Earlier this year I was lucky enough to cross Portugal off my bucket list. For years, I had been captivated by the laid-back culture, Portuguese cuisine, and sandy coastlines. I felt at home almost instantly in the beautiful cities and even now, I am eager to return and explore. Come with me. Let's discover what makes this country so unique and reasons you should visit Portugal soon.
While you will see your share of tourism in cities like Lisbon and Porto, they never feel overrun by tourists. There are miles of gorgeous unexplored coastline south of Lisbon. The scenic area is dotted with small towns, some so remote that not even local buses have routes. Intrepid travelers will have to rent a car and make their own adventure around the coast. A good travel tip to remember is that Portugal is one of the only countries in Europe that require visitors to have an international driver’s license to drive a rental.
Overall, the effects of tourism are not as extreme as some of its nearby neighbors like France, Spain, and Italy. However, tourism is bound to pick up as more tourists discover how incredible Portugal truly is, which could mean big resorts taking over the coast as well as tourist traps popping up in the cities.
Nestled between the Atlantic and Mediterranean, Portugal has ideal weather. During the winter, the temperature rarely dips below 50 degrees. With such mild winters, it is easy to assume that the summers would have blistering heat. However, summer temperatures range from the high 60’s to low 90’s. The average temperature in Portugal is in the mid-seventies making it the perfect choice for people looking to escape scorching summers or harsh winter chills.
The culture and roots of Portugal is easily visible in the historical monuments, architecture, and traditions, as well as the bond they share as a community.
Portugal has some fantastic cultural festivals that mix sensational folklore, traditional music, and stunning artwork. The people of Portugal are warm and caring with big hearts. They love sharing their culture and helping visitors find their way. You are sure to have a lovely experience.
Lisbon is a city of vast beauty and impressive architecture. Bright red, pale yellow, and light orange buildings line the city streets and narrow alleys of this colorful city. Built on steep hills, the sound of slow clanging of old trolley cars moving throughout the city streets fills the air.
Lisbon is quaint, charming, and filled with old cathedrals and monasteries. It is as if a smaller San Francisco was picked up and placed ever so beautifully in Europe.
Lisbon is also an excellent home base for driving down the coast and taking day trips to majestic castles in Sintra or the beachside town of Cascais.
With so much coastline, it is no surprise that Portugal is a breathtakingly stunning place to visit. The country has miles of sandy beaches, caves, and ancient mountains.
A lot of the land was formed by volcanic activity, which resulted in exquisite dramatic landscape including a coast lined with striking rock and cliff formations. It is easy to stand in awe especially during sunrise or sunsets. The landscape alone is a major reason to visit the country soon.
Awww…..Pastel de Nata. This eggy, custardy tart hybrid is hands down the best food I ate in Portugal, if not one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in Europe. Not overly sweet, this light puff pastry is filled with thick custard. Once I discovered these bite-sized snacks, they became a daily ritual. I am embarrassed to admit how many of these tasty morsels I ate a day but let us just say the number is in the double digits.
Evidently, I am not the only one who finds them irresistible; these little slices of goodness are everywhere in Portugal. The two bakeries that had the best were Manteigaria in Lisbon and Pastelaria Gregório in Sintra. Make sure to treat yourself to a few Pastel de Nata and because they cost less than 50 cents each, you have no excuse.
Wine lovers will truly feel at home when traveling in Portugal. Making wine is one of the country’s oldest traditions, and many wine enthusiasts spend their entire vacation exploring the insanely delicious and high-quality nectar of the vines.
Wine in Portugal is another sad example of how the country is overlooked when compared to some of its neighbors. When talking about European wines, most people think of Italy and France, and even though Portuguese wines often win prestigious awards yearly, many people don’t seem to know them.
While that is quite a shame, now is a good time to explore Portugal's wine country before it gets the international recognition it deserves and skyrockets in popularity.
From the vibrant colors of Pena Palace to the epic view from the Castle of the Moors, Portugal has some amazing castles. Many of them are also amazingly well preserved. A huge benefit of visiting these castles now is simply because Portugal isn’t overrun by tourists. You don’t find huge lines or crowds of tourists fighting for the spot with the best view.
Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors are the most famous castles in the country but make sure to visit Almourol Castle, Castle of Tomar, and Castle of Belver. They are unique, beautiful, and well worth your time.
Every nook and cranny in Portugal seems to share a couple of things in common. First, it feels incredibly authentic; it never feels like locals are going out of their way to bring in tourists.
They are aware that one of best parts of visiting Portugal is exploring the dusty bookshops, sitting down for a meal in a mom and pop restaurant, and visiting the quaint and charming vineyards. It is as if the country is not trying to pretend to be something it is not to bring in hordes of tourists. It is real and unpretentious.
The second reason is that Portugal has an insanely relaxed and friendly atmosphere no matter where you travel. No one seems to be rushing around in a frantic hurry or speeding through the streets to make a meeting. Portugal is one of the most relaxing countries I have ever visited.
Portugal is an absolute must visit and now is the time. Lately, Portugal has had some incredible deals on airfare. It is possible to get round-trip flights from major hubs like New York for between $400-$600.
Portugal has quickly become one of my favorite countries in Europe. This list is only 10 of the many reasons I would plan a trip to Portugal now.
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Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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