Portugal Vacations

Portugal, it is a land that has long been a dominant force on the European continent, and today, it continues to be a mecca for those who love the sun and the ocean breeze. No matter if you are in Lisbon or up the coast, the Portuguese culture and ambience will breathe you in. Although not as popular as its neighbour Spain, the Portuguese have embraced their little brother attitude, and in our opinion, might be home to a better vacation spot. In this article, we are going to be diving into the blue waters that surround Portugal, but first, we will look at the geography, then the history, the culture and finishing up with a quick review of the landmarks that you need to see when in Portugal! Portugal is a long strip of land located on the Iberian Peninsula facing the Atlantic Ocean with Spain extending along its western border. The country also includes the remote islands of the Azores and Madeira. Through northern Portugal flows the Duoro River which is a source of water for the famous Porto Wine, olive and almond vineyards that make Douro Valley region world famous. Along the southern region of Portugal, "The Algarve" faces the Mediterranean Sea and is dotted with beautiful beaches and cliffs with sandy bays. The area is known for it's mega resorts and numerous golf courses.

Portugal Vacation Rentals and Boutique Hotels

Portugal Vacations: Things to see while on vacation in Portugal

Portugal Geography

Portugal sits on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and shares the Iberian Peninsula with Spain. The country includes mainland Portugal as well as Azores and Madeira, which brings the entire nation to just over 92 thousand square kilometres. The country is the westernmost promontory on continental Europe, and although known for its rugged coastline, Portugal has a tonne of natural features to offer visitors. The rugged Pyrenees Mountains separate Iberia from the heart of the European continent and offer some great views and amazing hiking. The country is divided into six provinces, Minho, Tras-os-Montes, Beira, Estremadura, Alentejo and Algarve, and the capital is Lisbon. Visitors should expect dry hot weather in Portugal, and due to its location, will experience long droughts.

Portugal History and Culture

The country of Portugal first emerged in 1143, after a 15-year rebellion by Dom Afonso Henriques. However true independence would not come for another two hundred years, when in 1385, Joao Mestre de Avis defeated the Castilians at Aljubarrota. The Castilians, in fact, outnumbered the Portuguese 6:1, but the Portuguese overcame these odds and came away with the victory. John I was crowned the King of Portugal, and Portugal would go on to its golden decades in the 15th and 16th century. Things would stay relatively calm in Lisbon for many decades, but in 1911 a revolution overthrew the monarchy. This overthrow would lead to six decades of an oppressive regime, one that would to an end after a successful military coup in the mid 1970’s. Today, the country has been struggling to align with other European democracies. The country still faces an uncertain future, but many of its residents still enjoy the fact that Portugal continues to be a world power, all be it a middle power, on the world stage.

The Portuguese have been lucky in that they have sat at the crossroads of Europe and Africa for some time. Their culture is unique to its own country, and although the Spanish will claim some influence, Portuguese culture is truly its own. The people of Portugal have fallen in love with art, music, drama and dance, and the streets are consistently alive with music. Almost every town has a music venue to listen to a live band, and the craft markets are some of the best in Europe. There is a deep connection between Portugal and her artists, and this is best shown during the death of Amalia Rodrigues, a Fado musician. Three days of national mourning was declared due to her death, and that is not a common practice in any nation! Lisbon, Porto and Guimaraes were all designated European Capitals of Culture, and continue to contribute to the renaissance in artistic creation.

Folklore and traditional music can be heard throughout the rural villages and towns. During the summer season, you will be able to happen upon thousands of local festivals and beach holidays that happen throughout the country. Café culture is a life in well in Portugal, and you should expect to be able to enjoy a cup of amazing coffee during any time of the day or night. Food wise, each region has its own speciality. However, you should expect seafood, pork, local vegetables and of course some Portuguese beef. One thing to remember is that in Portugal, dinner is served around 8 or 9. So make sure to enjoy some of that café culture and pick yourself up some pastries to make it through to dinner!

Portugal Landmarks

*Alto Duro Wine Region
A wine producing region for almost 2000 years, Alto Douro is always worth a trip to for those who love the vino. However, this region has been known for its main product, port, since the 18th century. The long tradition of viticulture has allowed the area to flourish during tourist season, and tastings are always a popular choice.

*Furna do Enxofre
One of the largest caves in the country, and the only caldera on Azores island, the Furna do Enxofre is truly a sight to behold. Its origin related to the collapse and drainage of a lava lake that was once in the interior of the caldera, and has left a large dome that is over 150 meters wide, and 100 meters tall. We would strongly suggest hiring a local guide, as the caldera does omit poisonous gases, and there are only two holes that allow oxygen and sunlight into the cave.

*Coa Valley
Home to one of the two Prehistoric Rock Art Sites on the Iberian Peninsula, the Coa Valley site documents continuous human occupation from the end of the Paleolithic Age. You will be able to see for yourself how your ancestors carved into the rock several millennia before. This site can be found on the Coa River, which is a tributary of the river Douro.

*Oporto
This ancient city was built along the hillsides that overlooked the mouth of the Duoro River and offers one of the best urban landscapes in the city. The city has long been connected to the sea, and this is echoed in the many monuments that showcase this connection. The Cathedral includes a Romanesque choice, the neoclassical stock exchange is always worth a visit too and the Church of Santa Clara is the perfect example of Portuguese Manueline-style.