da Liberdade that is rising to the main public park of Lisbon. The key attractions in this historic centre that are definitely worth visiting include the Museu Gulbenkian, the Museu de Arte Antiga, the modern art of the Berardo Collection, the sublime Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, the Parque des Nacoes with one of the Europe’s largest oceanariums.
A short distance from the capital Lisbon, you can visit the UNESCO heritage site of Sintra, a beautiful mountainside location with amazingly ornamented palaces of the Portuguese royals. Near this region, in a short distance you can reach to some of the most beautiful Atlantic beaches, there the south coast is covered in golden sand and stretching its amazing beaches between Costa da Caparica to other vibrant coastal cities and towns. You will also find the charming small cove beaches between the historic port of Setubal and the resort of Sesimbra.
Estremadura and Ribatejo
If you are up to some serious getting to know Portugal, then the regions of Estremadura and Ribatejo are both a must-visit, because here you can find and enjoy some of the most popular buildings and places that are symbols of the country and its culture and history. Both easy to access and extremely beautiful and impressive is the monastery at Alcobaça, the abbey at Batalha and the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Tomar. Make sure you don’t miss them since you can easily access them even by public transport and these places allow a glimpse at Portuguese culture and history at its best.
But the two central Portuguese regions are offering, even more, attractions that are equally high profile and worth visiting – the medieval town of Obidos, the mesmerizing castle at Leiria, the ornamented palace-monastery of Mafra, shrine at Fatima (the country’s most important pilgrimage sites) and a lot more local charms and attractions.
Along the Silver Coast (named Costa da Prata) you can enjoy some of the best beach resorts in the country. The holiday highlights are Ericeira and Nazare, but these are not the only places you can visit, so make sure to consider the smaller and more charming resorts like Sao Martinho do Porto, the remote and very relaxing Ilha da Berlenga that you can reach by a ferry from Peniche, the spectacular underground caverns around Porto de Mos and the nearby Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros.
Formally called Ribatejo, but called Alentejo, this region creates a beautiful contrast with the rest of its surrounding, because of its flatter lands that transform the landscape a lot different from the fertile land and market gardens of the rest. The river valley Alentejo is a home to some of the Portugal’s richest vineyards and some of the longest history of the country.
Coimbra and the Beira Litoral
The city of Coimbra is the highlight of the region Beira Litoral, however not the one and only place visiting there. Coimbra, together with the cities Guimaraes, Lisbon and Porto are the quarter the of the former Portuguese historic capitals and Coimbra have definitely lived to its former charm and beauty. The city is located on a hill overlooking the Rio Montego, an extremely charming place that is a home to ancient alleys and lanes that are perfect for strolling around, as well as the country’s oldest university. 16 km to the southwest you can enjoy Portugal’s most expensive Roman site, Conimbriga. In a short distance, in this part of the country, you can also see the impressive beauty of the castle at Montemor-o-Velho, the spa town Luso and the ancient forest Bucaco.
Stretching its amazing and laid back coastline from Figueira da Foz to Porto, Beira is also full of pine forests along with the sandy dunes. Mostly local in character, but definitely worth visiting in this part of the country are the lagoon town Praia de Mira and the resort Figueira da Foz. The valley of Rio Montego is a big inspiration for Portuguese poetry and literature because of the picturesque and breath-taking views it offers. Locals call it the River of the Muses and the valley is a source of the best Portuguese wines. The area is also popular with the scenic and awe-inspiring routes that are dotted all around the map of this region. Mountain pursuits are also a part of the activities in this region of Portugal. Most of the villages and little towns in this region are truly rustic and charming.
Beira Alta and Beira Baixa
Beira Alta and Beira Baixa are two historic mountain provinces that both are a home to some of the most breath-taking and awe-inspiring landscapes and views in Portugal. These harsh but beautiful landscapes have witnessed many historic events throughout the years, plus there are many old castles that you can see and enjoy today.
The capital of the Beira Alta, which is the upper province, is the historic town of Viseu that is the only place of real size in the province and the easiest to access. The highlights in the rest of the province are the mountain-top town Guarda, the high-sited castle towns of the Pianalto (the tableland) and the star-shaped fortress town of Almeida. In South, the mountain range Serra da Estrella rises magnificently, being a home of many mountain villages, tumbling rivers and picturesque valleys that are linked by series of hiking routes and trails, which will quickly turn out to be favourite for those of you that are fans of sport and hiking with an amazing view. Some of the little towns worth visiting in this region are the charming town of Manteigas, the university town of Covilha and Torre.
The lowest province Beira Baixa is a home to so much more wonderful and beautiful places. The landscape of the province reminds of a patchwork quilt, where beautiful and very different views are dotted around to mesmerize with their enigmatic beauty. Cork, carob and olive trees are commonly grown in this part of Portugal. The capital of the province is named Castelo Branco, but definitely not the only place you would enjoy visiting here. The small hilltop villages Sortelha and Monsanto are attracting with their rustic beauty, charm and the breath-taking views, while in the pretty Belmonte you can see the historic remains of the isolated Roman Idanha-a-Velha.
Be sure to stay tuned for the second part of our ultimate guide to Portugal, so you can find even more wonderful places worth visiting in the country and learn even more interesting and helpful information!