The World Travel Awards voted for the sun-drenched and sophisticated Portugal as World’s Leading Travel Destination in 2018! Not much of a surprise for the pretty country as it had won this coveted award in 2017 as well! But what is it about Portugal that’s got everyone making a beeline for it? It is trending all over Instagram – #portugal was used in a staggering 27,158,029 Instagram posts till date. The hashtag #visitportugal had been used a whopping 1,327,175 times till now! We did a little bit of research on why Portugal is suddenly on every traveller’s wish list and it took us exactly ten minutes to fall in love with this coastal, European gem! While there are more than a dozen reasons to pack our bags for Portugal, we have listed our top seven reasons here.
7 reasons to visit Portugal: Winner of “World’s Leading Travel Destination in 2018” award!
1. Portugal’s possibly got the best climate in Europe!
Portugal’s nearly perfect weather. One of the top reasons why Europe’s best-kept secret is rising on tourists’ popularity charts. The country is blessed with a temperate climate i.e. warm and pleasant weather, round the year. You read that right, a spring-like weather all through the year? You must be dreaming, right? You’re not, for Portugal’s summer heat rarely goes beyond 30°C. While its winters are mild and rainy with temperatures rarely dropping below 12°C along the coast. No matter what time of the year you plan your Portugal holiday, you are in for a pleasant time!
Summers in Lisbon means temperatures that hover between 26°C to 29°C, but rarely touching 35°C. The refreshing breeze from the Atlantic ensure that summers remain agreeable! By September, temperatures drop to a pleasant 21°C accompanied by rains. There’s a slight nip in the air and gentle gusts from the ocean. Winter holidays sees mild winters with temperatures staying constantly between 10 – 15°C but accompanied by frequent rains. There’s such a special charm to Portugal’s winter sun that it often seems like spring instead!
The pretty city of Porto on Portugal’s northern coast has pleasantly warm and dry summers (23-25°C). A good amount of winter showers give way to a fresh and green spring season.
The southernmost part of Portugal is paradise for sun-worshipers! The Alentejo and Algarve regions receive more than 12 hours of daily sunshine. Even the winters here are sunny and not too cold – with average temperatures around 17°C! The shimmering beaches of Portugal are welcoming not just in the summer beach season but are perfect for a relaxing stroll in the quiet, winter months as well.
2. Ancient yet radiant cities like Lisbon and Porto
As much as Portugal is famed for its sparkling beaches and port wine, ancient cities like Lisbon and Porto count among the top reasons to visit this scenic country.
The coolest city in Europe – Lisbon
The coastal and hilly capital city of Portugal, Lisbon can be described with all the adjectives that tourists love – authentic, vibrant, beautiful, sunny, safe, affordable and friendly! Even though it’s quite hilly (Lisbon is built on seven hills), the entire city is criss-crossed by charming yellow, wooden trams and funiculars that trundle up and down Lisbon’s cobbled streets, making most corners of the city very accessible. Older than ancient cities like London and even Rome, Lisbon is a living museum – a history lover’s delight!
Adding to Lisbon’s lustre is its proximity to fantastic beaches, a pulsating nightlight and a host of Michelin star studded restaurants – a food-lover’s paradise. It is no surprise then, that in 2018, Lisbon was voted as “World’s Leading City Destination” by the World Travel Awards, called the “coolest city in Europe” by CNN and shortlisted as the “third most hospitable city in the world” in a TripAdvisor survey.
Also read: Top 10 reasons to visit Lisbon!
Medieval beauty meets modern architecture – Porto
Almost rivalling Lisbon’s charm, history and sophistication, is Portugal’s “second city”, Porto. Situated on the north-western coast and built on two hills rising from the banks of the Douro river (river of gold) that snakes its way through the city, Porto is the place where the world-famous and much-revered Port wine made from the grapes of Douro valley is aged, bottled and shipped! A tour of the port wine cellars is a must when you’re in Porto.
A pretty mix of medieval beauty and modern architecture, Porto is bursting with history and culture – don’t miss visiting Ribeira, Porto’s oldest neighbourhood and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore its medieval, cobbled streets and tiled facades that still retain an edgy authenticity, as they overlook the pretty rabelos – boats that symbolize the port wine of Porto, bobbing prettily along the Douro river.
3. Endless coastline with award winning beaches
With more than 1700 kms of awe-inspiring coastline, Portugal is blessed with countless pearly white, sandy beaches (or praia in Portuguese), rocky cliffs and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the setting sun! No matter where you go in this country, you would come across superb stretches of sand! Out of these numerous beaches, more than 320 beaches have won the prestigious Blue Flag award indicating their quality, safety and accessibility.
Beaches of the Algarve
The Algarve region is probably the Portugal you would have seen the most on Instagram, depicting the beauty of its sun, sand and sea! The Algarve has more than 130 beaches and has repeatedly been adjudged as “Europe’s Best Beach Destination” by the World Travel Awards. Walk along the multi-hued cliffs at Camilo Beach in Lagos or the iconic cliffs of Ponta da Piedade or the Praia da Rocha near Portimão to witness spectacular natural views! Explore the many secret yet stunning caves and coves in the Algarve; famous ones include hidden caves and beaches of Praia de Benagil and Praia da Corredoura.
Beaches around Lisbon
Even Lisbon has sublime beaches just a stone’s throw away! Okay, we exaggerate – just a short train ride away from Lisbon, lie the luxury beach resorts of Estoril and Cascais. And a 20 minutes’ drive away, across the river Tagus, lie the 20kms long soft sands of Costa da Caparica that is dotted with a series of serene beaches including a nudist beach (Praia do Meco!)
Beaches near Porto
When we talk about beach holidays in Portugal, let’s not forget the gorgeous northern coast. In the charming city of Porto, the beaches are even closer! A mere 10 kms away, to the west of Porto is the glitzy neighbourhood of Foz do Douro. This is where the Douro River finally meets the Atlantic Ocean. The must-visit beaches here include the Praia da Luz and Homem do Leme. These are dotted with restaurants, cafes and bars serving fresh seafood, refreshing cocktails and the legendary port wine!
Beaches on the Portuguese Islands
And don’t even get us started on the islands that are part of Portugal – the star beach in the Madeira archipelago is the golden beach of Porto Santo island while the islands of Azores are blessed with black, volcanic sandy beaches.
Also read: 5 best places to visit in Portugal
4. Portugal’s food is insanely delicious
Portuguese food is as varied, rich and heavenly as its beaches and the Portuguese take their food quite seriously! When in Portugal, get prepared to actually taste the sea. Seafood caught from the extensive Atlantic coast, can’t get fresher than this and comes in all delicious combinations possible. There’s bacalhau (Portuguese for cod fish, that can be made in a thousand different ways!)
It’s difficult to pinpoint on what makes the Portuguese cuisine so flavourful. Is it the highly acclaimed, fresh seafood or the traditional copper steamer vessel, Cataplana, used to cook the Portuguese delicacies? Or is it the “liquid gold” of Portugal – its olive oil (enhanced by the Mediterranean climate) that’s an essential ingredient in every dish or is it the superb range of artisan cheese? It could be melt-in-your-mouth Portuguese sweets like the pastel de nata (egg custard tart). Or maybe it is the sheer mastery of the talented chefs of Portugal that makes the Portuguese cuisine so heavenly!
For all we know, it has to be the perfect combination of all these, with a dash of the Portuguese warmth & hospitality, that has elevated its gastronomy to the highest levels, making Portuguese food one of the best-kept secrets of Europe!
We could also give some credit to the Portuguese maritime navigators and explorers. They ventured into exotic locations like Japan and Goa (India) in Asia as well as African and South American lands. And brought back with them new spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables that enhanced and enriched the local cuisine leading to unique flavours not found elsewhere in Europe!
5. Portugal offers a heady selection of award-winning wines
One of the best ways to discover the lush landscape and cultural heritage of Portugal is to go on a wine tour, sampling some of the finest wines! And we’re not talking only about the world-famous Port Wine that comes from the celebrated Douro river valley! Move further up North to Portugal’s mesmerizing Minho region and sample the young and crisp wines of Vinho Verde, that are best paired with salads, fish, vegetable dishes.
You can take the Alentejo wine route towards the hot southern plains of the Alentejo region. Enjoy its warm and generous red wines, much like its people. Or head to the Madeira or Pico islands to sample the unique, ocean-minerally tasting wines of these volcanic islands. Portuguese wines have been winning prestigious awards year after year! So don’t be surprised by the excellent quality of wines that are available at very reasonable prices.
Every region of Portugal has a unique wine and vinous story to offer. The taste lies as much in the quality of the soil and air of these vineyards, as in the stories behind them! They say that since the wine culture of Portugal developed independently, the country has many varieties of grapes that are not common elsewhere. So be prepared to be treated to an explosion of delicious tastes as you take wine tours around this charming country!
6. Portugal is the ultimate surf destination
There’s no other coast in the world like Portugal when it comes to surfing. There are so many surf spots packed close to each other! And Portugal’s coast is so varying that it offers the best experiences to everyone – from surfing beginners to professional surfers and for every related water sport – bodyboarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing and paddlesurfing! You can go surfing in Portugal 365 days a year, thanks to the rolling swell and record-breaking waves of the Atlantic Ocean that lash nearly every spot on the Portuguese shore!
From the northernmost tip to the southern coast of Portugal, there’s a perfect surf spot with great breaks every now and then. There are the 30m+ terrifyingly huge waves of Praia do Norte, in Nazaré, favourite haunt of professional surfers. And there are the steady, perfect waves of Carcavelos, Ericeira and Peniche, that are perfect for beginner and intermediate levels. And they’re not only around Lisbon. In the Coimbra district up in the north, the beach break at Cabedelo beach in the city of Figueira da Foz will be lit up with floodlights at night by September 2019, giving surfers a chance to catch the waves even after sun down! Down south, along the western coast of the Algarve region, there are superb surf beaches with the town of Sagres as the surfing capital, gaining reputation as one of the best surfing destinations in Europe!
7. Portugal is one of the most affordable European destinations
As if these six fantastic reasons were not enough, here’s the cherry on the cake; Portugal is one of the cheapest places in Europe to holiday in! Lisbon may be comparatively expensive than the rest of Portugal. It is nevertheless one of the most budget city breaks in western Europe! Especially if you plan your holiday outside of the summer holiday months, a Portugal holiday can be extremely affordable!
Food and drinks are affordable
Portugal’s cuisine and beverages are already famous, but what makes them even more delectable are their affordable prices! Skip the fancy restaurants! Even the most basic cafes and diners in Portugal can rustle up a delicious meal at a fraction of the cost. Relish the iconic Portuguese egg custard tarts – “Pasteis de Nata” and wash them down with a glass of Port. All for less than a few dirhams!
Transport is cheap
Travelling around the cities in Portugal is also super cheap. The public transport is inexpensive and extensive. So there’s no need to spend a fortune on hired cars or even taxis! In fact, you can even take public transport from the Lisbon and Porto airports to your place of stay.
Budget stays are available!
Accommodation options in Portugal are also unusually affordable. You can opt to stay in pensão (family-run inns) instead of hotels, to save money. The three important factors that decide a vacation’s budget are food, transport and accommodation. And these are incredibly cheap in Portugal, making it quite an attractive European holiday destination!
While these may be the top reasons for you to plan a Portugal holiday, there are many little details that add up to make it a charming holiday destination.
- The sun that always sets in the sea.
- The uniquely Portuguese blue and white azelujos tiles that adorn most buildings around Portugal.
- The unbelievable natural beauty of the Portugese archipelago of the Azores.
- The lovely yellow trams that rattle up and down the narrow, hilly streets of Lisbon.
- The pretty white and black mosaic pavement (Calçada Portuguesa) that line the public streets and paths.
- The Livraria Lello in Porto, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world that inspired JK Rowling’s depiction of Hogwards School in her Harry Potter series!
When in Portugal, you would not know where to look, to take in all this beauty!
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