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Introducing Portugal

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Beach House © fotografar

Portugal Travel Guide

A sun-soaked land on the Iberian peninsular with plenty to offer to both short- and long-term visitors, Portugal's great attraction is its gorgeous coastline, and in particular, the southern region of the Algarve, where an array of top-class beach resorts (once sleepy fishing villages) provide luxurious ocean-side accommodation. The region's year-round fine climate, and its easy accessibility (several low-cost European carriers provide direct cheap flights to the Algarve), mean that it is a hugely popular winter sun vacation destination, as well as the perfect place for a weekend getaway when the daily grind of city-life becomes too much. Seaside towns like Albufeira and Lagos are home to some of the best beach resorts in the Algarve, providing a heady mixture of sheltered beaches, outstanding natural scenery and high-quality lodgings.

There is far more to Portgual than its beaches, however. As anyone who has ever set foot in Lisbon's historic Alfama district, or travelled to the medieval town of Evora will tell you, the country is home to some breathtaking architecture, and some true cultural treasures. Notable tourist sights in Lisbon include the Jeronimos Monastery, a prime example of Manueline architecture; the iconic Monument to the Discoveries; and the most-photographed building in all of Portugal, the Tower of Belem.

This geographically varied country also offers skiing opportunities at the Vodafone Ski Resort in the Serra Estrela Mountains. This craggy, forested mountain range is also a great area for walking and hiking trails, and is the place to go for those craving the pampering of a spa resort holiday in Portugal.

Best time to visit Portugal

Portugal has a typically Mediterranean climate, characterised by hot, dry summers, and cool, wet winters. The southern coastal region of the Algarve is more temperate than inland regions. The best time to visit Portugal is during spring and autumn, when the weather is warm and fine, and there aren't too many tourists around. However, summer is the high season, and is probably when the ocean is at its most appealing; while in winter, airfares and accommodation prices are much lower (a bonus for budget-conscious travellers). Read more on Portugal's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Portugal

-The Azores is a remote collection of nine gorgeous islands that have (thus far) been spared from the worst effects of overdevelopment and mass tourism.

-The Jeronimos Monastery in downtown Lisbon is one of the world's best examples of Manueline architecture.

-The Costa do Estoril, stretching west from Lisbon, is an area characterised by verdant hills rolling toward Blue Flag coastal beaches.

-Evora, a quaint medieval town boasting a wealth of historical sites, is fast becoming Portugal's new tourist hotspot. Read more about Portugal Attractions.

What to do in Portugal

-Fly directly to the Algarve, and waste no time staking your spot on one of the region's magnificent sandy beaches.

-Jump on Electrico 28, and enjoy a historic tram ride through Lisbon's most interesting neighbourhoods.

-Take a winter sun vacation to Loule and join in the colourful Carnival celebrations.

-Take to the streets of Lisbon's Alfama area after dark, and enjoy some local cuisine and live music at one of the city's famous Fado bars.

Holiday resorts in Portugal

Portugal has a number of popular resorts for sun-seekers looking for the perfect beach holiday. Ranging from lively nightlife to secluded and remote, whether party central or family-friendly, there is a place for everyone in Portugal. Find your perfect Portugal holiday resort here.

Getting to Portugal

Flights to Portugal are available from a wide range of airports in the UK and USA. Several low-cost European carriers offer direct cheap flights to the Algarve region's Faro Airport from UK destinations, while from the USA it is possible to find direct cheap flights to Lisbon or the Azores. Connections within Portugal are plentiful and affordable. Get more information on Airports in Portugal.

Read

Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago and The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler.

Watch

Belle Epoque (1992) and Lisbon Story (1994).

Eat

Piri-piri chicken (especially from Guia), and salted cod (bacalhau).

Drink

Red wine, port from Porto, and try the regional speciality vinho verde, a very crisp green wine that goes excellently with fish and seafood dishes.

What to buy

Fado music CDs, iconic dolls from the Nazare region, and local Portuguese fashion, which, although not widely known, is often chic and trendy.

What to pack

Pack plenty of sunscreen for a holiday in Portugal, as well as some after-sun lotion, which can soothe the worst effects of spending too much time out on the beach.

What's on in Portugal

Lisbon Carnival (February) is a festive, colourful celebration that draws thousands of visitors each year. The well-attended Estoril Open (April to May) is one of the highlights of the international clay-court tennis circuit. Classical music enthusiasts will delight in the Great Orchestras of the World concert series (November to April), held in Lisbon's famed hall, the Coliseu dos Recreios. More information on Portugal Events.

Did you know?

-Lisbon's Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe.

-Portugal's University of Coimbra was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities in Europe.

-In 2007, Portugal's national rugby team became the first all-amateur team to ever qualify for the Rugby World Cup.

A final word

Whether you choose to luxuriate on one of its golden beaches, or head inland and do a little exploring of the country, you are bound to have a rich and rewarding experience travelling through Portugal.

Become our Portugal Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Portugal travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Portugal or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.