Travel hot-spot: Portugal
It’s easy to fall in love with Portugal. Cobblestone laneways, pastel hued castles, golden sand, glorious weather and delicious food. Its unassuming charm and off-the-beaten-track destinations make it the perfect spot for a relaxing holiday. Portugal also happens to be one of the more affordable Europe trips, with plenty to do for all budgets.
Where to Go
Portugal is basically one long stretch of coastline, meaning endless surf spots. If you’re just starting out, the surf school at Costa da Caparica is a great place to start, and just 30 minutes from Lisbon. Praia de Carcavelos is another popular spot for beginners, but be sure/best to arrive early to avoid the crowds. Ericeira is a fishing village with a bunch of uncrowded surf beaches to choose from. When you’re feeling peckish after all those hang tens, travel 15minutes to Mafra for a famous pastry. Peniche is home to the famous Supertubos beach, known for powerful waves and hosting the ASP World Tour competitions.
For culture and history
Portugal’s capital is steeped in history, with cobbled laneways, ancient ruins and impressive cathedrals. The bustling city has become one of Europe’s hottest destinations in recent years, but the historical attractions remain the same. Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira is a 17th-century mansion amongst an impressive garden and woods. Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga is Portugal’s answer to the Louvre, and well worth a visit for art lovers.
Famed for the production of Port wine, which is still stored in the cellars along the the river, Port is a relaxed yet vibrant city. Visit the blue and white tiled church Igreja do Carmo for the postcard perfect photo, and the impressive 76m high tower of the Torre dos Clérigos (spiral up the 225 steps for an impressive view). And of course you’ll need to sample the local offerings with a port tasting.
In the quieter eastern Algarve offers a quiet seaside getaway with plenty of charm. Laze on the beach, explore the ancient village, catch a water taxi (or miniature train across the sand dunes) to the beach, before enjoying a seafood dinner.
Sintra is less than an hour by train from Lisbon, but feels like a fairy tale scene. The forrested terrain is dotted with pastel hued churches and whimsical palaces. Visit local artisans, check out museums, wander through galleries, peruse the gardens and castles.
Portugal’s Algarve region is popular for its impressive cliffs and caves, golden sand and insta-worthy sunsets. Pack your surfboard if you’re that way inclined, but it’s also the perfect spot for simply lounging in the sunshine. With over 150 beaches in the area, you can’t go too wrong, but the famous Praia da Marinha is a must-visit. You can opt to take the 5km clifftop walk from Praia Vale Centianes for breathtaking views.
The mountainous coastline of Madeira Island doesn’t make for great lounging, but is the perfect place to hike and explore. Climb to the top of Pico do Arieiro to walk among the clouds (or opt for the bus ride up) to soak in the views and enjoy the mountain top restaurant. It’s also a foodie destination, with a fantastic farmer’s market and a Michelin star restaurant.
When to Visit
High summer in Portugal is July – August with average temps around 24 degrees. If you’re seeking fewer crowds and you’re not one to roast in the sun, June or September are still likely to offer plenty of sunshine minus the rowdy British tourists and peak season prices. November is rainy season in Portugal, and many resorts shut down along with shorter hours at attractions. If you are visiting during winter Lisbon puts on a great Christmas show with traditional markets and impressive decorations.
What to Eat
If you’re the kind of person who plans their holidays around food, Portugal will be your jam. There’s plenty of local culinary experiences to try.
Sitting proudly on the Mediterranean, Portuguese fare involves a lot of seafood. If you like your seafood salty, sardinhas assadas is a delicious plate of freshly grilled sardines.
Bachalahu is dried and salted cod, and can be found on almost every Portuguese menu. It’s served endless ways – with fried potatoes and scrambled eggs, as fishcakes, or in a creamy casserole.
Portugal’s answer to the humble toastie, Francesinha is inspired by the French croque-monsieur. Two thick slices of bread, packed with meat (often ham, sausage or steak) topped with melted cheese and a generous serving of spicy tomato sauce. Often paired with a pile of fries, it’s comfort food at it’s finest!
Pastéis de nata
You might already know it as a Portuguese tart. Pastéis de nata is sweet custard with a dash of lemon packed into puff pastry and baked until golden. The good news is it’s more than acceptable to eat them for breakfast, as a snack and for dessert. When in Rome…
Think 2020 might be your year to get to Portugal? Zealy it! With loans up to $5,000 and 60 second decisions, you’ll be sipping Port and saying “Olá” in no time.