Ringed on three sides by stunning beaches, Portugal is a lesser-known destination than its neighbor, Spain. Yet Portugal offers travelers exquisite vacation options at sometimes far less cost than competing destinations. With a well-developed cuisine, a vibrant culture steeped in history, art, natural beauty and some of the finest beaches anywhere, Portugal should be on any avid traveler’s short list.
Accommodation in Portugal is plentiful and of generally excellent quality. Boutique hotels vie with popular chains, while travelers can also branch out to other forms of accommodation, such as the excellent Hamptons homes, or even try caravan camping.
Portugal is compact enough for travelers with limited time to see quite a lot. Longer vacations allow travelers to soak in the finer subtleties of this wonderful country. Regardless of the amount of time one has, a short list of popular destinations should not be missed.
At night, Porto becomes a fantasia of lights. This modern city offers World Heritage historic sites, world-class museums, and boundless culture. Visitors should not miss the Mercado do Bolhão for a dazzling array of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat products. Porto is a blend of both the old and the new and offers something for everyone.
• The Algarve
Algarve – Stark and dramatic beauty, aqua-green waters, and bright sandy beaches characterize this part of Portugal. Beach lovers should not miss Praia da Marinha. This beach is one of the most famous in the country, featuring colorful cabanas for rent and unparalleled views of the incredible rock formations. For nightlife, try Albufeira, where a thriving sidewalk culture lights up the night.
Visitors should remember that topless sunbathing is a common feature on most beautiful beaches in Portugal.
• Viana do Castelo
The quintessential Portuguese village, Viana do Castelo rests in a bucolic setting of fields and low hills. Colorful clay roofs gild the village buildings and a breathtaking basilica adorns a hill overlooking the town. The area is known for its beaches and colorful stoneware.
• Madera and the Azores Islands
While less accessible than sites on the mainland, Portugal’s island provinces deserve attention for their limitless natural beauty. Ringed by stellar beaches and a geologist’s playground, these islands support varied wildlife perfect for nature lovers. Vast lava fields and volcanoes highlight the rugged landscape.