Portugal

If you think you have Portugal all figured out, think again. This country is much, much more than the football-fanatic neighbor of Spain. With extensive shores that line up near the Atlantic, Portugal is indeed full of surprises. The country is filled with a wide variety of landscapes – from modern cities to secluded traditional villages, and from snow-capped mountains and to bumbling sunny beaches – and everything that could possibly come in between. Portugal also happens to be a smorgasbord of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from the 15th Century Angra do Heroísmo port, to the prehistoric art of Foz Coa. There is no end to the natural features found here. There are imposing cliffs ideal for climbing and hiking, highlands suitable for biking, horse-riding and camping, and of course the stunning coastline, where visitors can scuba dive, surf waves, or go for paddling and rafting. 

There is a lot of culture to explore here as well – there are many old, medieval castles present in the valleys and highlands. Many of these have been converted to museums and offer a wealth of information for culture enthusiasts. Other cultural attractions include Roman ruins all over the country, Atlantis’s remains in the Azores Archipelago, and stone houses in various small towns and villages.

Those looking for a more urban experience will not be disappointed either. The country’s capital, Lisbon, and its northern twin Porto are the biggest attractions – with their trams and contrasting narrow streets and huge plazas. Tourists can find all the things expected in an urban centre, from hip restaurants and cafes to eyeball-grabbing shops and from quaint boutiques to bumbling nightclubs – the range of experiences are perhaps far too many to pack into a single trip.

Some facts about Portugal:

  • Portugal is home to Bertrand Bookshop, the world’s oldest bookstore. Located in Lisbon, the bookstore has been open since 1732.
  • Portugal holds many unconventional world records, including the largest dining table set.
  • The world’s biggest cork oak forests are present in Portugal. Here, they are known as montados.