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This year Portugal was the runaway winner at the World Travel Awards with no less than 17 awards including World’s Best Destination and World’s leading Golf Destination. This comes as no surprise to me as I absolutely love this country.
There are many reasons that Portugal beat all other tourist destinations for the second year running but here are my top 5.
One of my favourite wine regions and most picturesque places in the world is along the banks of the Douro River from Porto. If you prefer your wine to be robust and full-bodied you might want to try a bottle from here made from grapes grown on steep, terraced vineyards that look so magnificent rising from the river.
3. The Beautiful cities. - Porto won me over several years ago and it has had a place in my heart ever since. Set picturesquely astride the River Douro downstream of the wine estates that made its name, Portugal's second city comes alive in spring and is a perfect time to visit. The history of Porto dates back to the 1st century BC when, under Roman rule, the city played an important role on the main trade route between Lisbon and Braga. At the time, the city was known as Cale, or Portus Cale (Port of Cale, the origins of the name of Portugal), and was situated on the banks of the Douro River where today Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are located. With its medieval heart, contemporary buzz, magnificent gold-leaf-laced churches – oh, and a rather nice signature drink of the same name– Portugal’s second city merits a visit at any time, but has a special charm in April and May. After the rains of winter there is lovely freshness and greenness to the city, and once again the cafés and restaurants that line the River Douro and the outlying beaches are coming back to life. Porto is a city compact enough to enjoy in 36 hours but, as the author JK Rowling discovered when she lived and taught here, there is something inspirational about it that tempts you back. In the south you will find the fairy tale city of Sintra. This little city, located a outside of Lisbon, has so many castles that it is almost unreal: Every castle is built in another style — from a Moorish defence castle, to the classically Portuguese national palace, to the surreally colourful Palácio da Pena, which looks like straight out of a Disney movie. My favourite palace was Palácio de Monserrate which was built as a 19th century version of an Arabian night’s dream.
4. The Art and of course the Tiles - I can't get enough of the azulejos - “Azulejo" is a word used in Spain and Portugal to designate a glazed tile: a terracotta tile covered with an opaque glazing. In these two countries, azulejos have been frequently used since the 13th century to cover and decorate walls, fountains, pavements, ceilings, vaults, baths, or fireplaces. I especially love the old ones which are often beautifully crafted and painstakingly hand painted.
5. The Shopping. Prices in Portugal are some of the most affordable in Europe and your dollar goes a very long way. Pottery is one of the best buys especially the pottery covered with brightly coloured roosters from Barcelos are legendary. In fact, the rooster has become the virtual symbol of Portugal. Blue-and-white pottery is made in Coimbra and often in Alcobaça. My favourite items come from Caldas da Rainha. They include yellow-and-green dishes in the shape of vegetables (especially cabbage), fruit, animals, and even leaves. Vila Real is known for its black pottery, and Aceiro is known for polychrome pottery. Some red-clay pots from the Alentejo region in the southeast are based on designs that go back to the Etruscans. Atlantis crystal is another good buy. Suede and leather, as in Spain, are also good buys. The best buy in Portugal, gold, is strictly regulated by the government. Jewellers must put a minimum of 19.2 karats into the jewelry they sell. Filigree jewelry in gold and silver is popular in Lisbon and elsewhere in Portugal.
Travelling to Portugal has never been so inexpensive. Flights from as little as $800 and hotels from under $100 a night if you are on a tight budget.
For much more info and to join one of our hosted group trips to Portugal check out our website
Or Call Our Travel Guru Lorraine Simpson and ask about any travel needs you may have. Call 289-273-8095