The Algarve is Portugal’s most southerly region and the country’s prime tourist area. But beyond the Algarve there are cities buzzing with music and art, historic towns, uncrowded beaches and majestic mountains.
10 Reasons To Visit Portugul
- Ria Formosa natural park, Algarve
The Ria Formosa offers the perfect antidote to the crowded beaches of the Algarve. Covering 50km of prime coastline, it’s a wildlife haven made up of islands, lagoons, sand dunes, mudflats and marshes. It’s a beguiling place, whether you’re into birdwatching, hiking or just basking on deserted beaches.
- Sagres Point, Algarve
Stand on the cliffs at Cabo de São Vicente watching the sun sink into the ocean and it’s easy to understand why ancient mariners believed this place to be the end of the world. Mainland Europe’s most south-westerly tip was a place of pilgrimage for centuries and, with its endless Atlantic vistas, still exerts a magnetic pull today. The fortress on the headland includes a huge circular pebble compass, 43m in diameter, and an atmospheric 15th century chapel.
- Monsaraz, Alentejo
Portugal has no shortage of enticing hilltop towns but perhaps one of the most magical is tiny walled Monsaraz. Rising up above the plains that run east to Spain, it was originally fortified by the Knights Templar. Visitors can enjoy wandering between the medieval white-washed houses, several of which are now charming guesthouses, and climbing up to the battlements of the castle for views across sun-baked fields towards the Guadiana river – the border with Spain – and the Alqueva dam, which forms one of Europe’s largest man made lakes, perfect for swimming, sailing or canoeing.
- Serra da Estrela, Centro
Serra da Estrela means “mountains of the stars”, an apt description as the highest peaks on mainland Portugal, almost 2,000m above sea level, are in this range in the east of the country. It’s a place of rugged beauty, with limestone peaks, gorges, forests of black oak and chestnut trees, waterfalls and mountain streams.
- Feira de Barcelos Minho
Minho province, north of Porto, is a green and rolling land of valleys and small market towns where centuries-old traditions live on. For a taste of rural life at its most vibrant visit the riverside town of Barcelos on a Thursday for its weekly market.
- Viana do Castelo, Costa Verde
The seaside town of Viana do Castelo, with its opulent Manueline and baroque buildings, tends to attract Portuguese rather than foreign tourists. If you’re happy to take a chance on the climate, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful empty beaches and some of Portugal’s finest cuisine. The Costa Verde is known for seafood – eels, and Minho trout and salmon, are often on the menu.
- Parque das Nacoes, Lisbon
Lisbon’s newest neighbourhood was created from scratch for the Expo 98 world fair. With its breezy ocean front setting and futuristic architecture, it’s a refreshing contrast to the narrow streets and ornate buildings of the centre. Locals come for weekend strolls along the waterfront promenade, great seafood restaurants and glorious views of the Vasco da Gama bridge which spans the Tejo (Tagus) and is the longest in Europe. The Oceanarium is one of the world’s great aquariums, built around a tank the size of four Olympic swimming pools, with levels allowing the sea life to be viewed from above and below.
- Evora, Alentejo
A visit to Evora will be one of the highlights of any trip to Portugal. A walk around this Unesco-protected walled city with its Roman temple, Moorish alleyways and medieval churches and palaces, is a walk through Portugal’s turbulent history.