A Long List Of Reasons To Visit Portugal
We looked at our most popular travel blog posts for 2018. And were not surprised to find that Portugal and the Azores were at the top of the list. Our 4 weeks in Portugal was one of our all time favourite vacations.
Lisbon and Porto were so different. But each drew us back more than once. When we travelled up the Douro River Valley, we got an idyllic view of wine country. The small towns along the coast offered unique views at local life. And then there was the Azores. Such amazing natural beauty. We only visited 3 of the 9 islands. And we can’t wait to return.
We got to experience so much on our 4 weeks in Portugal. Most people won’t have that long to visit. But this view of Portugal will show you why you need to return again and again.
Great Tourist Spots In Lisbon
We went back to Lisbon three times in one year. There was always something new to discover. We loved to just wander the hills. And enjoy sunshine in the cafes. But there are also a lot of great sites to visit.
Our hotel was high on the hill and it was great to wander down the cobbled Avenida da Liberdade. In the park at the top, there was a great view out over Lisbon. Beautiful old buildings lined the street. And when we reached the waterfront, we enjoyed the open plaza at the Praia do Commercio.
As we wandered the streets of Lisbon, we found so many great high viewpoints. They looked out over the city and the river. It was a great excuse to grab a tram for a ride up. There were elevators in many spots around the city too. And the views were always worth the trip up.
The Belem area of Lisbon was a special treat. The iconic Belem Tower stands close to the Monument of the Discoveries. And if you want elaborate architecture, don’t miss the Jeronimo Monastery.
There were so many great spots to visit in Lisbon. Definitely one of the reasons we loved our 4 weeks in Portugal. We never made it to the stunning Sintra with its colourful palaces. A great reason for us to return.
Relaxing On The Beaches
With so much to do in the big cities of Portugal, we balanced our weeks with beach time to relax. We were delighted when we found out that Cascais and Estoril were a short local train ride away from Lisbon. Miles of sand beaches and small towns lined the shore. This is a great stop if you visit Sintra high above the coast.
When we travelled from our stay in Lisbon to visit in the Algarve, the beach towns of Sesimbra and Setubal were great stopping points. Along the way we also found many other world-class beaches at Portinho da Arrabida, Praia de Arrabida, Praia de Galaphinhos and Praia da Figueirinha. Each was more beautiful than the last.
Most people head to the Algarve for beaches. Located on the south coast of Portugal, the Algarve offered us stunning cliffs with beach coves. And long stretches of beaches too. We only found one place in Portugal we did not like. But you will have to read the blog posts to find out where!
But if you like your beaches and waves a bit wilder, a visit to the Azores will be your choice. Black volcanic beaches are everywhere on the islands. The waves are a beautiful sight to watch. Locals swam in the cold Atlantic waters. And maybe you will too!
When we spent 4 weeks in Portugal, the beaches were a constant draw.
So Much Variety In Things To Do In The Algarve
When we tired of lazy beach days in the Algarve, there was always something interesting to see and do. There were mountain towns around Monchique that provided stunning panoramic views. And the spas will provide a relaxing break.
Fishing villages were a constant source of local views. Long drives along the Atlantic shores found us the surfing beaches. And beautiful lighthouses on the edge of cliffs.
We enjoyed a chance to see a whole field of sand sculptures on a day trip in the Algarve. This is an annual event that is so much fun.
And when we wanted a very unique spot to stay, we spent a few days in a palace in the Algarve. The common rooms were authentic and beautifully restored. But the rooms had every modern convenience.
When we headed to the Algarve for a week, we found so much to see and do. Definitely a great stop on our 4 weeks in Portugal.
Art And Architecture In Porto
We loved the chance to visit Porto and enjoyed the art and architecture we found everywhere. There was the greatest display of colourful Portuguese tile work on buildings and churches. The train station in Porto was an amazing spot to visit for its tile artistry.
If the outside of buildings was beautiful, the inside of the churches left us breathless. Detailed and intricate carving, statues and paintings made most of the churches look like art galleries.
Everywhere we looked we found beautiful art and architecture in Porto. It is one of our favourite stops on our 4 weeks in Portugal.
Explore The Douro River
The Douro River flows right through the centre of Porto. When we stood high on the banks, we got the greatest views of this river city.
A Douro River cruise in Porto got us a great view of the variety in the bridges that cross the river in Porto. There were so many interesting sights on the banks. This is something we definitely recommend.
But many people get on the Douro River in Porto for a longer multi-day cruise up the Douro River. It is a great way to see the Douro River Valley. If you travel into the valley by car or train, you can also do a one day cruise of a small section of the river.
We drove up the Douro River Valley and stayed high in wine country. It was a wonderful way to enjoy the view of the river valley. And explore the wineries and chateaus of the area.
There are so many ways to enjoy the Douro River when you head to Porto. We were glad we stayed in the wine valley on our 4 weeks in Portugal. We were there when the grapes were just starting to form. I can imagine how great it would be to visit at wine harvest time.
Enjoy Smaller Towns
Most people head for the bigger cities when they visit Portugal. But when we drove from Porto to Lisbon, we loved the chance to visit some of the smaller towns.
A stop in the university town of Coimbra showed us a smaller town. We wandered the streets to find the local spots.
And were delighted when we visited Portugal Dos Pequenitos. This was a small amusement area filled with tiny replicas of spots in Portugal. And all of the various spots around the world that Portugal once controlled. While it was set up for children and included a playground, we found it fascinating to see the detail in the replicas of many places we visited in Portugal.
A long stop let us stay within the walls of the town of Obidos. It was a charming small town to enjoy. We walked on the walls of the city and got the greatest view out over the town and the countryside.
Small fishing villages like Nazaré were great day trips. Long sand beaches sat beside small towns with great seafood and interesting sights.
We enjoyed the chance to see some of the smaller towns on our 4 weeks in Portugal. For many, this is one of the reasons to love Portugal. It gave us a chance to really meet the locals. And often, escape the crowds. We were sorry we missed visiting the Alicante area of Portugal. There were some lovely small towns that are on our list for a next visit.
The Amazing Natural Beauty In The Azores
We were teased with amazing images of the Azores before we visited. When we visited the Azores for 10 days, we got to see only 3 of the 9 islands of the Azores. But that was enough to ensure we will go back. Each of the islands were so different. And each lovely in its own right.
These volcanic islands have the greatest natural sights to see. On Sao Miguel, we enjoyed several day trips to visit the calderas and hot springs. When we headed high in the hills, we got the most amazing views.
Pico Island is dominated by Mount Pico. The volcanic beaches are stunning. And the rich volcanic soils are great for wine making.
We stayed on Faial Island and did several tours of this beautiful island. We saw giant green dormant calderas. And rough rock calderas of more recent eruptions. Everywhere we went the scenery was stunning.
Several of the islands offer whale watching. We did our whale watching trip from Sao Miguel. But we also found whale watching on Faial and Pico Islands. The late spring was a great time to catch the migrating whales.
The awesome beauty of the Azores remains one of our top reasons to love Portugal. If you want to escape the cities, this is the place. There are many islands to choose from. From some of the islands, you can do day trips to others. And on every island you will find something just a little different to love. A great choice for our 4 weeks in Portugal.
Don’t Miss Out On Madeira
No discussion about reasons to love Portugal is complete without talking about Madeira. This small island in the North Atlantic may be confused with being part of the Canary Islands. But it is definitely a Portuguese stronghold.
We only got to visit Madeira for one day when we did our trans-Atlantic cruise. But it was our first taste test of what our 4 weeks in Portugal might be like. Beautiful purple Jacaranda trees lined the streets. Hills and valleys drew us from village to village. Stunning panoramic viewpoints showed us the sea.
We loved our short stop in Madeira. It gave us a first view of the reasons to love Portugal. It is an easy flight from southern Europe. So a great getaway spot for many.
Great Variety of Food And Drink
I wrote a blog post or two that talked about the food and drink of Portugal. We ate so well in every place we stayed during our 4 weeks in Portugal.
As seafood fans, we could not get enough. We made special stops for Choco Frito (the best fried cuttlefish) in Setubal. And made sure to try the “perceves” (goose neck clams) when we travelled along the Atlantic shore. I loved the octopus (pulpo) so much that I was sure I would grow and extra arm before we left Portugal.
You cannot visit Portugal without having a custard tart. We tried them in several places to know what we were looking for. But when you visit Lisbon, don’t miss out on a visit to the Pasteis de Belem. This is the place where the infamous Portuguese custard tarts were first made. While it may seem to be a very touristy thing to do, the tarts are delicious.
We loved when we found local specialties. In the Azores we were delighted when we could try the Caldera Stew. Large pots of meat and veggies are cooked for over 4 hours in the caldera steam. Such a great treat.
The port wine in Porto is not to be missed. We tried it at several restaurants. But we really got spoiled when we did a port and chocolate tasting at Graham’s Port Lodge. While port is the most famous wine in Portugal, we found lots of wine to love when we stayed in the Douro River Valley.
We specifically waited for our stay in Obidos, to try the local cherry liqueur Ginga. We loved it served in dark chocolate cups. Or from the cellars of local restaurants that had been making it forever.
I could go on and on about the food and drink of Portugal. It is absolutely one of the reasons to love Portugal.
The People And Hospitality
We could not finish this post without commenting on how much we loved the Portuguese people. In the big cities, most people spoke enough English to be able to have simple conversations. In the small towns, we got by with pointing. The little bit of Portuguese we learned didn’t help much.
But whether no matter how well we could communicate, we found the people to be smiling and helpful. And we were amazed at the love they had for their country. It was not the blind patriotism you find in some countries. But rather a genuine desire to share their country. And an absolute delight when they found out how much we had visited. And how much we loved Portugal.
The great customer service and welcoming people are one of the reasons we loved our 4 weeks in Portugal.
4 Weeks In Portugal Just Was Not Enough
We could keep coming up with more and more reasons to love Portugal. By now, you must know how much we enjoyed Lisbon, Porto, the small towns, beaches and natural beauty of the Azores.
Every spot we visited was so different from the next. But each had so much to love. We spent 4 weeks in Portugal. And it was not enough time. It is a good thing that we are happy to plan a return visit.
Did you love our view of our 4 weeks in Portugal? Did we miss something that we must try on a return visit?
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I love how colorful and bright Portugal is. I have seen sand statues before but nothing like that. I love the surf break too. My surfing buddy spend a month on the coast there and he said it was epic. Maybe dope. I don’t know. He’s way cooler than I am.
Jenn and Ed, We loved how diverse Portugal was. The surfing and wild Atlantic coast was an unexpected delight. We loved to watch the surfers. Not on my adrenalin rush list. Linda
Portugal looks like a fantastic country to visit. Those photos you took of The Algarve shows off how stunning the coastline actually is. With its combination of historic attractions and wonderful scenery, I think I need to visit soon. I love the challenge of travelling through small towns where people don’t speak English as it makes it so much more fun to try to communicate.
Christina, We loved virtually every place we visited in Portugal. Each stop had something new to show us. Loved the bigger cities and the smaller towns. I do hope you get to visit. Portugal is a place we will return to over and over again. Linda
Wow! I totally loved going through your journey of Portugal here and a lot of this brought back some great memories. I agree, four weeks is not enough. And the other thing I like about the country is that Porto and Lisbon are two of my favourite European cities. So much different to other cities in Europe and they have there own culture, vibe and of course, drink 🙂 Love the Port in Porto but also the wine in the valleys nearby.
Danik, I am so glad this post brought back such great memories of Portugal too. It was great reliving our experiences to put the post together. So many great spots. And each so different. I can’t wait to go back. Linda
This brought back great memories of Lisbon, Porto and custard tarts. I haven’t been to Algarve but am drawn to the rock formations and really want to see the field of sand sculptures
Sherianne, I am glad this brought back great memories of Portugal. I hope you get to visit the Algarve one day. We loved the stunning coastal views. The sand castles were amazing. And every year there is a different theme. Linda
I am glad you included Portuguese people as one of the reasons to love Portugal. I haven’t traveled to Portugal yet but I have met many great Portuguese people on my travels. They were super nice and I can’t wait to visit their amazing country. Your post approved the same!
Milijana, We too have met some of the greatest Portuguese people in Portugal and on our travels. A definite reason to visit Portugal. Linda
I totally agree!! Portugal is one of my favorite countries! There’s just so many things to do!! I would live in Libon if there’s a chance!
Trisha, We certainly have a desire to visit Portugal over and over again. It too is one of the countries we might want to live in. Hope we both get to explore this one day. Linda
Loved your photos. Portugal, especially the Algave is on my list, it’s been popping up a lot so I might have to push it closer to the top. 🙂 OMG, Pico Island looks stunning!
Debra, I am glad you loved the Portugal photos. There was just so much to take pics of. The spots along the Algarve were a coast lovers dream. Sand beaches and stunning cliffs. Hope you get to visit. Linda
I would adore spending a full month exploring Portugal! How lucky you were to visit cities and then spend time on the beaches (except that one spot.) The food sounds wonderful of course and I’m a big seafood fan. Love hearing that people are nice – they get so many visitors and must take all that attention in stride.
Elaine, We did love having a full month to explore Portugal. It was amazing how each spot was so different. If you have not yet visited, I do hope you get to see Portugal. One of our all time favourite stops. Linda
Amazing photos! And the architecture is stunning! I don’t which is more impressive, the aged castles or the ephemeral sand creations! Both are amazing feats of engineering and skill. My wife loves seafood and Portuguese tarts! I’m glad you had four weeks to fit all of these amazing adventures in! Thanks for sharing!
Stevo, We did indeed find that there was so many different things to see and do in Portugal. And even with 4 weeks, we did not go everywhere we wanted to. But that just means we get to go back. Linda
Four weeks is definitely not enough in Portugal! There is so much to do and you have put together a great list of things.I could spend a day just eating – especially egg tarts
Nicole, We were amazed at the variety in Portugal. No two spots were really alike. We certainly spent our time taste testing egg tarts! Linda
I spent most of January in Portugal and I agree with you, it was not enough time!! I loved Lisbon, and Porto although was a little rougher around the edges it was still beautiful. And omg the food was all incredible!!
Claire, We actually thought about returning to Portugal this January to see how the winter was. But passed this year. Need to visit at that time of year to see if it is a place we may stay much longer. Linda
4 weeks in Portugal definitely isn’t enough… I moved to Porto from Toronto nearly six years ago and it is STILL not enough! 🙂
If you head this way and want some tips, feel free to get in touch. I’ve visited all 18 districts of the mainland, two islands in the Azores (I got married on São Miguel in 2013), Madeira and Porto Santo. I travel around the country regularly, and I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. There is much to see, and every area has its seasonal delights as well.
I’ve got a growing collection of albums of Portugal here:
Gail, How exciting to be living in Portugal. It is one of the few countries that we have considered moving to. If we ever start to explore seriously, we would definitely want to chat. We will definitely be travelling back to Portugal. And will connect when we do. Linda
You did four weeks…and all I did was 3 days in Algarve, 4 days in Lisbon/Sintra and 3 days in Porto/Braga…and I didn’t have enough time in each. Four weeks I would have been enough to do all the top sights in the country, but after reading this, its defo not enough time! I love Portugal to bits and can’t wait for a return visit.
Danik, Portugal was one of our all time favourite trips. We too want to go back and enjoy the places we missed. And maybe consider this for a move??? Linda
Portugal is so beautiful country. Its on my bucket list. Nearest i could go is Spain… This detailed post on Portugal will surely come handy… But sadly i wouldn’t be able to spend more than 10 days in Portugal so have to fine tune it
Tanayesh, Portugal is a place you will want to go back to more than once. So you can see more on each trip. 10 days will give you enough to know you want to go back! Linda
I totally agree with you four weeks is not enough to visit Portugal. Over the years we have visited the Algarve, Lisbon and Porto as well as Madeira but you have listed some many other great places to visit. We love the food, especially those naughty custard tarts, and the wine. Portugal holds a special place in our hearts.
Jane, Portugal definitely holds a special place in our hearts too. We would love to go back. To see the places we missed. And re-visit favourites. Linda
We went to Portugal for a week in 2012, but we did not spend nearly long enough and ever since I’ve been dying to go back. Lisbon looks absolutely gorgeous. I can’t believe we missed it! I definitely would have taken trams up for the view as well. Algarve looks like a great stop. So full of character! And that tile work in Porto is so impressive. I’ve never seen such a large or detailed work before.
Rhonda, I can see why one shorter visit would not be enough. We loved virtually every stop. And every stop was so different. We know we will go back. I hope you get to go back too. Linda
Portugal is such an amazing country now i know why 4 weeks are not enough here. I had heard about Lisbon only. The architecture and cathedrals of Porto are spectacular. The food looks good too. Would love to try out the caldera stew. The perceves sound interesting.
Pooja, We were so amazed at how much there was to see and do when we visited Portugal. And we never had a bad meal. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda
I traveled to Portugal first time this summer and must admit that it is a fantastic holiday destination with so much on offer. We started with Porto where we loved the more original Portuguese feel vs the one at Algarve. The country has so much to offer from historic places to modern city life of Lisbon which was buzzing with life. We finished our trip with a few relaxing days by the lovely beaches of the Algarve and must say I would want to spend much more time here . I would want to go back and your post only wants me to book a trip back to Portugal soon.
Amar, That is one of the great things we found about Portugal. Each spot we visited was do different than the next. One of our all time favourite spots to travel. Linda
Great post!! I have yet to discover Portugal but it seems like a place where you will many things to do and surely 4 weeks seem surely not enough time to explore all the gems Portugal has to offer. Madeira also seems like a great place to visit. I would love to plan my trip to Portugal soon too.
Daniel, I hope you do get to visit Portugal. Even a short trip to see how much you will want to return. We can’t wait to go back again. Linda
This post gives me so many reasons to visit Portugal! Sometimes I envy you for being retired and able to travel at a slower pace. We are always rushed because we can’t take off more than 3-4 weeks at a time. How I would love to sit on those beaches, take a river cruise, or soak in those hot springs and not have to worry about catching a plane home. Your pictures of the Azores are absolutely stunning! I’m adding the islands to my list too.
Anda, I am glad this post has inspired you to add Portugal to your travel wish list. And the Azores too. We are happy we have the time to enjoy some places for longer times. It balances off our taste test stops cruising. Which send us back for longer trip. Hope you get to visit Portugal. Linda
I can’t blame you that 4-weeks isn’t enough to explore Portugal. I think even for years of staying there, I might not be avail to explore every corners of this beautiful country. Your blog says everything… magnificent!
Blair, We definitely want to head back to Portugal and spend more time. So much to discover. And you’re right, it may take years! Linda
a wonderful place, very friendly people and great food
Portugal is a country I am yet to explore. I like the old tram travel in Lisbon. The beaches in Algarve look inviting. Like in Spain, English seems to work only in big cities. But if the locals are polite and helpful, it’s great! The food and wine look delicious!:-)
Jan, I must admit that Portugal is one of our all time favourite trips. We would definitely go back. I am sure there is more to discover. Linda
Thank you so much for this blog. We have 5 weeks and i am trying so hard to plan it! How many days in each place! If you have any suggestions please advise.
We are actually heading back to Portugal in April and are back at the planning board too. The first decision I think you have to make is whether you are going out to the Azores. If so, that may take 7-14 days of your trip just to get a taster which we would recommend. We love the beach so at least 7-10 days for the Algarve. Porto needs a week if you want to head into the Douro Valley. We drove down from Porto to Lisbon in a few days so picked up the coast. But we missed the interior which is on our plans for our next trip. Lisbon is a gateway into Portugal so pick a few spots for a few days and plan to go back. Hope that helps a little. Email me using the contact form if you have specific questions.
How do you plan all the lodgings? Could you give us some ideas where to stay?
The lodgings depend on length of stay, where in Portugal we stayed, whether we wanted to enjoy the hotel or be out all day travelling and the options available. If you read the detailed posts on each spot we visited in Portugal you can see the accommodation choices we made in each spot. And when we went back this year, we chose totally different spaces to stay. Since we are not travel agents, it is hard to for us to know what you are looking for an provide recommendations for accommodations. We also have elite hotel status with several hotel brands and that does influence our choices.
Great article, thank you! Question for ya… My husband and I are going on a 6 week vacation to Portugal from Feb1-March 15. Flying into Lisbon and out of Porto. Do you have a recommendation as to how you split up that 6 weeks? We will be totally dependent on public transportation.
It really does depend on what you want to see. There are both buses and trains to spots between Porto and Lisbon. I would make sure to head up the Douro Valley. You can go by train. Porto and Lisbon can each handle a week to really enjoy at a slow pace. We did not get north of Porto but would on a return trip. Coimbra was a good stop for a few days. As was Obicos. All of these are covered in detail in separate blog posts. Email me using the Contact form if you have more specific questions.