Europe’s slender, sun-kissed secret
From sun-kissed Algarve beaches to the bustling nightlife of Lisbon, Portugal is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. This slender country, clinging to the western fringes of Europe, has given the world fine wines, famous explorers and the footballing heritage of Eusebio and Luis Figo. Sharing the Iberian Peninsula, and many cultural similarities, with neighbouring Spain, Portugal is a country of history and modernity. Farmers still tend their land in time-honoured tradition and market places are festooned with flowers and seasonal produce but Portugal possesses Europe’s longest bridge, the Vasco de Gama, and is in the world’s top twenty for quality of life. No wonder so many visitors consider returning and retiring here. With its own brand of quirky gothic architecture, one of the world’s most famous after-dinner drinks and an average of ten hours of sunshine each summer’s day, Portugal rates highly in the holiday rankings.
Portugal is the warmest country in the Europe and attracts scores of visitors for its laid back Mediterranean atmosphere and heritage. It is less flashy than Spain but satisfyingly similar in terms of cuisine, culture and atmosphere. Island idylls, the Azores and Madeira, offer an exotic taste of Portuguese life closer to Africa.
When to Go?
Mainland Portugal’s temperate climate makes it the perfect holiday destination from spring to autumn. Avoid the packed beaches in summer and book cheaper flights in late spring and autumn. Cool but sometimes wet in winter, sun baked in summer, Portugal is split by the mighty Tagus river. Summer temperatures in the south hover in the high 20s but the mountainous north is cooler. Island hotspots Madeira and the Azores rarely fall below 20°C.
How to get there?
Portugal’s main international airports include Lisbon, Faro, Porto, Funchal (Madeira), and Ponta Delgada (Azores). You can fly from London to Lisbon in a little over two hours. Faro, the capital of the Algarve, can be reached from more than nine departure points across the UK in less than three hours. Flights to the tropical archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira clock in at just less than four hours.
Sun, sea and sensual pleasures dominate a Portuguese holiday. Bask in the luminous light which caresses the 200km stretch of beaches on the Algarve. Catch a landmark yellow tram to Lisbon’s Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see what sums up Portugal's unique Manueline gothic architecture. Visit the banana plantations and primeval forests of Madeira or raise a glass of Port to the winemakers of the Douro region. Drink in the pleasures of the Alentejo region, home to Europe’s largest artificial lake and vineyards producing the acclaimed Vinho Verde, or marvel at the snow-capped Mount Pico in the sunny Azores.