In the last couple of years Portugal has become an increasingly popular holiday destination, becoming an equal competitor of its neighbouring country Spain, France and Italy. But what is so special about this small country and why is it everyone’s next travel destination? Here are 10 reasons why Portugal should be at the top of your travel bucket list as well:
1. Warm climate and sunny weather
If you want a break from your foggy and rainy hometown, from gray buildings and from the screen of your computer, Portugal is the perfect destination for you! It is one of the warmest countries in Europe: during the summer, temperatures can soar to as much as 40°. The country boasts an average of 2500 to 3200 hours of sunshine a year, with the Algarve getting the most sunshine in Europe. The perfect place to get a stunning bronze tan!
2. Wonderful beaches
With its 600 miles of coast, Portugal offers a beach for every taste: from the golden sandy beaches of Praia de Vilamoura and Praia do Ancão to the rocky cliffs of Praia da Concha and Praia do Beliche. Enjoy diving in the marvelous turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean, basking in the sun and learn how to surf in the first European Surfing Reserve of Ericeira. It’s a one-off chance that should not be missed!
3. Amazing cuisine
If you like fresh fish and seafood, Portugal is the place to be! Their unique taste and texture, which are a result of the habitat and location, are hard to match elsewhere. Cataplanas, bouillabaisses and the popular bacalhau are often fished using traditional techniques. A treat you should not miss is pastel de nata (or pastel de Belém), a small traditional custard tart listed by The Guardian as among the 50 “best things to eat” in the world in 2009.
4. Excellent wine
Portugal has an exceptional wine-making tradition that dates back to the ancient Phoenician, Carthaginian and Greek civilisations. The country started to export its wine during Roman times. Two of its wine-producing regions are protected by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Douro Valley and Pico Island. Port and Madeira fortified wines are extremely popular among locals, tourists and are well-known all over the world.
5. Vibrant cities
Some of the most important historical and cultural sites in Portugal can be found in cities like Lisbon, Porto, Belém, Sintra, Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra among the others. In Lisbon, the bustling Praça do Comércio opens onto the Tagus river, St. George´s Castle overlooks the city from a hill and the Belem Tower is a popular viewpoint. The city centre of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a number of imposing granite monuments. The banks of River Duoro are lined with picturesque colored buildings. Both cities are perfect to enjoy a night out and great for shopping!
6. A taste of the Harry Potter world
Don’t miss the chance to visit the bookstore that is said to have inspired JK Rowling when writing Harry Potter. The bookstore “Livraria Lello & Irmão”, situated in Porto, was opened in 1906 by the brothers José and António Lello and was once a popular meeting point for Portugal’s literary elite. The building’s neo-Gothic architecture, its stained-glass ceiling, wood carvings, ladders will make you feel like being in a scene from a Harry Potter film. J.K. Rowling lived in Porto for 3 years in the 90s and was a loyal customer of the bookshop.
7. Fado will capture you
Fado is a traditional Portuguese music genre that can be traced back to the 1820s and 1830s and is thought to have even earlier origins. The lyrics can be about anything but they are mostly about the sea, the life of poor people, resignation, fate and melancholia, usually sung with mournful tunes. Join a powerful live performance in a fado house, a bar or a pub and get a taste of Portuguese saudade.
8. You’ll fall in love with azulejos
Azulejos are small tin-glazed ceramic tiles that can be found on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, ordinary houses and nowadays also bars, restaurants, railways and subway stations. They aren’t just a form of ornamental art, but also a way to control temperatures in interior environments. In Lisbon you can also visit the “National Museum of the Azulejo”, a real hidden gem. Beware of tiles that have been ripped off and stolen from walls to be put on sale at street fairs and markets, this illegal activity is on the rise!
9. You’ll feel at home
Portuguese people are known for being kind and easy-going. Tourists are often positively surprised by the warm welcome they receive from Portuguese people, who always go out of their way to make them feel at home and help them in moments of need. In addition, Portuguese people usually speak English quite well, especially the younger generations, due to subtitled movies (which aren’t dubbed like in other bigger European countries). This is also really helpful for tourists.
10. Adventurous trips
Portugal is also perfect for adventurous nature trips and ideal for backpacking. Dare to leave the mainland and explore the beautiful archipelagos of Madeira and of the Azores. The 9 volcanic islands of the Atlantic offer breathtaking landscapes, beautiful lakes, mountains (among which there is Mount Pico, the highest mountain of the country) and cliffs. Temperatures are mild all year long (the Azores have the warmest winters in Europe!). In Madeira you can have an excursion in the laurel forest, which was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and enjoy whale watching. The waters of Madeira host many species of dolphins, such as common dolphin, spotted dolphin, striped dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, short-finned pilot whale, and whales such as Bryde’s whale, Sei whale, fin whale, sperm whale and beaked whales, that can be also seen near the coast. If you are interest in finding out more about these exciting adventures, visit Backpacking in Portugal.
Thanks for reading!
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