Portugal has the feeling of a tight knit culture and a manageable size of territory to explore for visitors. Our several adventures here however have revealed it is more like the layers of an onion. The closer you get there are deeper and more varied things to explore. Here’s a regional breakdown of Portugal, every one has its own feeling, terrain and traditions. What can be said overall is that Portugal is a naturally diverse and beautiful country with centuries of tradition and cultural heritage.
Porto and North
The Northern Stretch of Portugal has a distinct feeling from the South. The deep river valleys, cooler climate and artistic infrastructure has a feeling that is more cosmopolitan than laid back. The city of Oporto is full of various types of architecture, artistic engineering and art. Museums, wine trade and culture flow freely. The nearby Douro river, Tras os Montes, Braga and Barcelos are mystical wild places.
Center Lisbon and Tagus Valley
Lisbon is an enchanting town set among beautiful hills and riverbanks. It is no wonder this is the capital landscape with its commanding views, incredible scenery and great culture. I thoroughly enjoyed sipping coffee at the city’s cafe’s and enjoying the egg pastries which you can find everywhere. The country’s most incredible museum, the Jeronimus can be found by the waterfront as well as many good shopping malls and historic churches. No trip to Lisbon is complete without a day trip to Sintra, a marvelous castle town in the wooded hills outside the city.
This vast series of plains and gently rolling hills serves as one of the country’s most fertile areas. I once made the drive through this scenic wonderland and found it to be full of vineyards, forests and plains. There is a high number of Roman and Arabic ruins as well as ancient towns which they built. Evora and Elvas are walled cities with intense charms. The Rota dos Castelos is a remarkable castle highway tour and ancient monasteries which are boutique hotels are stunningly beautiful places to stay. Convent do Espiniero and Pousada Dos Loios were wonderful historic inns.
What is not to love about warm year round temperatures, expansive golf courses, golden sandy beaches and hollowed out cliffs? The journey to Algarve is a great drive from Lisbon packed with scenery the whole way. I went in March which is off season and found luxury hotels, tax free shopping and all sorts of outdoor activities. Be sure and check out the stylish Conrad hotel as well as all the seaside towns you can.
Azores Islands and Madeira Islands
These volcanic beauties were discovered by the famous Portuguese mariners at the start of their world voyages. The wild beauty, high elevations and presence in the depths of the blue ocean are unforgettable. A trip to either island is affordable from the Portuguese mainland, so being in Portugal is the perfect jumping off point to these subtropical islands.