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Portugal is conveniently located in the south of Europe, making it a perfect place to escape to when the rest of Europe is colder, grayer, and most likely, rainier. From their beautiful architecture dating back to the 1500s – 1800s, their amazing wine, and their cuisine, fronting imported dried cod from Norway(haaad to sneak in a word about my country hehee), Portugal has a lot to offer.
Portugal can be divided into Northern-, Central-, South Portugal, Alentejo, Algarve and the Islands of Azores and Madeira. In this post, put together in collaboration with some amazing travel bloggers, you get a taste of some of the unique experiences Portugal has to offer. Start planning your Portugal vacation now, and make sure you don’t miss out on the fun of these Portugal highlights.
Southern Portugal, Algarve
Algarve in the very south of Portugal is arguably the most popular tourist destination in Portugal, but not without reason. The area is the perfect beach holiday destination, eighter you’re looking for sunny relaxing days on the sandy beaches, or surfing, hiking and exploring the area.
Go beach hopping outside Lagos
Spend some time exploring the beautiful beaches outside Lagos. The closest beach can be reached on foot from Lagos. After relaxing there for a while you can continue your walk along the beaches. If you visit during low tide, you can walk along the beach, if not you can climb up on the orange cliffs that surround the beaches in the area. On the cliffs, there are various paths that lead to the many beaches and it’s often possible to find a little sandy beach hidden away and sheltered by the cliffs for some privacy.
If you get sick of going from beach to beach, although highly unlikely, there are various activities you can do along the beaches here. From kayak tours exploring the caves, dolphin watching tours, to surf lessons. Lagos and its beaches got you covered. If you are planning a trip to Portugal, don’t miss out on the beautiful beaches in Lagos and the rest of Algarve.
It goes without saying that the Lisbon region is also the region where Portugal’s capital, with the same name, lies. However, there is much more than the country’s capital to see in the region. Visiting Sintra has become a popular day trip from Lisbon, but consider venturing out to see more and spend more time in the region.
Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra
Many people are drawn to Sintra for her colorful castle, but there is so much more bucket-list worthy sights to see in Sintra. Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely visit the Pena Palace, but save some time for another amazing experience in Sintra Portugal: the Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra.
This mystical Gothic palace house is part of a larger estate with overgrown grottoes, lush green gardens and little chapels dotted across the area.
The Quinta da Regaleira is most famous because of its eerie, mystified Initiation Well. The round narrow staircase leads you down into the well that was used for initiation rites and never intended to use any water. Try to take some pictures, capturing the whole well and brilliant architecture.
An underground passageway leads you away from the well, through underground hallways and towards amazing waterfalls.
I think you need at least 3 hours to explore the Quinta da Regaleira, depending on how many pictures you’d like to take. Besides the Initiation well, the actual palace house, is a must-see. Take your time to find more underground passageways and waterfalls, fountains, grottoes and towers.
The entrance price to visit the Quinta da Regaleira is €8,00 which isn’t too bad for such a vast estate and unique place to see in Portugal.
by Naomi behind Probe Around the Globe
Sintra Castle, Palace de Pena
If you’re looking to explore a magical town with castles and mansions. Then just outside Portugal’s capital city, is the fairytale town of Sintra. This beautiful resort town sits on the footsteps of the Sintra mountain range. Boasting fantastic historical buildings like as the gothic palace Palácio Nacional de Sintra and the main attraction Sintra Castle Palace de Pena.
For myself, Sintra castle ( Palace de Pena) was the reason I wanted to explore this area. Palace de Pena might be the most well known and photographed castle in Portugal with it’s multi-colored walls and wildly strange design taste. While being surrounded by green forest, gives you a fairytale feeling.
The fact that this place is only 33km (1 Hour) from Lisbon, makes taking the journey to come visit a must-do when staying in the capital. With an easy train ride from the city’s main train station in Lisbon ( Rossio station) to Sintra station, costing you 4.5 Euros for a return ticket. With trains departing every 10-30 minutes.
Sintra castle opens from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 am to 7 pm during the summer and 10 am to 5 pm in winter.
The cost of entrance to the Sintra Castle and gardens is 14 Euros or if you’re on a budget you can visit the large gardens for 7 Euros. This will still give you great views of the castle.
Other great attractions while exploring the town are the Castelo dos Mouros which is positioned high above Sintra and The Camara de Municipal Sintra (Sintra town hall).
By Simon behind Journeys to Adventure
In-between Algarve, Lisbon, and Central Portugal lie the Alentejo region. If you start your adventure in Lisbon you’re just a 1-hour train ride from one of the northernmost towns of the region Alentejo Region, Evora.
Travel through Alentejo Region
Everyone heads to the coast in Portugal, but some of the most interesting and unique experiences can be found inland. Alentejo, southeast of Lisbon, is a region filled with stunning historic villages and castles that are ripe for exploring. Most people will start their exploration in Evora, and that is certainly not a bad idea, but to get some truly unique experiences, I would suggest going a little further afield.
I would start out with the hilltop town of Monsaraz, which is a small but picturesque village fortified by walls and a small, somewhat rundown castle. The streets are a pleasure to explore and the castle adds a little adventure to the mix. The approach from below is also quite a sight as the town stands out like a sore thumb!
If you head a little further east in the region, you will come to the abandoned castle of Mourão. The town itself is nothing special, but the castle is great fun to explore. It has yet to be put on the map, so you can experience a castle ruin of sorts that is still in reasonable, but unrestored, shape. From long walls to somewhat exposed staircases and turrets, this is as close to Indiana Jones as you might ever get!
The last absolutely free and fun town to check out is Elvas. The town is a labyrinth of streets with a cute church in the center. But the highlight is the fully intact aqueduct that dominates the entrance into the town. It is kilometers long and even has the local road passing under it. For me, just seeing that was worth the visit!
And the best part of all of these places is that they are relatively tourist-free and don’t cost a cent! All you need is a car to explore the region, the rest is a bargain!
by Roger behind Expert World Travel
Patacho shipwreck in Vila Nova de Milfontes
Vila Nova de Milfontes is situated in the southwest of Portugal where you find some of the best beaches in the country. The scenery is wild and dramatic as golden sand dunes spotted with plants and bushes meet steep drops down to the beaches along the coastline.
There is a wide span from calm family-friendly beaches to dramatic waves attracting surfers from all over the world.
Among these incredible, fine sanded beaches you find Patacho beach. A small beach made of large pebbles, nearly impossible to get down to unless you slide down a narrow, vertical, sandy dirt path.
What makes people venture down to Patacho beach is a mysterious, rusty shipwreck stranded on the pebbles. Overgrown with algae and seashells, the wreck faces rough winters each year and erodes a little more each time a storm passes by. Klemens is a Dutch ship that grounded the 12th of December 1996.
There is another way through to the shipwreck from the beach next to Patacho beach through an arch in the rock. However, this does require some climbing. Make sure you don’t walk outside the existing paths and in general be mindful of nature so you don’t make any harm.
To get to Patacho beach you first have to get to Vila Nova Milfontes. From there you drive past Duna Parque Beach Club (with the sea on your left) and keep left until you meet a dead road leading towards the water. You can park there and walk on the path across the dunes until you find a new path along the beachfront. Turn left onto the path and soon you will see the shipwreck beneath you.
By Linn behind Brainy Backpackers
From the long Atlantic coastline, also called the silver coast, to the mountains inland. Central Portugal with the pilgrim town, Fatima, the capital of the region, Coimbra, but also with smaller medieval towns like Óbidos. Central Portugal is a region worth planning a Portugal holiday around.
The Medieval Town of Óbidos
Óbidos is a beautiful medieval city surrounded by an impressive wall. If you are planning to visit Lisbon, you can pay a visit to this still walled medieval city. It is only 85km away from the Portuguese capital, and It takes about 1 hour to get there.
The history of ancient Oppidum, as the city of Óbidos was called, dates back to a period before Christ and it was ruled by Romans, Moors, and Visigoths. Later, the city became known as the “gift of the queens”, as it was part of the dowry of many of them, such as Queen Santa Isabel, Filipa de Lencastre, Urraca de Castilla, Leonor de Aragon and Leonor of Portugal.
The main attraction of the city is the 13th-century Óbidos Castle, which is one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders and today functions as a guesthouse, offering guests a king’s night. But there is much more to visit.
The entrance of the citadel is already an attraction because to reach the interior of the walls you have to cross the “Gate of the Village”, dating from the seventeenth century and all lined with white and blue tiles, whose designs have as theme, the passion of Christ. There is usually a musician there and their ballads are already helping to create a travel atmosphere to the past.
Visiting Óbidos you can easily feel “lost in time” in the town’s alleys, climbing the walls, and getting soaked into the medieval atmosphere. Don’t be afraid to get lost, because getting lost there, in the real sense of the word, in fact, is impossible.
Tips for your visit to Obidos: 1) Try Ginginha, a typical liquor made from cherry served in a chocolate cup; 2) For your safety, when climbing the walls of the walled city, be very careful as there is no handrail. Always walk near the walled part. Beware of other people (if someone comes in the opposite direction) and the floor, which is sometimes uneven.
How to get to Obidos from Lisbon:
By car: Getting to Obidos from Lisbon by car is the most comfortable way to get there. You can take the A8 highway towards Leiria and exit the road Exit 15. From a distance you can already see the city walls on top of a hill.
By bus: If you opt for public transportation to get from Lisbon to Obidos, taking a bus is the best way to get to Obidos. The bus stops close to Porta da Vila, the entrance of the walled city. From Lisbon, the bus leaves from Campo Grande station (green subway line). (Fare: € 7.55, Operator: Fast Green).
By train: To get to Obidos from Lisbon by train is not the best option. The station is far from the city and you will need additional transportation, like a bus or an Uber to get to the walled city. With that said, its doable, with some extra effort and expenses.
By Shiela behind Dicas de Paris
Northern Portugal, Porto Region
Northern Portugal is the most inhabited region in Portugal. In fact, Portugal Norte is even more populated than the Lisboa region, where the country’s captial is located. This has to do with the fact that the Northern region covers a way bigger area then the Lisbon Region.
Northern Portugal has a big variety of attractions, from the big city life of Porto to the Douro river, small villages and landscapes covered in vineyards.
Check out Majestic Café in Porto
Portugal is a stunning country filled with surprises and excitement. One of the top cities in Portugal that is full of unique experiences, is Porto. This city is known for its wine, fabulous churches, and most importantly, Harry Potter. Porto has an exciting connection with Harry Potter, and its relationship can be found all around the city.
One of the most exciting connections is with Majestic Café. This attraction is a stunning, ornate café located on one of the most famous and frequented streets of Porto – Santa Catarina. Years ago, J.K Rowling left the UK and arrived in Porto to teach English. While living here, she and her now ex-husband quickly became regulars in Majestic café. Legend says that this is the café that J.K Rowling started and finished the first Harry Potter book!
This café has become a significant tourist attraction in Porto both for its stunning design and its Harry Potter connection. Therefore, if you want to get a coffee here, expect to pay 5x that of another café in the city. It is not super budget-friendly, but if you would like to experience the restaurant and don’t mind spending 5 euros on a coffee, then all the power to you!
By Samantha behind Sam Sees World
Visit the Harry Potter Bookstore in Porto
Step into the wizarding world of Harry Potter in this famous Porto bookstore! A visit to Livraria Lello is an absolute must-do on any trip to Portugal, for both Potterheads and literary enthusiasts alike. Commonly voted one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, it is the decadent red staircase which first grabs visitors’ attention.
It is said that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was a regular visitor to Livraria Lello during her time living in Porto. When admiring the stunning decor, it is easy to see why she felt inspired by this place and decided to create wizarding bookstore Flourish and Blotts with this place in mind!
As well as selling beautiful editions of the Harry Potter books (as well as other modern-day fiction), older, more rare works of literature are available too.
The Harry Potter connection saw visitor numbers to the store boom but sadly, the vast majority of these tourists were not buying books. As such, an entrance fee was introduced to keep business ticking over. Those wanting to visit the bookstore will need to pay €5 for an entrance ticket although this can be redeemed against the purchase of a book. Be aware that there is likely to be a wait to get into the bookshop and once you are inside it will be crowded. Aim to arrive for around half 9 in the morning to be one of the first visitors when the doors open at 10 am.
By Sheree behind Winging the World
Visit a Port Wine Cellar in Porto
Visiting a port cellar is an absolute MUST for any trip to Portugal. Even if you don’t like port (or don’t think you do), or don’t drink alcohol at all, port is Portugal’s most famous export and the Portuguese people take great pride in it. Learning more about it is necessary to really experience Portugal.
All grapes used in port are grown, harvested, crushed, and barreled in the Douro River Valley, about 130km (80 miles) east of Porto. But once the wine is barreled, it’s taken downriver to be stored in a wine cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia. Because Gaia is, literally, across the river from Porto, visiting a port cellar has become one of the main tourist activities for anyone visiting Portugal’s second-largest city.
Check out this Douro Valley Tour, including a riverboat trip on the Douro River, wine and olive oil tasting and a traditional Portuguese food experience.
Touring a port cellar is a great way to sample a variety of ports, as most tours include a port wine tasting at the end. But even if you’re traveling with kids, or if you don’t drink alcohol, or simply have no interest in trying port, a port cellar tour is still worth doing. It’s an excellent way to learn more about Portuguese culture, history, and traditions that revolve around port.
If you decide to visit a port cellar, there are dozens to choose from. Most tours cost between 10-20 euros, so it is a fairly budget-friendly activity. Some cellars, like Croft, have been in operation in the same location for centuries, yet their tours are low-key and more intimate. Others are more famous, like Sandeman, and their cellars are much more touristy. Some are reservation-only and others accept walk-ins. But you can’t go wrong with whichever cellar you choose – there are so many options that you’ll be able to find the perfect one for you! No matter what, it’s a Portuguese experience you’ll be glad you had!
By Maggie behind Pink Caddy Travelogue
Biking along Douro river path in Porto
If you’re looking for amazing experiences in Portugal, Porto should be on your itinerary. From touring hidden wine cellars to wandering colorful alleys, this northern city has so much to offer. And one of the best ways to explore Porto is by biking along the Douro River path.
Porto is famous for its stunning riverfront, with brightly painted houses and restaurants lining the hills. It’s reminiscent of Cinque Terre, but without the high price tag. And once you reach the point where the river meets the ocean, you’ll be greeted with a gorgeous rocky coastline and crashing waves.
If you only have one or two days in Porto, biking this route will help you make the most of your sightseeing time. Starting from Luis I Bridge and heading west, you’ll pass the top sights on the coast, including the Ribeira, Felgueiras Lighthouse, Pergola da Foz, and Castelo do Queijo.
There’s a bike rental shop near the Luis I Bridge that offers standard and electronic bikes by the hour. You can also consider booking a guided bike tour via Baja Bikes or another local operator. Either way, this budget-friendly activity will also help you burn off all those pastel de natas and fried sardines!
While Porto is a very hilly city, the land along the river is fairly flat, so you don’t need to be in great shape to tackle this fun Portugal experience. Depending on how often you stop for photos, you can complete the round trip in about 2.5-3 hours.
Because of the cold winds that blow off the water, it’s best to do your Porto bike tour during the late spring through mid-autumn. And you’ll be sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians at times, so plan your bike ride during the morning hours when there are fewer tourists.
by Chelsea behind The Portable Wife
Camino de Santiago Portuguese
The pilgrimages of Camino de Santiago can easily get you addicted. We don’t remember how it happened, we only know that when it’s time for another close-to-the-divine experience, we pack the backpacks and head to walk another section of Camino.
After hearing that Camino de Santiago Portuguese is less crowded and very picturesque so we knew we have to try it. We started in Porto, sticking to the coast as much as possible – this is the so-called Coastal route. Even in September, the weather was just perfect for walking, the ocean and the beautiful surroundings made sure we enjoy every view on the way.
Walking on boardwalks, beach promenades, beaches, forests or streets, it takes about 5 days to walk the Porto – Vila do Conde – Fão – Viana do Castelo – Vila Praia de Âncora – Caminha route. You can even do a quick surfing lesson in Vila Praia de Âncora before you head to the border town Caminha and cross the Rio Minho by ferry and enter Spain. This is the time when you change ‘Bom Caminho’ to ‘Buen Camino’.
Camino Portuguese Coastal is definitely a great experience to explore the northern coastal part of the country while walking amidst incredible nature and being able to meet wonderful people on the road! It’s also quite affordable – staying at albergues or pousada de juventude costs around 10-12 Euro per night, restaurants offer pilgrim menus and you’re main activity – walking and thinking – are for free. We’re wondering how come so few people decide to endeavor to the Camino Portuguese.
by Bistra and Nace behind The Magic of Traveling
So what time is the best time to visit Portugal? The right answer here is that any time is a good time to visit Portugal. It all depends on what you want to experience. Portugal has something for basically every kind of traveller, as shown in the viriaty of activities mentioned in this blogpost.