This relatively small European country can sometimes be overlooked by tourists who are more allured by the reputations of France, Spain, or Italy.
However, it would be a mistake for any visitor to Europe to pass over Portugal, as it offers one of the most varied and fabulous traveling experiences on the continent.
Not only does Portugal have some of the most stunning coastlines, complete with globally renowned beaches, but it also has a rich food culture, unbelievable vineyards, and a capital city that will take your breath away.
You will rarely find a city that truly checks every box when it comes to a traveler’s checklist. Yet Lisbon achieves this.
For one, the climate is ideal. The typical Mediterranean weather with high temperatures and an abundance of sunshine year-round encourages visitors to spend hours outside, drinking coffee in the beautiful cafes, or lounging on the stunning beaches.
Lisbon is also consistently rated as one of the most liberal cities in the world, making tourists feel more accepted and at ease upon their arrival.
Its laid-back attitude and accepting nature is infectious.
Portugal’s capital is also one of the safest cities to visit and live in, with a reassuringly low crime rate for a city of its size.
The culture and history available to explore in Lisbon is also a great draw for visitors, as Lisbon is the second oldest capital in Europe (the first being Athens). Its combination of artistic heritage, classical architecture, and historical significance, make it the ideal city if you enjoy the more cultural aspects of a trip abroad.
If all this wasn’t enough, visiting Lisbon is also a remarkably good value, especially when compared to the other large capitals of Europe, such as London, Berlin or Paris.
Food and Wine
Portugal has one of the most varied diets in Europe, comprising delicious seafood, BBQ, amazing cheeses, and desserts.
One of the celebrated specialties of Portugal is its iconic dish of Bacalhau à Brás. This is a cod dish made with olives, cheese, potatoes, and just a touch of saffron. It is spectacular comfort food and something not to be missed. This rather salty dish goes excellently with a creamy and tropical white wine from the Dão region of Portugal.
Away from the coastlines, some Portuguese especially in the north of the country, prefer Wild Boar Stew, which again is a hearty meal that will leave diners mightily satisfied.
To accompany this rather heavy fare, it is recommended that diners choose a wine from the Douro Valley. Wines from this specific region are bold, rich, and robustly flavored.
If you are a cheese lover, then you shall not be disappointed either, as Portugal has a glorious range of excellent cheeses. One of the most talked-about is the Queijo da Serra, made in the mountains of Serra da Estrela.
Finally, a trip to Portugal would not be complete without discovering the country’s most famous desert – the Pastel de Nata. These can be found almost anywhere in Portugal and are small egg-custard tarts in filo dough, sprinkled with a hint of cinnamon and sugar. Best served hot and with a black coffee.
Beaches and Coastline
Portugal as you probably know has some of the prettiest beaches in all of Europe. Portugal has approximately 1,100 miles of coastline, much of which has been developed for the benefit of tourists.
Whether you are situated on the county’s south-facing Algarve coastline or looking out into the Atlantic ocean from the famous Praia da Comporta, Portugal’s soft sand beaches and turquoise waters are a gentle medicine for the weary traveler.
What you want from your beach experience should inform your decision as to which area you would like to visit. Some, like Nazaré in Ribatejo, are perfect for surfers looking for exciting waves. Others, such as the Praia de Odeceixeare are more relaxing and offer comfortable accommodation in sleepy villages.
Then again, if it is nature your heart desires, then you should look to the country’s enormous Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina national park.
Portugal as you will appreciate by now has a lot to offer. Its people are kind, its food is superb and its beaches are plentiful and exceptional. Book your trip now to explore the gem of the Iberian Peninsula.
Image by Pedro Santos