Portugal


Overview

Portugal travel information, including maps of Portugal, food, drink and where to stay in Portugal plus the best time to travel in Portugal

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 their 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.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Stroll through the winding streets of Porto’s Unesco-protected historical centre
  2. Boat out to Ilha da Berlenga – a dramatic, craggy island, that has been declared a nature reserve thanks to its population of gulls, cormorants and puffins
  3. Take a trip back in time, really far back in time, when you visit Foz Côa national park, where you’ll find medieval crosses, Roman ruins and prehistoric rock art
  4. Soak up the atmosphere in the hill town of Coimbra – the site of Portugal first university and the capital of Portugal’s distinctive fado music

Wanderlust tips

On national public holidays almost all shops, museums and monuments close. Transport services are greatly reduced. There are also endless local festivals when entire cities and regions grind to a halt. Its well worth checking the Portuguese calendar before you arrive so you don’t get caught out.

Further Reading

Travel in Portugal: vital statistics

  • Capital of Portugal: Lisbon
  • Population of Portugal: 10.7 million
  • Languages in Portugal: Portuguese
  • Time in Portugal: GMT, (GMT +1 late Mar- late Oct)
  • International dialling code in Portugal: +351
  • Voltage in Portugal: 220 AC 50 Hz
  • Visas for Portugal: Portugal visas are not required by UK nationals
  • Money in Portugal: Euro (E).Credit cards are widely accepted. Expect very large commissions when exchanging travellers’ cheques. It is usual to tip between 5 and 10% in restaurants. Taxi drivers are not generally tipped.
  • Portugal travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Portugal tourist board: Visit Portugal

    When to go to Portugal

    Climate in Portugal Northern Portugal has a temperate climate which is usually a few degrees warmer than the UK. Summery weather lasts into October, with temperatures averaging 27°C. The Southern Alentejo and Algarve regions are very hot in July and August  - the mercury can climb to 45°c. Spring and autumn, when it is not too hot or crowded are the best times to visit. Winters across the country are short and rainy, though not particularly cold.

    Festivals in Portugal For a glimpse of what carnivals were like before Rio added thongs and sparkles, it’s well worth coinciding your trip with Portugal’s Carnival in February or the religious processions held during the week before Easter and the Santos Populares in June. Be aware that accommodation gets booked up quickly for these periods.

    International airports

    Lisbon (LIS) 7 km from the city, Faro (FAO) 4 km from the city, Oporto (OPO) 11km km from the city.

    Getting around in Portugal

    By air Domestic flights in Portugal are expensive and not really worth considering in this small country.

    By train Portugal has an efficient network of trains. For timetables and train fares see Comboios de Portugal (www.cp.pt). Regional trains are often cheaper than buses but are almost always slower.

    By road Buses in Portugal are run by a host of private operators. Don’t rely on the tourist office for up-to-date timetables – head to the bus station instead. Car hire is easily available. You normally get the best rates by booking in advance online. Driving will give you more flexibility than relying on public transport but be warned, Portugal has long had one of Europe’s highest rates of road accidents.

    Portugal accommodation

    Portugal offers an excellent range of good-value accommodation, from basic pensions with double rooms for €30 or under to a myriad of hotels and country inns. There are also several hundred campsites (www.roteiro-campsite.pt) throughout the country.

    For something special, stay at one of the 40 Pousadas de Portugal (www.pousadas.pt) – a chain of hotels that have been converted from old monasteries and castles or are positioned in dramatic landscapes. These are particularly concentrated in Portugal’s north and the Alentejo region.

    Portugal food & drink

    Seafood features strongly on the coast. Inland, pork predominates and chicken is spiced up with peri-peri sauce. Portugal’s national dish is bacalhau (salt cod).
    Vegetarians might have a boring time of it outside big towns.

    Locally produced wines, aguardentes and of course port are excellent and usually significantly cheaper than in the UK.

    Health & safety in Portugal

    Good health care is readily available in Portugal. EU citizens should carry the European Health Insurance Card with them. No vaccinations are required, though it’s worth checking your tetanus jab is up to date. The water is safe to drink.  Use high factor sun cream as the sun is extremely strong.

    Portugal is remarkably crime-free by European standards but, like elsewhere on the continent, be aware of pickpockets in touristy destinations and big cities.