Picturesque Portugal shares the Iberian Peninsula with Spain and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. The country's compact size makes it easy for visitors to uncover all the beauty and charm that it possesses. Popular for sandy beaches, friendly natives, delicious cuisine, exciting nightlife and quaint villages, Portugal is only recently being rediscovered as a vacation destination after having been long overlooked. Portugal represents both modern and traditional Europe evident when you see chic, sophisticated high-rise resorts lining the coast, just a few short miles away from undeveloped medieval villages.
With its mild climate, 3000 hours of sunshine per year and 850 kms of splendid beaches bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is the perfect holiday destination all year round.
This is a country that has the oldest borders in Europe, with an exceptional range of different landscapes just a short distance away, lots of leisure activities and a unique cultural heritage, where tradition and modernity blend together in perfect harmony. Its superb cuisine, fine wines and hospitable people make this a tourist paradise of the highest quality.
Situated in the extreme south-west of Europe, just a few hours from any of the other European capitals, Portugal attracts visitors from all over the world.
Come and discover the charms of this country too.Portugal is situated at the south-west point of Europe and also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Mainland Portugal occupies an area of 88,889 km2. It is 218 km wide and 561 km long. It has 832 km of Atlantic coast and a 1,215 km border with Spain.
The Azores are situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. They have an area of 2,355 km2 and consist of nine islands - São Miguel and Santa Maria in the Eastern Group, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the Central Group and Flores and Corvo in the Western Group. It takes about two hours to get from the Azores to mainland Portugal by plane.
The Madeira Archipelago has an area of 741 km2 and lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 km from the African coast and 1,000 km from the European continent (1½ hours flying time from Lisbon). It consists of the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens islands, which are nature reserves.
The climate in Portugal varies considerably from one region to another and is influenced by the relief, latitude and proximity to the sea, which offers mild winters, especially in the Algarve.
In the Porto e Norte area and Centro region, particularly inland, nearer Spain, the winters are colder, although the temperatures are still mild when compared to the rest of Europe. There is some snowfall. It occurs most in the Serra da Estrela mountains, where we find the highest point in mainland Portugal (1,991 m) and where it is sometimes possible to ski.
The summers are hot and dry, especially in the inland areas (Trás-os-Montes in north-eastern Portugal and Alentejo). Temperatures are slightly lower in the coastal areas, because of the influence of the sea.
There are often warm, sunny days in autumn. Nice weather at the beginning of November is often called "St. Martin’s Summer" as this saint’s day is on 11 November.
The climate in the Azores is influenced by the islands’ latitude and by the Gulf Stream, and temperatures are mild there all year round. The same factors also influence the sea temperature, which is very pleasant both in winter and summer and ideal for nautical sports all year round.
The subtropical characteristics of the weather in the Madeira Archipelago can be explained by its geographical position and mountainous relief. The climate in Madeira is exceptionally mild, with average temperatures varying between 24 ºC in summer and 19 ºC in winter.
The sea temperature is also very pleasant all year round, thanks to the influence of the warm Gulf Stream. It varies between 18 ºC in winter and 22 ºC in summer.
Portugal has a population of about 10 million.
The population density is at its greatest in Lisbon, the capital and its suburbs, where about 1.9 million people live. The second largest city in Portugal is Oporto in the north.
Generally speaking, there are more people living in the country’s coastal regions than in the inland areas.
From a Latin root, Portuguese is spoken by about 250 million people in every continent, and is the 5th most spoken language in the world and the 3rd, if we only consider the European languages.
The Portuguese-speaking countries are scattered all over the world. Portuguese is spoken in Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé e Príncipe), in South America (Brazil) and in Asia, (East Timor, the youngest nation in the world), and it is also the official language in Macao Special Administrative Region of China.
The founding of Lisbon dates back to 12th century BC, making it older than Rome and an important international capital. It was from this seaport that the explorations of Vasco da Gama and others led to Portugal's control of half of the New World. Today it is home to splendid art and maritime museums and a 13th century castle, featuring rare white peacocks and black-necked swans in its garden. Fado is a unique, soulful type of singing you will hear while relaxing in Lisbon's cafes.
Porto is Portugal's second largest city and capital of Portugal's beguiling north. Here you'll see an array of architectural gems from Roman, Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassic and Renaissance eras in this scenic city built into the granite cliffs at the mouth of the river Douro.
Best Times to Visit
In general, the best times to visit and experience as much as possible in Portugal are between March and early June or mid-September and mid-to-late November.
Portugal offers a diverse range of travel experiences that cater to various interests. Here are some notable travel experiences that Portugal is best known for:
- Rich History and Culture: Portugal is a country with a rich historical and cultural heritage. Cities like Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra showcase beautiful architecture, historical landmarks, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Explore medieval castles, charming old towns, and vibrant neighborhoods to immerse yourself in the country's history and culture.
- Beautiful Beaches: Portugal's coastline stretches along the Atlantic Ocean, offering stunning beaches and picturesque coastal landscapes. The Algarve region is particularly famous for its golden sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and crystal-clear waters. From popular beaches like Praia da Rocha and Praia da Marinha to secluded coves, there are plenty of options for beach lovers.
- Port Wine and Gastronomy: Portugal is renowned for its wine production, and Porto is famous for its port wine. Wine enthusiasts can visit the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia to taste and learn about port wine production. Additionally, Portuguese cuisine offers a variety of flavors and specialties, including fresh seafood, pastéis de nata (custard tarts), bacalhau (salted codfish), and hearty stews like cozido à portuguesa.
- Hiking and Natural Beauty: Portugal's diverse landscapes provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The Azores and Madeira Islands offer lush greenery, volcanic landscapes, and stunning hiking trails. The Douro Valley showcases terraced vineyards and scenic river views, while the Peneda-Gerês National Park is perfect for hiking, wildlife spotting, and enjoying natural beauty.
- Fado Music: Fado, a traditional Portuguese music genre, is deeply ingrained in the country's cultural fabric. Lisbon's historic Alfama neighborhood is known for its Fado houses where visitors can listen to melancholic and soulful performances. Experiencing a live Fado performance is a unique cultural immersion.
- Surfing and Water Sports: Portugal's coastline is a popular destination for surfers and water sports enthusiasts. Spots like Nazaré, Peniche, and Ericeira offer excellent waves for surfing, while the coastal areas provide opportunities for kitesurfing, windsurfing, and sailing. Lessons and equipment rentals are available for beginners.
- Historic Villages and Rural Charm: Exploring Portugal's rural areas and historic villages allows visitors to step back in time. The village of Óbidos, with its medieval castle and charming streets, and Monsaraz, a fortified hilltop village with panoramic views, are just a few examples of the country's rural charm.
Important Things to Know:
Passport Requirement: Yes
Visa Requirement: No. Visa not required with stays up to 90 days
Best Time To Travel to This Destination: March to May.
This Destination is Best For: See Above.
Is This a Family-Friendly Destination: Yes
Recommended Vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Measles, Rabies, Chickenpox (Varicella), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Flu (influenza), Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), Polio and Shingles