Popular regions of PortugalView all regions
There are a great many places to go in Portugal, and a number of direct flights go there from European cities. Lisbon is the busiest hub, and it’s where most intercontinental flights land. The other large mainland airports are Porto in the north, and Faro in the south — the gateway to the Algarve. You can land private jets in smaller regional airports. Madeira has its own airport, and so do the Azores — Ponta Delgada airport. When it comes to getting around, your best option is a car. Get an Uber or taxi in bigger cities, and a chauffeured or rental car for larger distances. Highways are extensive and well-maintained, which makes Portugal a good road trip option.
Climate & seasons
Don’t let generalisations fool you. Portugal comprises many regions, and the climate varies from one to another. Summer temperatures in Algarve and Lisbon range from 18°C to 30°C, but in the mountains of Serra da Estrela they don’t go above 22°C. Lisbon can be sunny in winter, but the nearby Oeste region is grey and windy. Still, very broadly speaking, summer is best for beaches than sightseeing in towns, as you may find it too hot to wander around on foot. If you do want to sightsee, spring and autumn are probably better for you. Winter months are good if you want to avoid the large crowds. But the best thing to do is choose what kind of holiday you want in Portugal — beach, partying, traditional festivals, countryside relaxation, historical towns, golf, nature — and then find out what is the best time of the year for that.
Where to go
Lisbon is full of sunlight, local life, and majestic historical monuments. A half-hour drive west will take you to Sintra’s wooded hills, which hide splendid manor houses and palaces. South of Lisbon is the rural Alentejo, where farmhouses and quiet countryside are ideal for a relaxing stay, and further south, the Algarve has Portugal’s best beaches as well as imposing sea cliffs. Heading north from Lisbon you will come to celebrated historical cities like Guimarães, Braga and Coimbra. In the far north, the Douro River and the city of Porto are synonymous with wine. Out in the Atlantic, the lush volcanic island of Madeira is under one hour from Lisbon by air, while a 2h30 flight will bring you to the archipelago of Azores. These beautiful volcanic islands are not a beach destination, and are less visited than Madeira, Cape Verde or Spain’s Canary Islands — but this is exactly what gives them a satisfyingly remote feel.
What to do
Portugal is any history lover’s dream, with relics ranging from megalithic stones older than Stonehenge, to medieval Moorish castles and baroque palaces. Porto and the Douro Valley are a must-visit for wine enthusiasts — you can tour wineries, taste wines, and take part in the grape harvest. If you like being out in nature, go on a cruise in the River Douro and explore national parks such as Ria Formosa, then fly over to discover the entirely different volcanic landscapes of Madeira and Azores. If it’s the beach you long for, go to Algarve and see for yourself why that region is a premier leisure destination. Golfers will be pleased to find out that though there are only 75 golf courses in Portugal, most of them are excellent — our favorites being Quinta do Lago, Oitavos Dunes, Monte Rei and the incredibly scenic Porto Santo in Madeira.