Getting off the beaten track may be quite hard in any popular travel destination and Portugal makes no exception. However, Portugal is still not overcrowded with tourists and there are things to do and places to see which allow you to get off the well beaten travel trail and avoid the tourists, too.
- Drive to Cape St.Vincent to see the sunset. Romantic.
- Walk in Lisbon’s Alfama district. There are some observation points which offer amazing views of the area around you.
- Monsaraz is a tiny Middle Age walled town which will make the entire trip worth-while.
- Put on your walking shoes and hike in the Gerês (Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres).
- Climb the highest of Portuguese peaks, Torre, for amazing alpine views. Do remember that wild camping is forbidden in the park.
Why you should add Portugal to your RTW travel list
Of course, visiting Portugal won’t be complete without seeing some of the major sights that makes it famous. Here are some ideas on what to do if you’ve never been there or plan on staying for a while.
- Visit the tower of Belem in Lisbon. It was from here that Magellan and da Gama once prepared for their New World voyages.
- Sintra might be quite small but it’s filled with gems. Pena Palace will inevitably be one of the things which attract you in this town.
- Experience the nostalgia of fado bars in Lisbon’s Alfama district.
- Escape the mainland and head to the Azores. Lovely scenery, incredible beaches and colorful festivals await.
- If you liked Lisbon, you’ll fell in love with Porto. The Historic Center is a jewel and the wine is to die for.
- Visit the Roman Evora, an incredible town which will make history buffs gasp for air.
- See the fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Madeira. The archipelago offers more than that, of course, and is a year-round destination.
- The small town of Obidos features white washed houses, colorful splashes on the walls and stone paved streets. Climb the hill to see the castle and taste the local cherry liquor.
- Braga was a thriving Roman settlement and now is the Portuguese equivalent of Rome when it comes to historical sites.
- The ruined Roman town of Conímbriga, located close to Coimbra, is one of Portugal’s largest and best preserved Roman sites.
- Guimaraes is the European Capital of Culture in 2012 and it prides on its glorious past.
- See the rock carvings at The Côa Valley Archaeological Park.
- Take a wine tasting tour in Douro Valley.
Why you shouldn’t add Portugal to your RTW travel list
- Spain and Portugal, although sharing the same peninsula, are very different countries. So if you love one of then you’ll most likely dislike the other. Remember that each country has its own charm.
- Avoid visiting the Algarve in the summer. The prices are high and the crowds are there. The lowest prices (and when you have the country to yourself) are in November. Spring is a good option, too.
Portugal remains one of the least traveled Western European countries due to its location to the west of Spain. For this reason, among others, the prices are noticeably lower than the rest of Europe and even in the middle of summer, other travelers may be harder to find. With beautiful Lisbon, the party hardy Agarve, educated Coimbra and sophisticated Porto to see, it’s worth the side trip.
What to do
Portugal is one of the warmest nations in Europe and its many beaches are worth visiting. The typical tourist activities of windsurfing lessons, beach volleyball and lounging around in the bar are all available in Portugal.
Many travelers to Portugal end up spending their time in the countryside, sipping expensive wine and touring a part of Portugal that most don’t even think to try to see. The Portuguese countryside is a relaxed and verdant destination that’s full of vineyards and fields.
Flights to Portugal are available from almost all of the major international carriers. No-frills airlines also shuttle passengers to Portugal from all over Europe and there are trains from Spain to Portugal.
Where to stay
Because of the relatively low volume of tourists through Portugal each year, the prices in the country haven’t inflated to reflect the tourist hotspot that it would be if Spain didn’t act as a geographical screen, filtering out many of the travelers in Barcelona and Madrid. Hotels in Portugal can be booked for less than most other destinations in Europe and hostels are widely available at an even bigger bargain.
For more cheap hotels in Lisbon, visit our friends at EuroCheapo.