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PORTUGAL

Europe’s West Coast

Welcome to Portugal

Portugal is a small country with much to see and do, making it relatively easy to explore. From the cosmopolitan city of Lisbon to the traditional villages, visitors will find a diverse range of travel options. If you are traveling in the summer there are many beaches to enjoy, but the cultural and architectural attractions are a draw for tourists year round.

THE AREA

Beginning in the south, many people start their vacation in Lisbon. This is the heart of modern day Portugal and the cultural center of the nation. It is home to many of the country's finest museums and historic buildings, along with quaint neighborhoods. Visitors can wander through the streets and artists studios of Barrio Alto, or spend a day sightseeing and soaking in the atmosphere of the Old Quarter.

RESTAURANTS

Portugal has the highest concentration of cafés per head of population in the European Union. I can verify this fact after walking the entire Portuguese-Spanish border and finding that I was never more than around 10km from a place that could rustle up a decent meal. However it is not only the quantity of places offering food in which Portugal excels. The recent awarding of a record 23 Michelin Stars to restaurants around the country show that its quality is on the up too. Here is our round-up some of the best restaurants in Portugal right now, from gourmet establishments to bargain backstreet diners.

NIGHTCLUBS AND BARS

If you are one to enjoy clubbing and partying, you would love Portugal. The country’s nightlife offers dance, drinks and music with a more relaxed and laid-back vibe. But this does not mean the Portuguese do not know how to have fun; they just know how to give you a good time. You can party hard, but you do not have to exert too much effort to do it.

Exciting Portugal

Thrill-seekers may fall in love with Portugal, especially since there are plenty of activities that will keep the adrenaline pumping. From hiking in Madeira to canyoning in the Azores and skydiving in the Alentejo, The Culture Trip has compiled a list full of exhilarating pursuits. Here are some of the best adventure activities available in mainland Portugal and its islands.

Levada and Mountain Hikes

Madeira’s levadas, centuries-old canals originally created as an irrigation system, now lead hikers up the mountains of this subtropical island and through some truly spectacular sights. Madeira is an excellent destination for hikers that’s full of romantic and jaw-dropping summits, some peeking from above the clouds. The more popular routes lead to Pico do Arieiro, at 1,818 meters high, as well as the highest peak, Pico Ruivo at 1,862 meters, while a few more casual paths wind past traditional villages and farmland.

Zip-lining between Two Countries

Who wouldn’t want to travel between two countries on a zip line? Límite Zero may actually be the only company in the world that offers this type of experience. The 720-meter-long ride departs from Sanlúcar de Guadiana, Spain and ends in Alcoutim, Portugal, traveling across the Guadiana River. Once in Portugal, there is a ferry service (included in the total cost) that will return participants back to Spain.

Skydiving in the Alentejo

A unique way to see Portugal’s rugged and rural Alentejo region is tandem skydiving from 13,500 feet in the air, free falling for about a minute, and then gliding over the regional capital, Évora. Considering the Alentejo is one of Portugal’s peaceful retreats, skydiving is an exciting way to shake things up, and there is always the possibility of relaxing afterward with a glass of wine at a local vineyard.

Surfing Epic Waves

Portugal’s more popular adrenaline-pumping activity is surfing, and there are plenty of amazing spots along its coast. From the monster waves at Nazaré and Peniche to the Algarve’s dramatic cliff-rimmed shoreline, the options seem endless.

Skiing in the Serra da Estrela

Sure, there are better countries for skiing, but how often can you go surfing in the morning and skiing in the afternoon? The Serra da Estrela only takes about two hours to reach from the closest beach—an easy trek for anyone with a car—and the Vodafone Ski Resort is surrounded by the mountain’s other amazing sights, traditional villages, and wonderful family-run restaurants.

Canyoning

How about jumping into a fast-moving stream of water and letting it carry you down a mountain? Varying levels of canyoning can be enjoyed in the Azores archipelago, but the best and most extreme spots may be found in Flores, located in the furthest and most remote group of islands from Europe. São Miguel and São Jorge are two other islands that offer canyoning and introductory courses, especially for beginners.

Join us in Portugal

High culture or low, or something in between, there’s something for everyone all year long in Portugal. Pagan rites, Holy Week happenings, foodie fests, big rock shows and more—the Portuguese love their parties, many of which you’ll find nowhere else in the world. Beyond the big events, almost every town has a saint day feast or a harvest festival, which can range from a stately procession to a multiday food and entertainment fest. Just make sure to check festival dates before you plan your itinerary, so you’re not left off the guest list.

Festival de Sintra – May or June

Experience classical music and dance to it the way it was meant to be enjoyed, in the mountain town of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring Romantic-era architecture. A pride of Sintra, the two-week festival has been performed for more than 50 years and is still going strong.

Festa de São Gonçalo and São Antonio – June

On the subject of unusual fertility rituals, take the Festa de São Gonçalo in Amarante, a bit inland from Porto. Here, young lovers trade phallic-shaped cakes as tokens of their affection. Make sure to follow up the cake with a trip to the church honoring São Gonçalo, where, legend has it, if you touch the saint’s tomb, a speedy marriage will follow. Lisbon throws one of its biggest parties for the feast day of its native Saint Anthony of Padua on June 12-13, with parades, processions, paper flowers, garlands, music, dance and roasted sardines.

Noite Branca – End of August

It’s hard to say goodbye to summer, especially in the Algarve. But one celebration, Noite Branca, held in Loulé, aims to close out the season with a huge free night party in the central business district—and everyone’s invited, as long as they wear white. Not to be outdone, the northern city of Braga does a 48-hour(!) White Night party in mid-September.

Travel to Portugal

AIRPORTS

Main international airports: Lisbon/Portela/Humberto Delgado near Loures; Porto/Pedras Rubras/Sˆ Carneiro in Maia; and Faro in Algarve. Madeira/Funchal(FNC); Ponta Delgada (PDL); and Terceira/Lajes (TER) are international airports in The Madeira and Azores Islands. Major airlines: Other than international airlines like British Airways, Air France/KLM, Lufthansa, United, American, Turkish, Emirates, Air Canada and Iberia, Portugal's own TAP Portugal and SATA/Azores Airlines also operates international flights. For budget, no-frills options, Aer Lingus, Monarch, easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling wfly to Lisbon, Porto, and Faro from a number of international destinations.

BUS

Travel via bus is limited to two main operators and routes: ALSA and Auto Res operate between Spain and Portugal and AnÍbal connects Portugal to France and Spain.

RAIL

An extensive railway network connects Portugal's main cities with other European countries with railway lines running between Lisbon and Madrid, Spain; Porto and Vigo, Spain; Vilar Formoso and Spain, France and the rest of Europe.

SELF-DRIVING

Centraldetaxis.pt is the main taxi cab central with a national coverage, working 24x7. One can check the updated and correct taxi fares here and avail taxi services for transfers to hotel/airport or for general tours of the country.

BOAT

Some passenger and merchant boats operate along Portugal's coast. However, the fares and schedules for these keep changing so updated information should be obtained online.

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