Top 5 Portuguese Destinations outside of the Algarve!
If you'd like to see a little more of Portugal during your stay in the Algarve, there are lots of beautiful cities steeped in history and culture and rural towns with fantastic landscapes to explore. Portugal has a great national rail network CP - Comboios de Portugal that's very reasonably priced, safe and clean and runs along the length of the Algarve taking you to Faro in 1 hour and 45 minutes. From there the rest of Portugal is your oyster! You can also hire a car, or book great priced internal flights. Check out our Holiday Shop for the best deals.
Portugal - The Facts!
Continental Portugal is the most westerly country in Europe and covers a relatively small area on the western Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula bounded by Spain to the north and east and the Atlantic ocean to the west and south. It is approximately 200 kms wide and 560 kms long with a population of ~10.5 million (Portugal Wiki). Portugal is on the same time zone as the UK and Ireland (WET) and the currency is the Euro. The Portuguese Republic (as Portugal is officially known) also includes the stunning volcanic islands of the Azores and the Madeira islands in the Atlantic Ocean Visit Portugal - Portugal Tourist Board
Lisbon - Capital of Portugal & an action packed city
Lisbon ("Lisboa") is the capital of Portugal, is only 3 hours from the Algarve by car or 2.5 hours on the fast train from Faro. This amazing city sits at the mouth of the Tagus ("Tejo") river on the north bank. It's one of the oldest cities in the world, predating cities like Rome and Paris. Lisbon is a fascinating blend of history, culture, old and new, beautiful parks, waterfront restaurants, designer shops and chic cafes. In Lisbon you can shop until you drop in the downtown districts of Baixo and Chiado, party the night away in Bairro Alto, or stroll along the riverfront in Belém. You can discover the majestic Manueline Jeronimos Monastery and the Torre de Belém which are both listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Travel by tram up the narrow steep streets to the castle, Castelo de São Jorge and visit the Fado houses in the oldest district of Lisbon - the Moorish Alfama - for a real taste of Portuguese culture. Parque das Nações, also on the riverfront, is the modern addition to the city created for Expo98. It boasts a wealth of restaurants, a casino, Oceanarium, marina and the MEO Arena (formerly the Atlantic Pavilion). The MEO hosts a variety of events including pop and rock concerts by top international stars, as well as the large Vasco da Gama Shopping Centre. For sports fans, Lisbon proudly boasts two of the largest 3 football clubs in the country, S.L.Benfica (Sporting Lisboa e Benfica) and S.C.P (Sporting Clube du Portugal). You can often pick up tickets online during the season, even at short notice. If you're really lucky, you may get to see a derby match, definitely not to be missed as the streets all over the city come alive until the early hours of the morning as fans from both teams party the night away together. Visit Lisboa - Lisbon Tourist Board
Alentejo - Algarve's stunning next door neighbour
For those looking for something closer to home, Alentejo is located just over the hills of the Serra de Monchique and the Serra de Caldeirão. There, you'll find rolling plains and virtually deserted Atlantic beaches. It's a sparsely populated area with a landscape of cork oaks and olive trees, castles and tranquil lakes, the largest of which has been created by the Alqueva dam on the Guadiana River. The Alentejo offers relaxation by the bucket load and begs to be explored at a leisurely pace. Farming, cork, olive oil and vineyards are the mainstays of Alentejo life and the main cities are Portalegre, Beja, Sines and the historic city of Evora, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The north of the Alentejo is bounded by the river Tagus (Tejo). Visit Alentejo - Alentejo Tourist Board
Porto - The city that named Portugal & gave us Port wine
Porto, at just under 6 hours on the fast train from Faro (costing 104 Euro return), or a return trip flying with Ryanair taking 1 hour 10 minutes for as little at 50 Euro return (out of season) making the north of Portugal easily accessible. Porto is famous for being the city that named Portugal from its Latin name "Portus Cale". It is the second largest city in Portugal and is bounded by the Douro River to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The beautiful historic centre is registered as a World Heritage Site with buildings spanning the centuries from Roman and Gothic through Renaissance and Baroque to the modern. Porto is of course most famous for Port wines produced from the vineyards of the Douro valley. No visit would be complete without a tour of some of the Port Wine Cellars across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia, also one of the regions UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For the foodies among you the local delicacy is not for the faint hearted. The Francesinha is a spicy 5 layer sandwich containing different meats and sausage, covered in melted cheese then sat in a bed of tomato and beer sauce. It's best enjoyed with a cold beer and a friend as it easily serves 2! The 3rd of the top football teams is found in Porto, F.C.Porto (Futebol Clube do Porto). Finally Porto hosts the St. Johns Festival in June (23rd and 24th) and is one of the largest festivals in Europe. Expect to see all ages out on the streets waving garlic in your face or hitting you on the head with large (soft) plastic hammers. Strange but great fun!
Porto - O Porto & Northern Portugal Tourist Board
Serra da Estrela - Portugal's highest mountain range with Winter snow!
For those of you that love the outdoors and may be considering a longer stay out of peak season, this one's not as easy to get to but is worth the effort. It's just under 8 hours on the train or a fly drive from Lisbon. The Serra da Estrela is Portugal's highest mountain range with the "Torre" plateau being the highest point at approx. 2000m above sea level. It's part of the Serra da Estrela National Park which covers 100,000 hectares and offers hikers and cyclists over 375KM of marked trails to explore. Its dramatic granite peaks and glacial valleys offer ever changing scenery throughout the seasons. For those that prefer to leave the ground behind and go paragliding, you can take in the dramatic landscape from the sky. We love the Serra da Estrela for it's out of season activities which even include skiing and snowboarding in the winter. You'll be able to discover remote hilltop villages, castles and lakes which all form part of the stunning scenery.
Serra da Estrela on Turismo de Portugal
Aveiro - Little Venice of Portugal
If you like relaxing on the river and exploring towns and taking in Architecture, Aveiro is a must see! It was originally a fishing port at the estuary of the river Vouga but after a huge storm in the 16th century the river mouth silted up and left Aveiro cut off from the sea. All was not lost and over time a network of canals was built and finally a new connection to the sea. Today Aveiro is often referred to as the "Little Venice of Portugal" with its colourful "Moliceiros" (boats) ferrying passengers along the canals. It is also renowned for the Art Nouveau buildings in and around Largo do Rossio and the gaily striped wooden houses on the Costa Nova. The large nature reserve along the dunes "Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto" is perfect for bird watching and the Ria de Aveiro offers ideal conditions for many water sports and plays host to many international regattas.
Aveiro on Turismo de Portugal