Medieval castles, picturesque countryside, lively cities, sun-kissed beaches, slow-paced life, and on an average of approx.13 million foreign tourists every year, Portugal has finally emerged from its shell and how. A country which was once the poorest country in Western Europe is today’s one of the most sought-after tourist destinations. Portugal’s super-stardom is not by fluke but the government has been making an effort to bring it into the limelight and make tourism as a gross earner for the nation. If you ever want to visit this 900-year-old country, there’s no better time than now. So, book your tickets, pack your bags and we will tell you places that you must see in this tiny but infinitely fascinating country called “Portugal”. Although almost every town and village in Portugal is stunning, some places are simply unmissable. Here’s Portugal travel guide and some of the must-visit places in this gorgeous country.
Must-visit places in Portugal
Home to some of the finest beaches in Europe, Algarve is a beach paradise. With around 150 spectacular beaches to choose from, Algarve’s coastline has Mediterranean climate but the beauty and playfulness of Atlantic are unparalleled. Relax, enjoy watersports or just watch the sun getting swollen by the gigantic ocean, life at an Algarve beach is like nowhere else under the sun.
Acharming village with uneven -walled narrow alleys, pristine white cottages, and a castle, Monsaraz is where time has stopped. Like a slow melody, this bucolic settlement offers a picture-perfect view of olive grove and Alqueva Dam. A must-visit site in Portugal, Monsaraz is fast gaining popularity among the tourist looking for some relaxing time with friends and family.
Travel Tip: The best way to explore Monsaraz is on foot. Vehicles need to be parked outside the walled village.
Parque Nacional Da Peneda-Gerês:
Created in 1971 and located in the northwest, Parque Nacional Da Peneda-Gerês is the first and only ‘National Park’ in Portugal. Lush with pine and oak forests and peppered with boulders, the national park is spread across imposing granite massifs. There are around 100 villages in the area and each one is more picturesque than the other. A must-visit place in Portugal if you enjoy hiking, rafting and kayaking.
Holding a coveted number two position as Portugal’s most Livable cities and a well-preserved medieval town acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Evora has an abundance of architectural marvels from the past including a Roman temple.
The postcard village of the country, Obidos is the world’s imagination of Portugal. Whitewashed abodes with brightly colored doors and windows, balconies filled with Bougainvillea and romantic cobblestoned streets are Obidos’ identity. However, don’t expect this tiny town to be quaint. The beauty of Obidos is no secret to the world and tourists from all over the world are thronging in.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the chocolates and cherry liqueur sold around the main street.
Velha Universidade, Coimbra
If you ever wondered how alluring can a university campus probably be, you surely haven’t visited Velha Universidade. Imposing structures which date back to the 1940s and 50s are a majestic sight in themselves. If that’s not enough, the university is in the beautiful historic town of Coimbra which was the Portuguese capital for over 100 years during the medieval era.
The oldest district in the capital city Lisbon, Alfama is the traditional side of the global city. Spend time in a backstreet café, enjoy Fado music and if you feel like, take a leisurely walk on the tapered cobblestoned alleys.
Travel Tip: Get up early and take a walk around the neighborhood to capture the traditional scene of women selling fish from their doorways into your camera.
Straight from a fairy tale, Sintra is a UNESCO world heritage site and not without reasons. Home to the opulent palaces and beautiful gardens adorned by majestic mountains and fern forests, this is the place which inspired the epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron.
Travel Tip: If you are taking a train to Sintra, alight at the last stop named Portela de Sintra. There’s a lovely 1km walk from here into the village.
Mosteiro Palacio Nacional De Mafra:
One of the best architectures in Portugal, the impressive baroque palace comprising of a basilica and a monastery has 1200 rooms. There are two bell towers with the largest collection of bells in the world and pots of Brazilian gold were poured into the palace during the construction.
Music festivals in Portugal are common, so are restaurants with great live music and chapel turned bars and cafes. Algarve is the entertainment capital but the nightlife in Porto, Lisbon and Albufeira is equally exciting. Head to Fado ao Centro in Coimbra at 6 PM if you wish to be introduced to Portugal’s very own genre of music called ‘Fado’, the origin of which is traced back to the 1820s.
Portugal is also a foodie’s paradise with a variety of culinary delights. Local Portuguese cuisine has originated and evolved from the land-drawn peasant food which also had varied influences under colonization. However, seafood is immensely popular here due to its coastal geography. Salt cod or Bacalhau is the most loved and staple here. You may not necessarily find a menu card in restaurants. The whole of Portugal is in love with thick black expresso coffee.
Due to the government’s efforts to bring Portugal to the forefront, there are plenty of quality yet affordable lodging options in all major cities and popular villages. Youth hostels are the most loved budget options and are in plenty. For budget travelers, Residencial or the home-like hostels are also popular. Self-catering dorm beds may cost anything between €15 and €22. If your pockets are deep and you are ready to splurge, Pousadas de Portugal offers stays at medieval castles and opulent palaces. There are many camping sites but you need to obtain land owner’s permission for wild camping. However, you can sleep in the car or the caravan at such camping sites. It’s legal.
Transport: Although more expensive and less frequent, rail services in Portugal are faster than bus services. All major cities are connected by rail routes as well as by the intercity rail connections. Cars are the most convenient way to get around or for visiting nearby villages if you are ready to deal with the traffic congestion which is usually bad and frustrating. Hitchhiking is not recommended in Portugal.
Things to remember:
Portuguese people are friendly and ready to extend a helping hand if you seek. A little knowledge and effort to speak Portuguese can take you far in this lovely country. Don’t get into political debate and respect women. Tipping is optional in Portugal.