SPAIN has always been a favourite for Irish travellers — and with good reason. But part of the Iberian peninsula also belongs to Portugal, a neighbouring country often overlooked in favour of its popular Spanish popular sister.
Although Portugal is slowly emerging as a holiday hotspot, you may still find parts of the country tourist-free, and it’s extremely affordable for those on a budget. Plus, Portugal has everything a holiday-maker could ever dream of, like sandy beaches, hiking trails, cultural landmarks, cities full of art, architecture, lively nightlife, exotic islands, hidden villages, night sky starlight reserves, surfing spots and even pilgrimage routes.
Here are four good reasons why Portugal why needs to be on your shortlist of post-pandemic vacation destinations.
1. It’s affordable
Portugal is one of western Europe’s most affordable destinations. You can enjoy a nice meal out for a low price, dining on fresh seafood with wine for €12 a person (or less) in many spots within the country. Beer and wine prices are just a few euros per pint/glass, and you can easily. In most cases, you’ll pay much less for a night in a fancy hotel in Portugal than you would for a hotel of the same standard in other European countries such Germany, France or Scotland., or, indeed Ireland.
2. The variety of landscapes
Looking for that perfect summer beach trip? Portugal’s western and southern coast features some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Those wanting to combine a Lisbon city break with beach time are in luck as there are plenty of pristine beaches to choose from around the capital city, such as Cascais, Guincho or Ribeira do Cavalo (this one is reachable only by boat or hiking).
The southern Algarve coast features golden sand beach after beach, separated only by towering sea cliffs. Even northern cities like Porto have sandy beaches. And Portugal also has some of the best surfing spots in Europe, such as Peniche and Nazaré.
If you prefer shady woods or cooler mountains to sunny sands, you’re in luck. Portugal’s highest mountain range, the Serra do Estrela, features summer hiking, walking, kayaking and winter skiing. The Serra da Lousã range is home to the famous schist villages, protected tiny towns where all the buildings are made from a unique type of slate rock.
For those who are in the mood for a pilgrimage, Portugal has its own version of Spain’s of Camino de Santiago: Camino Portugués, or the Portuguese Way. And those who prefer a seaside pilgrimage can do the Portugues coastal walk, while religious devotees can hike to the sacred town of Fátima — the place where the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to children in 1917.
3. Delicious wine
The most popular wine region in Portugal is the Douro Valley. Considered a Unesco World Heritage Site, the region weaves around the Douro river, covered with hilly, terraced vines and sprawling historical quintas (wine estates). Visitors heading to Porto will And the Douro Valley an easy add-on to their city break.
Minho, also near Porto, is another special wine region known for producing Portugal’s delicious Vinho Verde, or green wine. But it’s actually not green, just a young wine, and some varieties feature a light sparkle.
One of the most underrated wine regions in Portugal is Alentejo, a short drive from both Lisbon and the Algarve coast. The hot, dry region produces mainly red wines.
For those that don’t want to stray too far from the capital, there are plenty of spots just north of Lisbon along the coast. The most famous are the Alenquer and Bucelas areas.
4. The cityscapes: Lisbon and Porto
Although we’ve briefy touched on Lisbon and Porto, we haven’t really explained what makes each of the cities so special — besides the fact that they’re some of Europe’s most affordable areas. Lisbon’s varying neighbourhoods offer ample opportunities for exploring. You can wander the cobbled hills of the Alfama area, stepping back in time to explore the iconic Sao Jorge castle.
Just a few minutes on the famous 28 tram will take you down to the Baixa neighbourhood, where you can dine or sip cocktails in chic restaurants and hip bars. Further aAeld, the Belem area’s sea breeze will cool you down while you discover the 16th-century Belem Tower overlooking the ocean.
And don’t forget to indulge in the famous Portuguese tart pastries at the famous Antiga Confeitaria de Belém — they produce over 20,000 per day!