Traveling Portugal is a very rewarding experience especially if you know the layout of the Country! Spain is situated to the North and East of Portugal and then Morocco is to Portugal’s South, across the Calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal's mainland has 5 regions that include Norte, Centro, Lisboe, Alentejo and the Algarve. And then, its main Islands consist of the Madeira Islands to the South and the Azore Islands to the West.
North Portugal sends you into exciting time periods, a greener part of Portugal and a culture that prides itself on traditions.
It was the settlements of Porto and Gaia around 1000 years ago that transformed the beginning of the country of Portugal. Still, these lands have history dating back to the times of the Romans and the Iberian people and Yet, today, its history still stands firm and seems to be ingrained with the Modern era! Today, Porto is the largest city of the North and second biggest in Portugal and built at the end of the Rio Douro. If you are lucky enough to walk throughout the old city of Porto through its maze and steps of history and down to the banks of the Rio Douro, and then explore the areas of Gaia, you will undoubtedly have a great travel experience!
Much of this region landscapes consist of famous valleys such as the Douro Valley along the Rio Douro, known for its great wine. In the North Central of Norte, discover picture like green covered mountainous areas such as the Peneda Geres National Park and its Coastal settings such as the Beautiful coast of Viana do Castelo.
Too, incredible architecture and events can be found throughout this region. For instance, Pousadas (castles, monasteries... converted into hotels) with themes of nature, romance..., luxury manor houses and spas are found in many parts of Portugal’s North region. The Pousada Viana do Castelo is one example of incredible building work in Viana do Castelo. And then, there are many great events throughout the year such as the Mares Vivas Music Festival!
This region can be accessed by flight to Porto internationally, nationally, or simply traveled from Lisbon. Whether this is your first point of entry or not, Portugal’s North offers its own specialities in its time lines, landscapes and culture.
The Centro region contains much of The Silver Coast between Porto and Lisbon. Along this coast line there are many smaller villages and cities. If you are traveling North from Lisbon to Porto and have a little extra time, the silver coast and its communities are very rewarding. On weekends, Figueira da Foz is a popular area for entertainment and has a few sites to explore! Obidos is known as a romantic medieval village and if it’s total relaxation you are after, you won't want to miss-out on the famed Caldas da Rainha known for its wellness treatments. And then, there are many great sports to enjoy along this coast line from golf to fishing.
Although most populations and activities are along the west coast of this region, The Centro near the Spanish Boarder has a few intriguing spots for travelers. Guarda, is one such place to visit. It is the highest town in Portugal with some good events throughout the year and is in close proximity to a great park – the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela. If you don’t have a car to explore this area, no worries, the train system in Portugal accesses these areas as well.
The region of Lisboe is a very popular entry point to Portugal and suitable for those wishing to explore the busier part of Portugal or quickly get into the country sides.
In the City of Lisbon, you can take on great entertainment – fado and jazz, soccer games, fashion shows and more. You may even find some of Portugal's best entertainers in the streets or within a castle! Lisbon is also a great place to shop the trendy or traditional areas and still take in a lot of great history! Its streets are very enjoyable to travel both day and night. In fact, many of the great structure of Portugal often have lights that bring out breath-taking images! As you walk these grounds you can only imagine the others before you; the explorers that explored them just as you would but, many centuries ago!
It is best to use the local transit while in Lisbon. Parking and getting around this city is best left for the locals and it’s too easy to use the other transport systems such as the Metro.
When you travel outside of Lisbon, a trip towards Sintra is a must. Around Sintra you can find activities from sailing, golf and a range of ongoing events given its close proximity to Lisbon! Sintra Also represents a starting point to the Silver Coast that reaches all the way to Porto. When you head off to the East from Lisbon, you access the toll highway where you can very quickly get to main destinations such as Porto or the Algarve via the Alentejo region.
Along the West Coast, This region gives you access to the quieter South West roads, villages and pastures and eventually takes you to the South-West most part of Portugal and the Algarve.
The drive to the Algarve along the west coast is very scenic with winding roads and many villages to visit along the way. Many of the communities along this coast are slightly inland providing a shelter from the Coast. In many cases, you can access the coastal water in about a 15 minute drive from the larger villages and this is good as there can often be high winds of this part of the coast line. Still, there are several access points from the coastal plateaus down to some great sandy beaches.
The Algarve region has been known for its beaches and calm waters of the Atlantic -- it is much more! The Algarve has an incredible history from the times of the great navigators and before then and equally has great innovations of its current time period.
This is a smaller region of Portugal and most of its population is along the South Coast. The weather is the Algarve is one of the popular features with much sun and warmer temperatures by influence of the Mediterranean Sea.
Faro is the main city of this region where both national and international flights are accessed. Faro is a nice city to explore offering the old and new of Algarve as well as the departure point to the beach communities. Faro does not offer much of a beach at its south center. Instead, its coast line here contain something equally attracting -- a coastal nature reserve. Amazing, this reserve is like a green park in the sea and its' best seen by boat tour!
To the East of Faro, the lands are filled with orchards and pleasant villages and you can gain access to Spain and eventually a boat ride across to Morocco!
When you travel to the West of Faro, you are astounded by new communities with incredible architecture and recreational activities. Here you slide into the modern era of hotels, entertainment and great beaches. The Portimao (Algarve) Motor Park is an example of an exceptional new development offering travellers some fast, fun and modern entertainment!
Further west, you reach a more chilled out beach side community, Lagos! From Lagos you can do just as much as Portimao, but at a smaller scale! From lagos, you can travel to the South West most point of the Iberian Peninsula and stand where it was thought the world was flat on top of a magnificent view and travel back towards Lisbon through inviting communities such as Vale da Telha.
The Madeira Islands are a cluster of islands situated to the South West of Portugal and about 300 km off of Africa; they are small but bold!
The main inhibited island is Madeira known as the Pearl of the Atlantic because of its very constant and temperate climate and likely its rich organic resources. At the time of the Discovery age and even today, these islands continue to produce riches from its soils from wine to sugar cane. Also known as the floating garden, this island has an incredible amount of plant species including its wide range of flowers. In April, the annual flower festival takes advantage of this islands gift of plant life.
In the fall time, one of the major events is the gourmet festival which invites star chefs from around the world! And then, Christmas to New Years has some of the best entertainment around as well as one of the biggest fireworks shows in the world! Outside of these amazing events, there is plenting of golfing, surfing, scuba and other activities.
The main city of Madeira is Funchal and you can get there by either plane or boat from both national and international routes. Madeira island is about 45 km long and 20 km wide. All points of the islands can be accessed by a good road system, whereby, you can check out great parks and intriguing little villages.
The Azore islands are 4000 km to the west of Portugal (still part of Portugal!) making these islands the Western most part of Europe and far enough to have a unique culture of its own!
The Azores have 9 main islands in total and these islands are among the tallest mountains of the world – when viewed from the sea bed! Mount Pico for instance is Portugal’s highest mountain reaching over 7000 feet above sea level and then reaching far below the water! More, These island can be grouped as the West, Central and Eastern group. In the Western Cluster, there are the Flores and Corvo islands. Terciera, Gracaiosa, Pico and Faial are in the Central group and the Sao Miquel, Santa Maria and the Formigas islands are in the Eastern group. The oldest island is the Santa Maria having the driest climate and one of the most beautiful beaches such as the Baia de Praia.
Many as the islands are known for activities revolving around its volcanic history including visits to hot springs, nature hikes and sightseeing around beautifully carved landscapes. The climate of the Azores is best enjoyed in the warmer summer months when the festivals are celebrated with many costume and spiritual events. Moreover, Each island has a different offering because its cultures vary distinctively do to its time of settlements and distance from one other -- the islands of the Azores extend as far as 600km!
For a detailed guide on individual places of Portugal, explore our Travel Blog!
Aguide2portugal.com (original writing - copyrighted)
Wikipedia, Azores, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azores (accessed May 10, 2010) Wikipedia, Portugal, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portugal (accessed May 10, 2010)