For all its small size, Portugal is a country filled with contrast. Part foodie heaven, part surfers dream and part history buffs goldmine, Portugal truly has something for everyone.
The northern end with its mountains and villages still preserves its strong rural and agricultural ties sits in stark contrast to the Algarve in the south, with its sun-soaked beaches leading into the Mediterranean. In between there are rolling hills, thick forests, grape filled valleys and surf opportunities aplenty.
Take a side trip to the Atlantic to visit the two archipelagos… the subtropical paradises of Madeira and Azores. Madeira has cobbled stone beaches,
Both collections of islands are filled with gorgeous lakes, high cliffs and verdant green hills… Azores has stunning azure lakes, dramatic landscapes and volcanic craters perfect for exploring.
Back on the mainland, the capital Lisbon is a study in contrast. Find modern cutting-edge galleries next to historic palaces, feel your heart ache while listening to the traditional fado music, taste the creamy pasteis de nata (custard tarts) and take a ride on the trams as they cut across this amazing city.
If Lisbon is the sophisticated older sibling, then Porto is the opposite. Grungy, rebellious and filled with hidden charms, Porto easily stands on its own. Filled with pretty azulejos tiles, steep hills leading to dark gothic churches, street art and a seriously cool riverside district; you can spend hours watching the traditional boats ferry port from the Duoro region to the wineries along the river.
With so much to see, here is just a short list of 12 reasons why I believe Portugal is a must-see destination.
1 - The Cities
The two major cities, Lisbon and Porto, are both filled with historic sights, modern museums, gothic cathedrals, edgy nightlife and of course are a must-visit destination for foodies.
Both cities rate high on the list of digital nomad hubs (especially Lisbon), and even though Portugal is part of the Euro zone, it is extremely affordable to visit.
2 - Stunning Beaches
From the icy cold wind-swept beaches of the north; to the wide stretches of sand along the west coast, and the sheltered coves along the Algarve, every beach on the Portuguese coast is a winner.
And if the beaches along the mainland don’t suit, then the sub-tropical archipelagos of Madeira and Azores will certainly tempt even the most picky beach goers
3 - The Surfing
With a world-wide reputation as one of Europe’s top surfing destinations, Portugal has beaches and waves to suit every surf lover.
For professionals, Nazaré is a must-visit, but for those preferring a more relaxed or beginner friendly environment, head south to the Algarve’s west coast.
4 - Historic Towns & Incredible Castles
With ruins dating back to ancient Romans, hilltop fortresses from the moors, medieval battlements and fairy tale palaces that could come straight from a story book, there is no end of hidden gems for history buffs.
Visit the national park of Sintra, filled with castles and palaces that enchant as much as they amaze. Or visit Évora with its Roman temple and medieval cathedral, which attracts regular pilgrims
5 - Listen to Fado
Unique to Portugal, Fado is a melancholic form of music which pulls at the heart strings and shares tales of heartbreak and change. Some of the best-known performers came from Lisbon’s Alfama district, and it’s still the best place to find a cozy bar where you can order a glass of port and listen to fado
6 - Admire the Azulejos
The distinctive colourful tiles are synonymous with Portugal. Often in blue, these tiles can be seen on buildings all over the country. In front of shops, homes, churches and even railway stations, the images on the tiles often tell stories or share scenes from important historical events
7 - Taste the Port wine rainbow
Line up all the different varieties of port wine in tasting glasses and you will find a beautiful rainbow spanning light tawny golds all the way to deep ruby reds. The famous fortified wine is a must-try, especially in a quinta (vineyard estate) deep in the rolling hills of the Duoro Valley outside of Porto
8 - Celebrate at one of the many festivals
While there are festas all year long, the best festivals are during the summer months. The cities and villages come alive with music, revelry and laughter. Visit Porto at midsummer (June 23) for the Festa de São João do Porto, a unique street party mixing the sacred and profane as the city pays tribute to Saint John the Baptist. Or celebrate the Festa de Santo António (also known as the festival of Sardines) on the longest night of the year in Lisbon on June 12th
9 - Tempt your tastebuds
Portugal has an incredibly underrated foodie scene. From tempting desserts such as the world famous custard tarts (Pastel de Nata), to freshly caught and grilled sardines, to hearty soups and fresh seasonal vegetables, you will not get bored with the taste of Portugal