Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Southwestern Europe. The ancient monarchy is a spectacular region of impressive, small towns surrounded by high walls, with historic castles built high on the hills. Although Portugal is famous for its maritime history, it's a favorite European destination since it's easy to travel through most of the country in a few days. Portugal is renowned for its friendly people, sophisticated clubs, and contemporary architecture.
The Portuguese coast, the peaceful beaches of the Algarve, winding rivers of the interior, and elegant wine estates are all attractions that draw visitors from around the world. The Portuguese coast, the peaceful beaches of the Algarve, winding rivers of the interior, and elegant wine estates are all attractions that draw visitors from around the world. The mountainous border with Spain, rolling, green hills and valleys, vineyards, and quaint villages with cobblestone streets all invite visitors to explore the stunning countryside.
The Best Places to Stay
When it comes to places to stay, some of Portugal's top destinations are:
The castles in Portugal are spectacular. One of the most exciting experiences is to book a tour of these historic fortresses. During the 1940s, hotels or "Pousadas" were built in the style of traditional Portuguese buildings. A decade later, pousadas expanded to Portugal's historic castles. One of the most exciting experiences of a trip to Portugal is to book accommodations in one of the spectacular castles that include:
- Pousada de Gerês is a chalet that was once a hunting lodge and is in the National Park in the northern part of Portugal.
- Palacio do Freixo is a palace that was built in the 19th-century on the Douro River in Porto.
- Obidos Castle is a restored, 11th-century castle that sits high on a hill in Obidos inside a city that was created to be a fortress.
- Pousada de Crato is a palace, castle, and convent with luxurious rooms, a tower suite with a patio, 20-foot ceilings, thick, stone walls, and massive, canopy beds.
The many castles, fortresses, and monasteries throughout Portugal are in vibrant cities and small, medieval towns and each is unique.
Exciting Activities to Try
Portugal is one of Europe's most diverse tourist destinations. More than 800 kilometers of Atlantic coastline entice visitors who love shallow, warm water. The beaches are among the loveliest in Europe. Here are some of Portugal's most exciting activities.
- Adventure seekers head to the Rio Tamega and Rio Pavia to try white water rafting.
- Exhilarating, guided canyoning tours on Madeira's islands where you can enjoy swimming, climbing, and the breathtaking waterfalls.
- Mountain bikes are available for hire in many stores in the cities. Cycling tours are one of the trending activities. You can customize your itinerary with a self-guided tour.
- Hike the Serra do Geres in the incredible Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês. The Geres Mountains are famous as one of the top destinations in Europe for hikers. Trails are set out for novice and advanced hikers who want to experience the beauty of the vast wilderness.
Sights You Can't Miss
Standing majestically over Tomar, a small town on the river is the Convento do Cristo, a massive castle that was founded in 1160 and where the Knights Templar were headquartered. The ancient castle fascinates visitors with its opulent decor and the mysterious symbolism of the Order of the Knights Templar.
One of the most beautiful and extensive art collections in Europe is housed in the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. More than 4,000 years are spanned in the collection which features Oriental, European, and classical art.
The Bom Jesus do Monte is a famous religious site near Braga. The site features chapels, fountains, and an ornamental, Baroque staircase that zigzags past the chapels that represent the Stations of the Cross. The panoramic view at the top of the stairway is incredible.
The Sintra National Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sintra is one of the loveliest towns in Portugal and features pastel-hued houses and cobblestone streets. The palace dates back to the 14th-century and is richly decorated.
Belem is a suburb of Lisbon and the locale of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. The monastery and church were commissioned by King Manuel I to honor mariner Vasco de Gama.
Another UNESCO site is the Universidade de Coimbra, the oldest university in Portugal. An ornate library was built in 1717 and should be part of your tour. For a fantastic view of the city, climb the clock tower which was constructed during the 18th-century.