Portugal holidays

Sandy bays and terracotta-topped cities

If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty sea air, there’s nothing better than a holiday in Portugal to soothe the senses and work on the suntan. Of course, there’s much more to this most westerly of European nations than simply sun, sea and sand.

Take the Alentejo region, for instance, just above the Algarve. This is where the peaceful promise of undulating hillsides dotted with cork trees and olive orchards is very hard to resist. Head to Porto, on the northwest coast, and you can follow the meandering curves of the Douro River as it winds its way across country into neighbouring Spain.

River cruises in Portugal are just as relaxing as all-inclusive holidays although everything works pretty well with a drop of the local wine and a bowl of Portuguese-style fried calamari. Of course, if you prefer a good walk spoiled then a game of golf might be more your thing. Portugal is abundant in top-quality courses. The views of the Atlantic alone are well worth the exertion.

Elsewhere you can enjoy a train ride through the Douro Valley or join a Jeep safari in the Algarve or take a city break in the beautiful capital of Lisbon. From sipping rosé at Mateus Palace and touring Portugal’s historic pousadas to soaking up the sunshine at chic Cascais or visiting the offshore islands of the Azores and Madeira; if you think Portugal holidays are just a day at the beach, here’s where you think again.

If you’re flying out to Portugal on your holidays, the southern region of the Algarve is one highlight you won’t want to miss. This awesome stretch of Atlantic coastline features endless beaches, such as Praia da Rocha, as well as a whole succession of captivating coves and beautiful bay areas. Aside from the all-inclusive resorts, the Algarve also promises plenty of peaceful alternatives. Places like Portimao, Silves and Faro, for example, are real finds and the perfect antidote to busy beaches.

If you’re looking to experience Portugal from a whole new perspective, set sail to the island of Madeira and you won’t regret a thing. This warm and welcoming safe haven for nature lovers features the fabulous Old Town of Funchal as well as tiny seaside villages such as Curral das Freiras. Famed for its botanical gardens and the surprisingly varied types of wine, if you’re looking for a Portuguese highlight to really write home about, head to Madeira for sun, sea and silence.

The Portuguese capital is an absolute must for any travellers looking for a cultural alternative to the Algarve. Set alongside a succession of Atlantic beaches, this is where you’ll find sightseeing tours of the city by bike as well as plenty of petiscos (tapas) restaurants secreted within shaded side streets. Highlights of Lisbon will always include a walk around the historic ramparts of Sao Jorge Castle with some of the best sunset views over the Atlantic to be found this side of the Alentejo.

It takes approximately two and a half hours to fly into Faro from the UK.

A valid British passport is all you’ll need to enter Portugal as a holiday maker. For more information on Portugal’s entry requirements, please visit the GOV UK website or, alternatively, visit CIBT visas for more information.

Head down south and you’ll find the Algarve and Alentejo regions are dry and warm pretty much all year round, although temperatures will dip from October through to April. It can also be very windy along Portugal’s exposed Atlantic coast with the winter the best time to go for surfers seeking sizeable swells.

Portugal is one hour ahead of GMT during the summer and in the same time zone during the winter.

The official language of Portugal is Portuguese although English is widely spoken in the main towns and tourist areas.

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