Portugal

Golden beaches, freshly grilled fish, fairytale palaces, poetry
Portugal’s charm is intoxicating. The country is small in scale but immense in atmosphere; a wide curl of white sand runs alongside the glimmering blue Atlantic, dotted with beaches and fishing villages, places to swim and nap, drink fresh juice, and eat fat grilled mackerel. Further inland, lovely little regions of fairytale palaces and whimsical towns invite you to explore with spontaneity. 

Whether you’re sailing  down the river Duoro, listening to soul music of Fado or drinking rosé in the sunshine on your solo holiday or group tour package, Portugal is precisely where you want to be for a  spell of bliss and beauty.

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Portugal’s charm is intoxicating. The country is small in scale but immense in atmosphere; a wide curl of white sand runs alongside the glimmering blue Atlantic, dotted with beaches and fishing villages, places to swim and nap, drink fresh juice, and eat fat grilled mackerel. Further inland, lovely little regions of fairytale palaces and whimsical towns invite you to explore with spontaneity. 

Whether you’re sailing  down the river Duoro, listening to soul music of Fado or drinking rosé in the sunshine on your solo holiday or group tour package, Portugal is precisely where you want to be for a  spell of bliss and beauty.

Location

Portugal is located on the Iberian Peninsula in the southwestern part of Europe. The Atlantic Ocean borders the country for 800 kilometres on the west and south. The country is bordered in the north and east by Spain. Flights from India to Portugal take an average of 11 hours.

When to go

The best time to visit Portugal depends on your reasons for travelling, rather than the seasons per se. To see the countryside in full bloom, complete with colourful wildflowers and lush foliage, visit the country from April to June. This is also when temperatures are pleasantly warm, making it an ideal time to hit the beach. Travelling to Portugal during fall means milder weather and cheaper Portugal package prices. And during winter, you can still enjoy plenty of sunshine, with less crowds around.

Where to go

Portugal is a country that will surprise and delight you at every turn. This is a land where sunsets turn the sea ablaze with colour, and musicians and buskers make an entire street come alive.  Places to visit in Portugal include the fairy-tale city of Sintra, Porto for a dose of vintage wine-tasting and Lisbon, to explore the heritage and old-world charm of the capital city.
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At a glance

Currency

Euro
Portugal, belonging to the European Union, uses the Euro. At the time of posting, the conversion from to rupees is1 Euro = 76.92 INR.

Language

Portuguese
While Portuguese is naturally the most common language spoken, most locals speak English, as well as Spanish and French.

Weather

Portugal enjoys a subtropical climate, with plenty of sunshine throughout the year, punctuated by spells of rain. During the summer months, temperatures can be quite warm, tempered by pleasant sea breeze from the Atlantic Ocean. Temperatures become milder during fall and winter, but there is an increased chance of rainfall.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Take a walk through Lisbon   

Recommended by The Geeky Explorer

“After living in Lisbon for 10 years, I know pretty much every corner and street of Lisbon by now, and it’s unlike any other European capital.  Although its lively and busy, the rhythm of life is somehow slower. Although it has got a modern vibe, it respects tradition. Although it is visited by an ever increasing number of tourists, it still boasts tons of character and uniqueness.”


Bruno shares travel stories, tips, and advice on The Geeky Explorer. He has been featured on many travel sites including The Lonely Planet, and Expedia, and been an ambassador for companies such as SkyScanner and SafetyWing.

Visit Porto, the Venice of Portugal   

Recommended by The Common Wanderer

"Porto is a wonderful little city, made for the curious traveller seeking a new European destination that isn't overrun with tourists...It satisfied our Vitamin D cravings and bathed us in glorious sunshine for the entire duration of our stay. But it wasn't just the winter sun that made our time in the little town along the River Douro so wonderful. Nope, it was the food, the Port, the architecture, the history, and the most brilliant sunsets.”

Mark and Miranda are an Australian couple who have explored over 30 countries together. Through travel and adventure narratives, in-depth guides, interviews, and travel tips, they aim to inspire others to travel to destinations around the world.

Spend a palace packed day in Sintra   

Recommended by Find Us Lost

“Sintra is an easy day trip from Lisbon and neighboring towns like Cascais. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, filled with castles, palaces, and beautiful views of the surrounding area. I’ve visited the region twice now and still have the urge to go back and explore. If you’re planning a trip to Portugal, visiting Sintra is a must!”

Selena and Jacob are travellers and bloggers who share a blend of travel photos, videos and guides to inspire and inform travellers.

Stand at the Cabo da Roca   

Recommended by The Occasional Traveller

“Cabo Da Roca, aka Cape Roca, [is] the western most point of Europe, thus making it the western most point of the entire Eurasian continent...one of the most amazing views clifftop sea views I have ever set my sights upon. The blue waters of the Atlantic stretch endlessly into the horizon.”

Jaclynn Seah is a Singaporean woman who loves to travel, and who, through her travel blog, aims to remind others to travel more. Her work has been featured on The Culture Trip, Yahoo Travel Inspirations, NTUC Income and Turkish Airlines Skylife amongst many others.

Explore the Azores   

Recommended by The Intrepid Guide

“Part of Portugal, the Azores is an archipelago that boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes, flora, and marine life in the world. Countless dramatic waterfalls, lush green pastures, empty winding roads lined with hydrangeas, and lakes nestled in volcanic craters kilometres wide, are just some of its highlights.”

Michelle is the author and founder of The Intrepid Guide, a hub for travellers and language learners with over 200,000 monthly readers.

Incredible places to visit in Portugal

Lisbon

Portugal’s capital is Lisbon. With white-domed cathedrals, hidden alleys and cinematic landscapes, Lisbon is a lovely, little city that is welcoming, upbeat, and has something for every kind of traveler.

Tower of Belem

The Tower of Belem was built on the northern bank of the Tagus river to defend the city. It has now been transformed into a lighthouse. Spread over five floors, the ground floor is the most noteworthy with 16 windows and cannons.  Keep an eye out for a stone carving of a rhinoceros, which was inspired by the first-ever Indian rhinoceros to set foot on European soil since Roman times.
Pro tip: The most famous pastry shop in Lisbon is in the neighbourhood so definitely stop by to try their Pastel de Belem, creamy, flaky custard tarts served warm with cinnamon.

Jerónimos Monastery

The Church of the Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built to mark Vasco da Gama's discovery of a route to India. As you walk around the building,  you’ll see symbols of sea voyages and tropical fruit in the sand-coloured limestone walls and columns. Inside, you’ll be able to see a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci and visit the final resting place of Vasco da Gama as well. 

Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto is famous for its bohemian vibe and nightlife, so expect to find it crowded by travellers and locals alike. Walk around this charming neighborhood to stumble upon little restaurants, bookstalls, art galleries, boutique shops, and lots of bars. You will also find some of the best fado houses in Lisbon in Bairro Alto.

Casino Estoril

Casino Estoril has a history that dates back to the Second World War when it was used as a gathering place for rebels and spies, and later became the inspiration for ‘Casino Royale’, the James Bond 007 novel. It is among the largest functioning casinos in Europe. Try your hand at roulette or baccarat; gambling never felt so glamorous.

Cascais

Your Portugal trip package is incomplete without a trip to this delightful and sophisticated fishing town located on the coast of Lisbon. Spend a lazy day at the marina, surf on the Atlantic Ocean waves or walk around town exploring 19th century architecture. This town has a distinct old-world charm that you’ll greatly enjoy.

Sintra

Sintra, with its stately castles, whimsical pink and yellow palaces and exotic gardens is straight out of a fairytale. It seems fitting then that this is where Hans Christian Anderson one lived. Lord Byron during his time here called it his "glorious Eden"

Sintra National Palace

Sintra National Palace is located right in the heart of the town. It boasts a blend of various architectural styles - medieval, gothic, renaissance and romantic - which makes every facade and room an intriguing one to explore. The rooms inside are lavishly decorated, with wall-to-wall colourful tiles, each with its own colourful story too. Do stop by the elaborate kitchens which are a trademark of the 15th century.

Castle of the Moors

Standing on one of the highest points above the town of Sintra, the Castle of the Moors is a sight impossible to miss. Walk along the former battlements to admire the incredible views - on a sunny day you can look out at the countryside, Pena Palace, all the way out to the coast. There are also small museums and planted areas dotted around the area for you to explore.

Cabo da Roca

Desolate and rugged, a trip to the cliff of Cabo da Roca is like visiting the lookout point at the world. It is situated at just 140 metres above the Atlantic Ocean with white frothy waves raging below at the base of the cliff. Here, you can climb to the top of Portugal’s oldest lighthouse. Feel the cool wind whisper around your ears as you look out at the sun set over the waters.

Chalet and garden of the Countess of Edla

This very pretty chalet can be found inside the Park of Pena. It was built by King Ferdinand II for his second wife, Countess of Edla. The chalet is decorated with mural paintings, decorative tiles and interestingly, lots of cork. The garden outside has plants from all over the world, making for a perfectly romantic setting. Travellers with partners will want to stop by.

Palacio Da Pena

This former summer residence of the Portuguese royal family is a hodgepodge of bright yellows, pinks, and lavender towers and turrets, and looks as if it escaped out of the pages of ‘Alice in Wonderland'. Decorative sculptures and mythic statues mark the palace grounds. It is one of the best places to visit when in Portugal.

Porto

Porto is Portugal’s most creative city. Narrow alleys running along the Douro River, pastel-painted houses, art deco villas and baroque churches embedded with vibrant azulejos (hand-painted ceramic tiles) make it a beautiful city to explore too.  You’ll need at least two days to fully appreciate all the highlights of the city, so it is recommended to pencil in time in Porto when making your Portugal travel holiday plans.

Igreja de São Francisco

Gold, gold, everywhere! Don’t be fooled by the church’s modest exterior; inside, it is covered by intricate gold carvings; indeed legend has it that the church is decorated with over 300 kilos of gold dust! After the glimmer fades from your eyes, head to the catacombs below the church’s interior chapels, where Franciscan monks are buried as were Porto's wealthiest families.

Torre dos Clérigos

When booking your Portugal travel package, make sure the highest tower in Porto does not get left off the list. The Clérigos Tower rises to 76 metres in height. You’re rewarded with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean after you climb the 240 odd spiral stone stairs to the belfry. Spend some time admiring the panorama of the city dotted with colourful houses along the coastline.

The Crystal Palace gardens

Most Portugal honeymoon packages will feature a visit to the Crystal Palace gardens, which offer a pleasant break from the city’s buzz. Visit the Port Wine Museum located inside the park or leisurely stroll around the Porto Romantic Museum.

São Bento train station

Decorated with azulejos depicting Portugal’s history, every wall of the Sao Bento Train Station has a story to tell. One of the best things to do in Portugal is to spend some time admiring the main hall while you wait for a train at the station. It is located right in the heart of the city.

Lello bookstore

A walk through the doors of the Lello Bookstore will lead you to one of the most beautiful and ornate libraries in the world. Inside, you’ll find exquisite carved wood ceilings, grand red staircases and a signature stained-glass ceiling. It is believed that JK Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book inside this library! You’ll find that the Lello bookstore doesn’t often feature in Portugal group travel packages, so make sure you schedule in some time to visit it! You need to buy additional tickets to enter the bookstore - something to keep in mind.

Coimbra

Coimbra, located in central Portugal, is  a mix of history and hip, making it one of the most enthralling destinations in the country.  It’s filled with a youthful and lively energy (the city houses one of the world’s oldest universities), crowded bars, a vivacious nightlife, and the melodies of Fado, making it an essential part of any Portugal trip package.

Biblioteca Joanina

This is without a doubt, one of the most magnificent libraries in the world. There are more than 200,000 books, printed and handwritten, including volumes about medicine, geography, and humanistic studies dating from the 16th century, in the library’s three floors. The floors are made of
white, rose and grey marble tiles, the balconies gilded with ornate carvings, and on the ceiling, there is a trompe l’oeil paintings that is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world.  Admission to the library is regulated (it is inside the University of Coimbra), so if you’d like to visit it, plan ahead.

Sé Velha

Sé Velha was the first cathedral built in Coimbra and stands as a classic example of the magnitude of Romanesque architecture. Is it built of yellow limestone; on warm summer evenings, the light of the setting sun flushes the building a gentle gold. Pay particular attention to the Especiosa Door which has a succession of columned arches, each delicately ornamented.

Take in a Fado show

Any trips to Portugal are incomplete without a live Fado performance. There’s nothing quite like the beautiful, heartfelt melancholy music of Fado – a genre born in Lisbon - accompanied by delicate guitar.

University of Coimbra

Founded in 1290, the University of Coimbra is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site standing tall in the heart of the city. It’s easy to lose track of time when exploring it; the 16th century Tower offers a panoramic view of the city and over the river Mondego (it takes 180 steps to reach the top); you can watch students hurry to their classes if you sit in the Paço das Escolas courtyard, and imagine them graduating in the ceremonial hall- Sala dos Capelos. Most Portugal holiday deals offer guided Portugal tours of the University of Coimbra. 

Protip: if you’re in Coimbra during the ceremonial Queima das Fitas: Burning of the Ribbons, join in the fun. There’s a parade, a traditional “blessing of the academic folders” ceremony, concerts, and of course, a burning of ribbons to mark graduation. It’s one of the liveliest events in Portugal!

Chapel of Sao Miguel

Located inside the main university building, the Chapel is a hub for religious ceremonies and concerts for people belonging to the academic community. A brightly painted vibrant ceiling and lavish Portuguese tiles on the walls decorate the interiors. Do not miss seeing the 18th century wood organ that has almost 2000 pipes!

Aveiro

Aveiro is located on Portugal’s west coast, alongside the Ria de Aveiro lagoon, and is just an hour and a half hour’s drive from Porto. It is Portugal’s canal-city, called 'The Venice of Portugal’ thanks to its system of waterways and quirky moliceiros boats that remind travellers of the Italian city. Aveiro is also known for its Nouveau architecture, yummy fish delicacies, and ovos moles (sweet eggs).

Costa Nova

Luckily for you, Costa Nova is often featured in most Portugal holiday packages. Initially just a fishermen’s community, it has evolved into a much-photographed summer destination thanks to the town's famous cheerful and colourful striped wooden houses. Life here keeps in pace with the tides, so in summer, you can enjoy leisurely days spent walking along the seashore or go windsurfing in the calm, blue waters. And definitely eat a lot of seafood; the area is known for codfish and eel stew.

Monastery of Jesus

The Monastery of Jesus is one of the most important historical sites in the area. Carvings made of gilded wood and an ornate ceiling makes for its most noteworthy features. Also known as the St Joana Convent in Aveiro, this is also where the tomb of Infanta Joana is housed. Make a brief stop at the Renaissance cloisters which date back to the 15th century.

Treat yourself to a salt spa

Aveiro is surrounded by salt flats. The Troncalhada Eco-museum salt pans are one of the few that still operate in the area. You can actually see workers scraping salt with their tools into a bucket and adding it into a small pyramid shaped mound. Afterwards, head straight to a salt spa.

Aveiro Museum

The museum is one of the most visited sites in Aveiro, and is located inside the old Convent of Jesus.  The building was the former residence of the Princess Santa Joana turned Saint, which now also houses her tomb. The biggest surprise you’ll get is when you step into the chapel - it’s completely tricked out in gold leaf that shines. You’ll also be able to see azulejos (hand-painted Portuguese tiles) that narrate events from the life of the princess. And in the museum, you can examine a  fine collection of paintings, sculptures and exquisite jewels.

Take a moliceiro ride

Moliceiros are moon-shaped gondolas that are used to ferry travellers and across the waterways of Aveiro. They’re painted in bright, cheerful colours and often with pop-culture references, famous figures and even jokes that poke fun at everyday situations! 

Top things to do & experience in Portugal

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