Most of the times travel to Portugal is restricted to the capital city of Lisbon. But this country is a seat of culture and history and the various regions carry those marks. Apart from that Portugal is also home to some of the most fascinating scenery in the world. The best part of visiting Portugal is that it is one of the less traveled countries of Europe.
So if you are willing to escape crowds and enjoy some peaceful vacations then Portugal is the right place to be in. There are still some places which are so less traveled that one gets the feeling of discovering something new.
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Lisbon, or Lisboa as the Portuguese calls it, is the capital of Portugal and the most traveled place in the country. It is also the gateway for a tour of Portugal. This city, situated on the seven hills, also has a river and a coastline at the same time. The city has some majestic Gothic cathedrals, mystic monasteries and museums where one can catch up with the glorious past of Portugal. A never to miss destination is the Lisbon Oceanarium having around 15,000 living species of marine life from around the world. it is part of the Parque Das Nacoes along with other attractions like the riverside cable car, the Vasco da Gama Tower and the Virtual Reality pavilion. There is no dearth of night-time activities in Lisbon. One can drink till dawn and sway to popular music and live bands or visit some of the best restaurants for some typical Portuguese cuisine or if you want, some fine international cuisine. The main hotspots are Bairro Alto, Docas where one can even have a stroll and listen to the traditional Fado, song of sorrow from some local musician.
2. Around Lisbon
Portugal is also the only country in Europe to have beaches on the Atlantic. Cascais region in Lisbon is one great place to not only enjoy the beach but also some museums. A great point to savor the beauty of a great Atlantic sunset is the Costa da Caparica, the longest beach in Europe. Not far from Lisbon is the famous Portuguese Riviera, the Estoril Coast with its fine white sand beaches. Another place that must be included in the itinerary is Sintra. This is a unique place with its own micro-climate, remains of a Moorish castle and some beautiful palaces, mansions and villages. Sintra is steeped in history and there is not a single place here that does not tell a tale.
3. Porto e Norte (North Portugal)
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Like most of Portugal the north region is also a curious mixture of cultures and styles. The Duoro region is a great getaway where one can spend some romantic times in the lap of nature. Porto is the most famous city in the region and is home to the Port wine. See the various stages of making this famous wine. The Ribeira region and its winding lanes, zig-zag staircases and quaint tiles churches is a UNESCO world heritage site and a lovely place to walk along. In the extreme Northeast is the Parque Natural de Montesinho, a great nature reserve with 70,000 hectares of protected landscape. A journey across this northern region of Portugal is a great experience with the roads and railroads going past some of the most vineyards of the region. Braga, the capital of the region, is often called Rome of Portugal. The city is famous for its 300 odd baroque churches including the oldest church in Portugal, the Se Cathedral.
4. South Portugal
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Algarve has a 200 km long shoreline and this is one of Europe’s most visited holiday destinations. The pleasant climate that prevails all the year round, the impressive coastline and the excellent golf courses make it the ideal vacation destination for millions. The region is boarded on two sides by the Atlantic Ocean and is separated from the rest of mainland Portugal by low mountains. The region is mostly famous for its world class resorts including the famous Quinta do Lago and the resort town, Vilamoura. Faro is the capital of the region and it ha a rich maritime museum and a great cathedral for the 13th century. The Alentejo region of southern Portugal is one of the most picturesque regions of the country. Springtime is the best time to visit as the wildflowers bloom in abundance. About two-third of the world’s demand for cork is met by this lesser known region of Portugal.
5. Island Regions
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The island regions of Portugal are probably the best known locations on the world tourist map. Ever since the 19th century, Madeira has been one of the most popular tourist spots. The beauty of the place lies in the volcanic landscape and the sub-tropical climate and of course the rich, fruity wine that carries the name of the place, Madeira. The capital town of the region, Funchal, is set in a bay overlooked by green mountains. The attractions are some great architectural examples from the 18th century and the botanical gardens. The neighboring island of Porto Santo is known for its long beach and the house where Christopher Columbus lived. The other great island of attraction of Portugal is Azores, an archipelago off the coast of mainland Portugal. It is a cluster of 9 main islands. The largest of these is the San Miguel which is famous for its crater lakes. Pont a Delgada is the capital of the region and a great place to relish some religious architecture from the 16th century. Take a day tour to the crater lakes and an extinct volcano nearby. The spa resort of Furnas has every visible aspect of geothermal activities, boiling mud, thermal springs, steam vents and all.
Though many travelers give the total country a miss when planning a European vacation, Lisbon sometimes gets a look as a new destination. But much of the beauty of Portugal lies beyond Lisbon. So the next time you look for a less crowded destination which has all the thrills of any Mediterranean vacation, choose Portugal for a new experience.