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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Locally produced wines, aguardentes and of course port are excellent and usually significantly cheaper than in the UK.
Portugal is remarkably crime-free by European standards but, like elsewhere on the continent, be aware of pickpockets in touristy destinations and big cities.
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