3 mins

The Wanderlust Guide to the best of Portugal

One of Europe's most laid-back nations boasts a strollable capital, rugged interior and rich cultural history. Here's how to make the most of your visit

Fado graffiti, Lisbon (Shutterstock: see main credit below)

If you thought all Portugal had to offer was the Algarve’s beach resorts and golf courses, think again. Head north and you’ll find the open plains of the Alentejo region, punctuated with cork and olive groves and pretty white-washed villages.

Just above Alentejo there’s the mountainous regions of Beira Baixa and Beira Alta. These are little-visited, but their pilgrim trails offer spectacular routes for hikers. Further north still, there’s the verdant hills of the Douro Valley – famous for port-wine estates and also home to prehistoric rock paintings.

Dotted throughout the country you’ll find medieval castles, well-preserved Roman ruins and Unesco-listed historic towns such as Coimbra and Évora. And if you still can’t get sand and sea off your mind but can’t stand the crowds, ditch the Med and explore the rugged beaches of the Atlantic coast instead.

Rocky beach, Lagos, Portugal (Shutterstock.com)

Rocky beach, Lagos, Portugal (Shutterstock)

Looking for inspiration?

With its intriguing alleys, hill-top lookout points, vintage trams and tasty pastries, Portugal's historic capital, Lisbon, is the perfect introduction to the country. And if you follow Sarah Baxter's tips you'll save a pretty penny too.

If quiet beaches, empty trails, forgotten villages and emerging wines are more your scene, then follow David Atkinson on Portugal's Alentjo coast path. It'll probably be just you and him. The crowds haven't cotttoned on to this amazing trail yet.

Martin Symington suggests heading to the Coa Valley. Tucked away in the north-east of the country, this UNESCO-listed gem offers wildlife and ancient rock art and a chance to enjoy life at a slower pace. Which is probably a good idea if you also plan to take on a fado weekend in Coimbra. You'll need all the energy you can get.

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Short break: Lisbon, Portugal – Sarah Baxter

Alentejo: Portugal finds its edge – David Atkinson

Unearthing the rock art of Portugal's Coa Valley – Martin Symington

A fado weekend in Coimbra, Portugal – Alex Robinson

Lisbon Trams (Shutterstock.com)

Lisbon trams (Shutterstock)

Portugal's secrets revealed

Lisbon local, Laura Haanpää, risks the wrath of her neighbours to let you in on where to swig wine, swing to jazz and enjoy the views in 10 things to do for free in Lisbon. Julie Dawn Fox, meanwhile, reveals why the São Vicente da Fora monastery should be top of your Lisbon To-Do list.

Should you find yourself in Porto – and with it's wine cellars, curious alleyways and awe-inspiring architecture, why wouldn't you? – make sure you read Lauren Ravazi's guide to your first 24 hours there. It's the perfect introduction to this amazing city.

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10 things to do for free in Lisbon – Laura Haanpää

Why you must visit São Vicente da Fora monastery – Julie Dawn Fox

First 24 hours Porto, Portugal – Lauren Ravazi

Portuguese tarts (Shutterstock.com)

Portuguese tarts (Shutterstock)

Tantalise your tastebuds

Hands up if you like pasteis de nata? (Hint: They're the custard tarts with the amazingly light pastry and caramelized glaze). Keep your hand up if you want to know how to bake them. Now, with your free hand, click on this link to Pamela O'Cunneen's easy-to-follow instructions.

As befitting a maritime nation, the seafood in Portugal is exceptional too. To that end, Taste Portugal have put together a list of five delicious fish recipes, from Arroz de Tamboril to Bacalhau à Brás. Trust me, you'll love them.

And, finally, from the plains of Alentejo, comes five hearty recipes, perfect for a family feast at Easter, Portuguese style.

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How to make a Portuguese tart  – Pamela O'Cuneen

Five fishy feasts from Portugal – Taste Portugal

Easter recipes from Alentejo, Portugal – Antonio Nobre

Porto sunset (Shutterstock.com)

Porto at sunset (Shutterstock)

Capturing it all on film

Whether it's somewhere on its spectacular coastline, or from a vantage point high above one of its spectacular cities, the chances are you're going to happen upon a spectacular Portuguese sunset. And it is equally certain that you will want to take a photo of it. Thankfully Steve Davey is on hand with a bunch of useful tips to ensure your image is as awesome as the sight you behold.

If it’s inspiration you’re after, then look no further than the photos taken by our readers on their travels in Portugal. They are gorgeous.

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Photography tips: snapping sunsets – Steve Davey

Readers' photos of Portugal

Tile featuring the Douro Valley (Shutterstock.com)

Tile featuring Douro Valley (Shutterstock)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Portugal Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by the Portugal Essential Info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from Portugal too.

If you have a particular question about Portugal, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about Portugal. The answer to yours might already be there.

More information

Portugal Travel Guide – The Wanderlust Team

Portugal Essential Info – The Wanderlust Team

Latest Travel News about Portugal

Forum posts about Portugal

Community content about Portugal

Lisbon cityscape

Lisbon cityscape (Shutterstock)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From spectacular coastal walks to vibrant city breaks, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in Portugal

Main image: Fado graffiti, Lisbon (Shutterstock)

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