Portugal

Top Ten Must-Visit Places in Portugal

PortugalSo you want to go to Portugal.

The question now is, where to go in Portugal?

It is a country filled with amazing sites. What if you are only there for a short time? What will you do?

Read on for some amazing sites that you could fit into your holiday.

25th April Bridge

When you buy assignment online about architecture, you might find this bridge included. The 25th April bridge is a suspension bridge that links Lisbon to Almada. This is a big bridge, and it is definitely worth seeing. It is over two levels – the top is for cars and other road vehicles, the bottom is for trains.

The bridge has a massive six lanes on the upper level. It was always like this. When the bridge was first built, it had two lanes going each way. It wasn’t until the latter half of the twentieth century that it was expanded.

Sintra

Sintra is a resort town in the south of Portugal. It has a very relaxed vibe, and wonderful buildings. As well as everything else you might expect from a resort town, it has a number of castles to explore. The area has been occupied since prehistoric times. Anybody who is a history lover will enjoy every minute of their time spent here.

There is something for everybody in Sintra. History, relaxation, and also plenty of outdoor climbing for people who are into that. Why not have a climbing and history dual holiday?

Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca is just further to the west from Sintra, along the same mountain range. It is one of the best cities to visit in Portugal. There is a lot of history here as well – the Romans called the area Promontorium Magnum because of the sheer size of the cliffs.

This is a good holiday destination for anybody who likes an outdoorsy holiday. The combination of rocks and beaches means that there will always be something to do. Remember to pack sun tan lotion if you are planning a day outside. The weather is consistently very good.

University of Coimbra

This is one of the best places to visit in Portugal. The public university was established in 1290, even though it didn’t come to Coimbra until the early 1500s.

Go to the university to see the architecture of the age. It is on the World Heritage List, so anybody who likes history will want to make a visit. The university has made such an impact on the area that Coimbra has taken on many of its traditions. You can see its culture and sporting traditions on full display in the town whatever the time of year.

Capela dos Ossos

This is a somewhat unusual place. Suffice it to say that if you needed essay papers on the subject of ‘weirdest buildings’, this would be on it.

The Capela dos Ossos is, quite simply, a chapel of bones. It is not a necropolis, or catacombs, or anything like that. It is a literal chapel, built from bones. Thousands and thousands of stacked up bones. The chapel was original built by a Franciscan order, who then exhumed five hundred bodies to give them the bones they needed. If you are brave enough to take a look, you will find the bones arranged in patterns around the walls.

Cabo Girao

After the Chapel of Bones, you might need to visit this site! This is not one of the many cities you can visit in Portugal, but it is very nice nonetheless.

The Cabo Girao is on the island of Madiera. It is a very tall cliff that offers spectacular views over the sea below.

It has always been a very popular cliff walk, but in 2012 Cabo Girao got its own skywalk. It is toughened glass that you can walk along. If you have a good head for heights, then the views are said to be absolutely spectacular.

Obidos Castle

This is one of the best places to visit in Portugal. This is a very well preserved medieval castle near Santa Maria.

Once again, this was likely around in Roman times. It was originally a permanent c

Roman camp, but recent excavations have shown the remains of a Roman town nearby.

The castle was then completely rebuilt in line with what was (in medieval times) cutting edge architecture. You can still see it today. The four walls enclose an irregularly shaped courtyard. You can see the surrounding defensive structures very clearly. This would be a good day trip for your holiday.

Praia da Marinha

Forget all those Portuguese cities to visit, come here! This is Portugal’s best beach. If you want to relax on your holiday, you come here.

This beach has it all. Views, sun, sand…it is used in all the promotions for the Algarve (where this beach is) but it is even prettier in person.

There is a big part of the beach, and a smaller part. You can reach the smaller part by going around a big rock from the big one, but be careful! The tide can come up quickly. You don’t want to be caught unawares!

Belem Tower

Belem Tower is yet another piece of Medieval architecture. Inkbot design is the best website to start building your own brand!. Just as inverness is said to be the gateway to the Highlands in Scotland, Belem Tower is said to be the gateway to Lisbon.

You shouldn’t miss any opportunity to see this wonderful tower. It is a mix of Christian and Islamic building techniques, and sits on volcanic rock on the edge of the Tagus River. It, along with the nearby monastery, have been declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO.

Pena National Palace

This is the best of Portugal. The national palace is situated in the Sintra mountain range. It can be seen from Lisbon on a particularly clear day.

The palace is built in the Romantic style, fitting where it sits on the Portuguese Riviera. It is one of the wonders of Portugal. If you are lucky, you will see it when the president uses it on a state occasion.

If you visit it, you will easily be able to see the profusion of architectural styles which characterise Romanticism.

Enjoy your Trip!

Any of these sites will make your entire holiday. Which will you choose? Why not use the ones you can’t visit as inspiration for your next visit? It’s easy to save up if you know what you will be saving for. Make sure that you enjoy all of your trip!

5 Tips for Visiting Portugal During Carnival Season

Portugal is the home of carnival and each year hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive to enjoy up to ten days of riotous celebration.  The roots of carnival go way back into Portuguese history and the celebration is a complex brew of Catholic tradition, folklore and political satire which gets richer as each year passes.  Carnival literally means ‘put away the meat’, it’s the traditional big blow out before the start of Lent, a period during which Christians gave up eating meat, fish, eggs and fat. 

The celebrations culminate on Shrove Tuesday, better known to everyone outside the UK as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).  Carnival takes place all over Portugal but most visitors from outside of the country head to the Algarve, which is where some of the biggest celebrations take place.  So, if you and your mates are heading down that way, here are some tips to bear in mind.

Accommodation

If you’ve not booked a hotel well in advance, then you are probably too late but don’t despair there are other options.  You may still find an Airbnb or two, but if you’re travelling with friends you are unlikely to find anything large enough.  Consider instead renting some self-catering accommodation, not only will this give you plenty of space but it will also mean that you don’t always have to go out to eat and when you are all carnivaled out you’ll have somewhere comfy to relax.  In terms of location, then Lisbon is the obvious choice.  It’s got good transport links with local airports and it’s full of great places to eat and drink.

Where to go

Wherever you are you will see evidence of carnival but to see the best celebrations you’ll have to move out of Lisbon. Carnaval de Torres Vedas, about 40km from Lisbon, is generally reckoned to be about the biggest carnival around, although the celebrations on the Portuguese island of Madeira are also pretty spectacular. The Carnaval de Alcobaco, Leira is the most ‘Brazilian’ of the carnivals, dominated by samba bands, samba dancers and DJs playing, yes you got it, samba.

Getting around

Portugal has a great public transport system but as you can imagine it’s liable to get a little crowded around carnival time, so it’s well worth considering hiring a car, especially if there’s a group of you.  The anarchic spirit of carnival means that you have to be flexible about timings and you’ll need to be prepared to do a fair bit of walking.

Dressing up

You’ll see some of the most outrageous costumes you’ve ever set eyes on, the Matrafonas or Maria Cachuchas are men in drag and the Cabecudos are people in flamboyant costume with impossibly large heads, so let yourself go, you won’t be out of place.  Even though Portuguese winters are considerably warmer than the ones in the UK it will get chilly later on, so have something warm with you.

Pacing yourself

Ten days of eating, drinking and dancing is a pretty tall order, so build in some downtime so that you can recover your strength, you don’t want to be too exhausted to enjoy the culmination of the celebrations on Mardi Gras Tuesday.

Top secret beaches in Portugal

With a temperate climate all year round, Portugal is a popular destination and just a short hop from the UK. Thankfully, travelling is no longer a soul-destroying, fatigue inducing nightmare it once was – especially with direct flights to Portugal being so frequent and cheap. In fact, Portugal has become one of the most popular holiday destinations for some time now. And for that reason, we’re going to take a look at five of the most popular, but super secret, hidden beaches on the Iberian Peninusla.

#1 Praia do Barrill, Ilha da Tavira

Let’s start on the south coast of the country with the sun-drenched beaches of this barrier island. Only 40 minutes’ drive from Faro, it can be busy close to the restaurants but wander some 10 kms over the saltmarshes and you will be rewarded with stunning white sandy beaches that make whiling away hours in the sun so much easier.

#2 Praia da Santa, Salema

Further up the Portuguese coast on the Algarve are the stunning beaches of Praia de Santa. Fantastic for those that like coves and windswept cliff tops, you can follow the tracks left by dinosaurs from millennia past, you can explore the history of the area to your heart’s content. Some beaches in the area can be wild and rugged, but Praia da Salema has cafes and restaurants, as well as a lifeguard for the summer season.

#3 Praia da Adraga, Sintra-Cascaise natural park

Half an hour north of Lisbon, hiding ancient castles in its forests and dramatic cliffs and sea coves are the beaches of this stunning national park. On hot days, shelter in the shade of the rock shaped like an elephant trunk and explore small caves at low tides. Popular with surfers, this beach can be busier and with fantastic seafood restaurants close by, you will see why. But, the vast expanse of sandy beaches means it worth the effort. You could hike the 5km to Cabo da Roca too, and say you have stood on the most westerly tip of mainland Europe.

#4 Dunas de Sao Jacinto, Aveiro

Hidden away in the northerly reaches of Portugal, you might need to bring your phone with you just so you can fall back on Google Maps! Aveiro is a rural area on one side, with the sea on the other. As a result, is full of all kinds of wildlife and birdlife. It is a protected nature reserve meaning that it is, in the main, unspoilt. It has 8km of clear, white sandy beaches untouched by popular tourism. A wild beach, fringed by pine trees, there are boardwalks for walking the sandy beaches easier but there is no café and no lifeguard – which gives you a nice place to escape. Read a book, play some games, or check out a few bingo sites with high payouts if you’re missing your creature comforts – see, we told you bringing your phone would be a good idea. Perfect for spotting sandpipers, gannets and ospreys, and if you like seclusion.

#5 Praia Forte do Paco, Viana do Castelo

An hour north of Porto, the wooded hills of Viana do Castelo give way to a coastline pitted with coves, dunes and secret beaches that are just waiting to be discovered. Of them all, the 800-metre beach of Praia Forte do Paco is surely one of the best. Taking its name from the 18th-century fort nearby, it is fairly quiet, even in the main tourist summer season. But it too is untouched so bring a picnic for your day at the beach as there are no cafes in the immediate area.

Portugal to Morocco itinerary

Travel itinerary for Portugal to Morocco

These days, travelling is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to the sheer number of airlines and travel companies offering low-cost luxury travel to 21st century nomads. But, while travelling is much easier now, and quicker than it has ever been before, there is a certain joy in taking the long way round and opting for the longer scenic route, as opposed to the path of least resistance.

What I like to do is set myself a passport challenge, and take in as many countries as possible by travelling overland. This year, I’m planning to travel from Portugal to Morocco; via Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Egypt before arriving at my intended destination.

While this trip normally wouldn’t take very long, as there is only 20 miles between the continents, I want to make this trip a little more interesting, and so, I’m going to take in 7 countries in total on my journey. But why have I chosen these destinations?

Portugal

Portugal to Morocco itineraryPortugal is a real gem on the European continent, and while it’s often seen as the place to go for budget family holidays, it’s full of rich culture, beautiful historical buildings and fine food. Try traditional Portugal-style sardines after a long day’s sightseeing in Lisbon, or head to Douro, for a day trip to this beautiful landscape.

Spain

Portugal spain Morocco holidayThere’s a lot more to Spain than beach holidays and drinking, and so, I’m planning to head further inland and get a taste of the real Spain, that most travellers don’t get to see.

Beginning in Madrid, I’m planning to head to Cordoba, Seville and Granada, taking in as many sights and attractions as possible, including trying a beer or two in one of Seville’s legendary bars.

Bulgaria

Portugal to Morocco road tripOne of the highlights of the Balkan peninsula, Bulgaria has fascinated me for a long time, and starting in the picturesque capital of Sofia, I’m aiming to see as much of this beautiful country as possible.

Often seen as a land dominated by history, sites like the Varna Necropolis and traditions like rose picking often attract visitors, but I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the locals walk across hot coals and fire dancing, which are traditional celebrations on certain days of the year.

Greece

Portugal to Morocco routeI’ve been to Greece many times, but I’ve still not seen as much of the country as I would like to. Beginning on the mainland (probably Athens) I’d like to take a tour through mainland Greece, and experience as much of the country’s culture and history as possible.

Travelling by train is highly recommended, so, I would like to head north, to the hanging monasteries of Meteora, before driving to Delphi and going hiking Parnassos.

Turkey

Portugal to Morocco thru turkey

Home of beaches, beautiful historical ruins and Ottoman mansions, Turkey may be one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Beginning in the capital, Istanbul, home of the world-famous Spice Market, I’m planning to head to Gallipoli, a WWI battle site, before heading to Troy to explore the ruins of this ancient, but infamous city.

Egypt

Portugal egypt Morocco holidayThe fulcrum of the most mysterious ancient civilization, Egypt has an appeal that extends way beyond the pyramids.

This is the main reason why, although I’ll be landing at Cairo, I’ll soon after venture south down the Nile valley, and then further East towards the Red Sea.

Here I’ve already planned a night guided visit to Mount Sinai – sleeping in its biblical wilderness will surely be one of the highlight of my whole adventure!

Morocco

overland trip to Morocco itineraryThe final stop on my ‘Long Way Round’ trip, I’m looking forward to visiting the region’s many bazaars and spas. Fez is a popular Moroccan destination for visitors, and a great place to find souvenirs and gifts to send back home.

I’m going to stay in a Riad (traditional house) and attempt to haggle with the locals, whilst drinking mint tea whenever it is offered to me – which will be often, I’m assured!

I’m very much looking forward to this trip, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the passport challenge; which provided me with much-needed inspiration for my holiday planning. So why don’t you try it?

 

Portugal road trip 2013

Road trip advice for Northern Portugal

Summer is nearly here and all you need to enjoy a brilliant road trip is to follow the top things to explore in Northern Portugal. Most people go to Lisbon and Algarve and often miss out on the beauties of the northern part of the country. Here are the things you need to know to make your Portugal holiday trip the memory of a lifetime:

Get the map out

Portugal road trip itineraryThere are three stops you absolutely have to make on this trip: one because of the scenery, two because the beaches are stunning and three – that sun tan is not going to top itself up.

About an hour’s drive from Oporto you will find Viana do Castello, with its neo-Byzantine temple and Praia do CabEdelo – the beach, which is backed by vibrant sand dunes and picture opportunities that will make those Photoshopped images pale in comparison.

Explore Portugal by taking advantage of local car hire services and drive to Praia Caminha –   there is only one word to describe this place: FABULOUS!  Based at the natural border with Spain – Minho River, with Santa Tecla Mountain as its backdrop, the scenery is breathtakingly magnificent: featuring pine forests as well as a long stretch of sandy beach to keep you cool and chilled. And to top it all off, if you lie back on the sand you can look at the beautiful view of the 17th century island fortress.

Visiting Northern Portugal you can’t miss Guimaraes – known as the ‘birthplace’ of the country. There you can also visit its castle and churches and learn about Portugal’s colourful past. The historic centre of Guimaraes is the third stop on your route and it’s very much worth spending a night there, just so you can include a visit to the wine estate and discover Britain’s role in the development of the country’s wine.

Vroom Vroom

Road tripThere are approximately 2,000 km of coastline to explore in Portugal so if you don’t own a car, renting one is the best and cheapest option. Car hire in Portugal is a fast, easy way to get the best car for this road trip. When booking it you should look to get a small car and make it a hybrid one if possible because even if it startes off more expensive you will save loads on fuel, remember to pack light as it also reduces fuel costs.

Once that’s arranged you can explore the wild beaches, imposing cliffs and charming fishing villages. Drive through Northern Portugal’s coastline in your hire car and gasp in awe as you take the scenery in.

En route you can have pit stops for surfing, rock climbing or a barbecue and spend the night “free camping”, aka: sleeping in your car by the beach. This is accepted in quiet areas but not in the Algarve where it is illegal.

Turn the volume up

Portugal road trip 2013Ever since road trips were invented music has been a favourite pastime for the road.  Most hire cars have CD players but that kind of limits your choices, so I’d suggest bringing your iPod or MP3 player as they can store thousands of songs –  plus it doesn’t take up as much space.

Music is known to raise everyones spirits so bringing great tunes is crucial. It energises the group and will also let you focus on your surroundings.

Breathe in – Breathe out

Yoga holidays in PortugalIf you’re looking to escape the craziness of the sunny beaches and tanned tourists you can drive up to Sintra for a yoga retreat.

Sintra is located just outside Lisbon – which makes this stop a detour – but the yoga and meditation workshops take place in an eco-hostel in the heart of the mountain range. Sintra town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is well worth the drive. You can stay there for a night and recharge your batteries before going back home. The next Sintra yoga session starts around the end of August 2013 and the price starts at €400 per person. It’s not the cheapest but you can have guided sessions and will feel relaxed and rejuvenated following your session.