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21 of the Most Sensational Places to Visit in Portugal

Portugal is undoubtedly one of the best countries to visit in Europe. With a temperate climate offering visitors hot summer days and mild winters to its world heritage sites, bustling cities, idyllic scenery and delicious traditional food, Portugal is sensational. But it doesn’t stop there. Add to the list unique natural landscapes in the beautiful islands of the Azores and Madeira. And not forgetting the tourist magnet of white sandy beaches waiting to entice visitors to the Algarve region.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the opportunity to kayak, paddleboard and surf in Portugal’s sea, rivers and lakes. Hikers will love the challenge of walking along Madeira’s “levada channels”, high up in the mountains, and culture lovers will enjoy the historical landmarks at every turning and the modern street art in Lisbon, Porto and Agueda.

If you plan to travel to Portugal, this post will highlight the most sensational places to visit as chosen by travel writers.

Each writer has given their individual insight into each of the 21 most sensational places to visit in Portugal. Find out what there is to see and do when you visit Portugal, as well as a “top tip” for each location.

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Best Cities and Towns in Portugal

Lisbon

Contributed by Suzanne from The Travel Bunny

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is the perfect destination for a European city break and a great starting point for exploring the rest of the country. This colourful, cosmopolitan city is chilled but buzzy, cool but cultured and overflowing with things to see and do, from museums to contemporary art to amazing day trips.

Lisbon, which sits on the river Tagus, is a city of hills which means castles and epic viewpoints. If you’re not into hauling yourself up a hill, Lisbon has the answer in its iconic yellow trams and funiculars. Take the tram up to São Jorge Castle and check out the fabulous views across the city. Sunset is a good time to do this.  

Walk your way back down through the winding, cobblestone lanes of Alfama, Sé and Mouraria. Look out for colourful tiled walls and listen out for the mournful strains of Fado music seeping out from the shuttered windows of cosy bars and restaurants in Barrio Alto. 

Historical Lisbon

It is really easy to get around using the Lisbon metro. You can take the train out to the beautiful Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where you can try Pasteis de Belem, Lisbon’s famous custard tarts – one of my favourite things about Lisbon! The bakery is right next door to the monastery. Whilst in Belem, check out the Monument to the Discoveries, the Belem Tower and the futuristic Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) – and that’s just day one. Check out this 3 day Lisbon itinerary and guide for more things to do in Lisbon. 

Suzanne’s Top Tip:

Stay at the 5* EPIC SANA Lisboa Hotel in Amoreiras neighbourhood. This modern hotel has a rooftop infinity pool with fabulous views over the city. It’s also very close to the Metro station or a 25-minute walk to the city centre. 

Things to do in Lisbon

Porto

Porto is a Unesco World Heritage Site and known for being the origin of port wine. With many port cellars located along the banks of the magnificent Douro River mostly in Vila Nova, it is easy to think that this is the city’s main attraction. There are, however, so many other things to do in Porto that a 3-night break to Portugal’s second-largest city is a must. 

Down by the river in Porto’s trendy Ribeiro district. Here you will find restaurants, bars and Porto boat tours cruising beneath the cities six bridges. Glide underneath the city’s landmark Dom Luis 1 bridge, designed by one of Gustave Eiffel’s students, and marvel at the double-decker pedestrian and vehicle crossing. 

Porto is also well-known for the white and blue “azulejo” tiles. Visitors can see them decorating buildings all around the city. Some of the best azulejo tiles can be seen at the Sao Bento train station. They are worth checking out even if you aren’t catching a train!

History lovers will find a visit to Igreja de São Francisco and its gruesome catacombs fascinating. At the same time, Porto Cathedral with outstanding views down to the river is a must-see Porto landmark.

Harry Potter fans won’t want to miss Librario Lello, the charming bookstore supposedly the inspiration for J.K.Rowling’s novels.

Make sure that while you are in the city of Porto, you try two regional dishes. The first is Francesinha – a sandwich containing melted cheese, cooked meat, tomato and beer sauce. The second is an egg custard pastry called Pastel de Nata available at almost every Porto bakery!

Things to do in Porto

Douro Valley

Contributed by Maggie from Pink Caddy Travelogue

The Douro Valley is a can’t-miss part of any Portugal itinerary. With the gentle Douro River meandering through thousands of acres of terraced vine-covered hills, this beautiful section of central Portugal is the world’s oldest demarcated wine region. Grapes have been grown in the Douro Valley for over 2,000 years, and the Portuguese authorities set its official boundaries in 1756. 

For wine lovers, it’s a haven. Visit any number of the port houses and vineyards in the Douro Valley. Some of the best wineries in the Douro Valley, such as Sandeman and Croft, have tasting rooms directly off the main highway. 

Another classic Douro activity is to take a trip on a “rabelo,” a traditional flat-bottomed boat, down the river itself.

Places to Visit in the Douro Valley

Visitors should also stop in the small town of Pinhao. Though it only had one main street, Pinhao is the largest settlement in the region. It has a historic blue-tiled train station and an adorable wine shop that offers tastings and Portuguese pasteis de Nata (custard tarts).

There are plenty of places to stay in Pinhao but for those looking for true 5-star luxury, the Vintage House set in a former 18th-century wine estate offers the perfect stay in the Douro Valley.

The most popular place to stay in the Douro Valley is at one of the wineries themselves – many of the “casas” operate as a B&B. There are also several boutique inns, like Casa Cimeira, that are lovely. The town of Regua also has several hotels

Maggie’s Top Tip:

If you’re short on time, I recommend a guided day tour (such as the one offered by Oporto and Douro Moments). That way, you can learn about the local history and culture, drink an irresponsible amount of port (without worrying about driving), and see the beauty of the Douro Valley from every angle. 

Things to do in the Duoro Valley

Braga

Contributed by Becky from Its Just Becks

Less than an hour from the well-known tourist hotspot of Porto, is Portugal’s oldest city, Braga. It is oozing with history, religion and stunning Baroque architecture and is home to Portugal’s oldest religious monument, Sé Cathedral, along with a host of other churches.

Day trip visitors to Braga often start the day by venturing a little out of the city centre, where the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bom Jesus do Monte sits proudly on top of a hill. Bom Jesus greets pilgrims and tourists alike with a spectacular staircase of nearly 600 steps leading up to the chapel. There’s a funicular available too, and the surrounding gardens mean it’s a hit with visitors and a landmark not to miss while in Braga.

Heading back into the city centre, a trip to Sé Cathedral is a must. A walk through the colourful streets and past traditional tile-covered buildings will undoubtedly lead you to more churches, museums and the all-important street cafes. Be sure not to miss a walk through Arco da Porta Nova, the beautiful Baroque arch built in the 18th century and not forgetting a visit to Braga Tower, a remnant of the medieval castle of Braga.

Becky’s Top Tip:

To get an authentic feel for Braga, my favourite thing to do is head to one of the markets. Spend a while perusing the different stalls before having a coffee at the popular Café A Brasileira. Come evening; there’s only one thing for it, the traditional Portuguese dish francesinha for dinner.

Things to do in Braga

Coimbra

Contributed by Soumya from Stories by Soumya

One of Portugal’s prettiest yet lesser-known UNESCO world heritage sites is the charming river town of Coimbra, which can be visited from Porto as a day trip. Steeped in amazing historical monuments, Coimbra is home to the oldest academic institution in Portugal and was once a Moorish stronghold.

There are many interesting things to do in Coimbra, including taking a walk through the quaint streets of the 12th-century University of Coimbra, getting wowed by its stunning architecture (Santa Cruz Monastery and Joanine Library are especially remarkable), and learning all about its Harry Potter legacy. 

Wander through the steep yet beautiful historic centre, listen to a soulful Fado rendition, and get some stunning views of the city from across Rio Mondego. Be sure to carry a good pair of walking shoes because the old town and the university are located on a hill slope, and there’s a lot of walking involved.

When in Coimbra, do try Pastel de Tentúgal, a unique Portuguese dessert from the nearby town of Tentúgal.

Soumya’s Top Tip:

Don’t forget to add a half-day trip to the Roman ruins of Conimbriga which are less than 10 miles away. Conimbriga is home to some of the most well-preserved Roman mosaics in the world.

Things to do in Coimbra

Agueda

Contributed by Jackie from JouJou Travels

Águeda, a small town of 47,000 inhabitants, is located in Portugal, one hour from Porto (63km). It is famed for the Umbrella Sky Project installation, which takes place between July to September every year, shading streets during the hot summer days.

Hundreds of vibrantly coloured umbrellas cover multiple streets throughout the charming town. It is probably one of the most colourful cities in the world and gives so many positive vibes. There is also tons of street art and music events making this small town a worthwhile stop on your trip to Portugal.

You don’t need long to see the small village of Águeda – a couple of hours will be plenty. Just wander the happy streets and stop by O Tipico for lunch, indulging in their fantastic food. Closely situated 30 minutes from Aveiro, “the Venice of Portugal”, known for its canal resembling Venice. You can stay overnight in Aveiro as there may be more options as it’s a bit larger of a town.

Jackie says:

If you up for visiting off-the-beaten-track destinations, then Águeda is for you! It is definitely one of the lesser-known places to go in Portugal and so very unique.

Evora

Contributed by Carol from Is This Even A Road

Step back in time into the ancient city of Evora. Narrow cobbled streets wind through a maze of local shops, ornate churches, outdoor cafes and Roman ruins. This UNESCO World Heritage city dates back over five thousand years and has been inhabited since the 2nd century B.C.

The walled city sits 83 miles south of Lisbon and is a good halfway point to the Algarve. It is surrounded by the picturesque Alentejo region known for its olive fields and traditional villages.

Evora’s 16th century whitewashed buildings are decorated with wrought-iron balconies and azulejos tiles. Open-air shops sell cork products, ceramic tiles and other regional keepsakes. Evora is known for its 1st-century Roman ruins and The Templo Romano Evora which boasts 12 original stone pillars. 

This walkable historic city is also known for its grand churches, and there are several must-see tourist attractions in Evora. Igreja de Sao Francisco is decorated in carved wood and azulejo tiles. Off of the main cathedral is the eerie Capela dos Ossos or Chapel of Bones. Several thousand bones and skulls decorate the walls and pillars. It is said to be a reflection of the transience of human life.

The stunning 1204 A.D. Cathedral of Evora is one of the area’s oldest buildings, with rooftop views overlooking the city. The painted scenes of Angel’s and carved gold decor surrounding the 1580’s Igreja da Graca are worth a visit.

Carol’s Top Tip:

Rua Alcarcova de Baixo is a popular evening hotspot with bars, cafes and outdoor seating.

Things to do in Evora

Aveiro

Contributed by Marie from A Life Without Borders

Only one hour from Porto by train, the charming city of Aveiro makes for an easy day trip or interesting stopover when driving between Lisbon and Porto. Dubbed the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro is renowned for its picturesque canals and painted gondolas known as Moliceiros. Ferrying visitors along the maze of waterways in the city centre, a trip on a traditional boat is one of the highlights of visiting this seaport city.

Besides its rich maritime history of primarily cod fishing, Aveiro charms with elaborate Art Nouveau buildings, engaging museums and a wealth of cafes and restaurants lining the main waterway. Stroll the quaint side streets to discover traditional Portuguese tiles adorning the old train station and many homes, churches and shops in the city. 

Visit the salt pans in the Aveiro lagoon and the open-air eco-museum to discover the history and traditional methods of salt production in the region. Pop into the famous Aveiro Fish Market to see the frantic action of the day’s catch being unloaded and try some of the region’s famous seafood dishes. And don’t miss sampling the sweet egg-yolk treat of Ovos Moles, the regional delicacy that pairs perfectly with coffee.

Whilst Aveiro offers visitors a wealth of laid-back activities, it is undoubtedly a “moliceiro” boat ride through the city canals that is a highlight and favoured activity from all who visit – not to be missed!

Marie’s Top Tip:

The elegant Hotel Moliceiro with delightful views over the central canal is a fabulous upmarket choice for those wishing to stay the night.

Things to do in Aveiro

Costa Nova Do Prado

Often mistaken to be in Aveiro, the beautiful beachside town of Costa Nova is actually a short drive away.

Surfers and wind-surfers favour costa Novas for its magnificent waves and stunning beach. However, the magnet that pulls photographers and tourists to Costa Nova is the candy-striped houses that line the strip of land between the lagoon and the beach. Once used as storage and shelter for fishermen’s equipment and boats, these shelters had no separating floors when first built. Over time, the fishermen added levels to enable families to live together.

These iconic traditional houses known as “haystacks’ to the Portuguese are now privately owned as holiday homes and holiday rentals. If you want to stay in one of the candy-striped buildings, the M Costa Nova has been restored and has sea views.

You should visit the Fishing Market while in Costa Nova. Freshly caught shellfish from the lagoon is prepared and served immediately.

Sintra

Contributed by Claire from Tales of a Backpacker

Sintra is a special place and, without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in Portugal. The town has been the home of Portuguese Royalty, Moorish princes, and eccentric millionaires since the 10th Century. They’ve all left behind some of the most magnificent fairytale castles and palaces in Europe that have made Sintra a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Pena Palace is the most famous of the castles in Sintra, with its red and yellow towers visible for miles around. You can get a ticket to go inside the palace or just explore from the outside. There are extensive gardens, and the view from outside the palace is probably sufficient for most people.

Fairytale Castle of Sintra

The Moorish Castle has splendid views of the countryside and Pena Palace and has a fascinating history. La Quinta de Regaleira was a private home whose owner had the gardens landscaped to create a mystical wonderland. You might recognise the Well of Initiation from photos on Instagram – it was used for ceremonies possibly related to the Freemasons or Tarot – whatever its purpose, don’t miss exploring the gardens. The Sintra National Palace and the Palace of Monserrate are other popular attractions here.

Many people visit this magical town on a day trip from Lisbon, but you will have more time to explore if you spend at least one night here. If you do have the time, a drive through the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais to Cabo da Roca on the coast is also worth the effort.

Claire comments:

My surprise favourite thing to do in Sintra was to watch the sunset from the Moorish Castle. I nearly didn’t go as I was so tired after walking everywhere. I’m glad I did, the views were incredible!  

Things to do in Sintra

Obidos

Contributed by Anisa from Two Traveling Texans

You feel like you’ve gone back in time when you visit Obidos, about an hour north of Lisbon. It’s a small, well-preserved medieval town that has a lot to offer visitors. 

City walls surround the town, much like Dubrovnik in Croatia. They are pretty impressive to see but even more spectacular to walk on. You get terrific views of Obidos and the surrounding countryside.

Allow at least an hour to do this walk, then treat yourself to the local cherry-flavoured liquor, Ginja served in a chocolate cup. You will find many stands selling Ginja along with other souvenirs along the town’s main road. Nearby, venture inside the Santa Maria Church where King Afonso V married his cousin Isabel in 1444. 

The best time to go to Obidos is in the summer when they have the Medieval Festival. You can bring a medieval costume or rent one during your visit. The highlight is the medieval feasts that they have on Friday and Saturday evenings.

You can easily visit Obidos as a day trip if you have a car or take the bus. There are also many organized tours from Lisbon. However, why not stay longer, at the luxury hotel Pousada Castelo de Obidos located in the town’s medieval castle.

Anisa’s Top Tip:

I loved the city wall walk, but there were times it was a bit scary without a handrail. Don’t let that deter you, just be careful; the views are worth it.

Things to do in Obidos

Viana do Castelo

Contributed by Jorge and Claudia from Portugal Things

Viana do Castelo is a charismatic coastal city in the north of Portugal, 70km from Porto. It is a city bathed by the Atlantic ocean and the Lima River. The city has a strong tie with the sea, with a big port. It used to be known for its shipbuilding and its essential role in cod fishing campaigns.

But besides the beach and the river, the city has a charming old medieval city centre with plenty to do. In the city centre, you will find the costume museum, where you can admire the different costumes used by the locals, some of which are very elaborate. Viana do Castelo is also known for its jewellery, the famous heart of Viana, a golden heart with a beautiful design in filigree. 

You must visit Santa Luzia Basilica on top of the hill outside the centre. From the Basilica, you will find breathtaking panoramic views overlooking the city of Viana do Castelo, Lima river, and the shoreline. 

Another top attraction is the Gil Eanes Hospital Ship; a former hospital ship converted into a museum. Here you will learn about Portugal’s brave history in the cod fishing campaigns.

Finally, you can spend some time on the beach, surfing or sunbathing or take a drive to Ponte de Lima, 30km from Viana do Castelo and one of Portugal’s oldest and most charming towns.

Jorge’s Top Tip:

Viana do Castelo is also the perfect place to eat fresh fish, which is always delicious. But, our top tip is to try the “Bolas de Berlim” (Berliner) in the Natario pastry shop. 

Things to do in Viana Do Castelo

Porto Covo

Contributed by Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic

One of the standouts of an impressive line of terrific fishing villages along the southwestern coast of Portugal, and only a 2-hour drive from Lisbon is lovely Porto Covo. With fantastic trails along the photogenic cliffs up and down the coast, hikers and bikers will find plenty to occupy them. Plus, like most places along Portugal’s Atlantic Coast, surfing is a popular pastime and one of the many outdoor things to do in Porto Covo.

There are several top beaches within walking distance of the village, offering a nice variety of scenic, sheltered and wild surf. Praia Grande is a big, beautiful stretch of sand next to Porto Covo that gets busy mid-summer but usually still has plenty of room for everyone to spread out. Meanwhile, in the other direction, Praia dos Buizinhos is a picturesque jumble of rocks great for photos and collecting seashells.

Visitors can find the best surfing in Portugal at Praia de Vale Figueiras. Further south, the old ruins at Praia da Ilha do Pessegueiro are perfect for history lovers and anyone fascinated by the remains of Forte do Santo Alberto, still noticeable on the small offshore island. A guided day trip from Lisbon highlighting the southwest coast of Portugal is a good way of seeing Porto Covo if you are strapped for time.

There is a good selection of local Portuguese restaurants specializing in excellent seafood in the gorgeous, whitewashed old town centre. With mild winters and hot, sunny summers, Porto Covo is a superb choice nearly all year round.

Dean’s Top Tip:

Parque Campisimo Porto Covo offers a wide range of accommodation from comfortable suites with kitchenettes (we also enjoyed the fireplace in March) to camping and RV spots.

Best Places to Visit in The Algarve Region

Faro

Faro is the capital of the Algarve but is often regarded as simply the gateway to Portugal’s beach resorts. Before heading on to other places in the Algarve, take some time to explore the charming town of Faro.

Start by wandering along Faro’s streets lined with whitewashed buildings. Stop to peek inside traditional shops selling Portuguese handicrafts and delicacies. Then on to the Cathedral of Santa Maria with its bone chapel and bell tower. Climb to the top for an amazing view over the town of Faro and the natural park of Ria Formosa. Afterwards, check out the ancient Roman and Moorish city walls within which you will find Faro Cathedral and Arco da Vila, the ornate city gate.

And don’t forget there are beautiful beaches in Faro. A quick 25-minute walk from Faro’s train station will find you on one of the best beaches in Portugal (Praia de Barreta). Favoured by windsurfers and sailing enthusiasts, it is the perfect spot to unwind after exploring the town of Faro.

Discover Estoi

Another great place to visit and a quick 15 minutes by taxi from Faro is the town of Estoi. A hidden gem in the Algarve, this sleepy town has the most beautiful restored 19th-century pink facade palace turned into a luxury hotel called Pousada Palacio de Estoi. It reminds me of the Villa Ephrussi on the French Riviera. You can wander around the hotel grounds and enjoy a refreshing drink under its pastel bougainvillaea trees before checking out the mosaics and Roman Ruins of Milreu, a short walk away or a herb tour at Dias de Aromas.

If you want somewhere special to eat in Faro, look no further than Ria Formosa Restaurant located on the rooftop of Hotel Faro. The food is amazing, and the views across the harbour are sensational.

Things to do in Faro

Tavira

Contributed by Renee from Dream Plan Experience

Visit Tavira, one of the prettiest towns in the eastern Algarve region, and you’ll step back in time. This hidden gem is a mere 30-kilometres from the Spanish border. As you ramble through its old streets and alleyways, one cannot help but fall under its spell. 

It has virtually remained unchanged over time. Its traditional Portuguese characteristics and Moorish influences are still very much everywhere. Beautiful latticework doors and the Moorish influenced door knockers in the shape of hands to the colourful azulejo tiling to the low whitewash buildings. 

Don’t miss some of Tavira’s key historic buildings. The 16th century Renaissance church (Church of Mercy). The 13th-century Gothic-style church (Church of Saint Maria), or the seven-arched Roman bridge spanning the slow-flowing river of Gilão from the 1100s. 

After you have explored the charming old town, it’s time to head to the beach! Tavira offers a beautiful coastline with several golden sand beaches with warm turquoise water. The beaches are a short ferry ride away as they are separated from the mainland by lagoons and waterways, which are part of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.

Renee’s Top Tip:

Don’t miss the incredible sight of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa . It is considered one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal.

Things to do in Tavira

Lagos

Contributed by Linn from Brainy Backpackers

One of the best places to visit in Portugal is the lively town of Lagos in the western Algarve.

Jam-packed with fun water activities, beautiful beaches such as Meia Praia, and surrounded by nature, there are many things to do in Lagos. Head to the incredible cliff formations at Ponta da Piedade or to the western-most spot of Portugal to see the Sagres cliffs and castle.

You can also take a boat trip to explore the incredible Algarve rock formations and caves from the water. Lagos is also perfect to learn how to surf with some of the best surf spots in Europe close by. Or maybe you want to learn how to scuba dive to discover the hidden underwater cave systems?

Lagos’ historic old town is quaint with a chilled vibe that attracts tourists from all over Europe. Lagos is excellent for bars with live bands and has lots of restaurants. You can find anything from ecological vegan food to local dishes. . It is a good destination for solo travellers hoping to meet other travellers.

Linn’s Top Tip: 

Especially spectacular is Benagil Cave! It’s only a short boat drive away, but to enter the actual cave, you have to go by SUP or kayak. Consider a day trip to Benagil beach and see the caves from there.

Things to do in Lagos

Carvoeiro

Contributed by Danny from Danny Explores

Carvoeiro is a beautiful small fishing town on the western Algarve coast of Portugal. Most Algarve tourists visit for a relaxing beach holiday but one of the best things to do in Carvoeiro is to visit the Benagil caves and a trip to the port town of Lagos.

The stunning Praia de Carvoeiro beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve. Along with golden sands and rock formations, you’ll find small caves in the bay for those who like exploring. Carvoeiro is an excellent holiday destination for both families and couples and an easy day trip from Albufeira or Ferragudo.

You’ll also find a mix of the younger and older generation during the summer when Carvoeiro can get quite busy. It is quiet during the off-season and mainly caters for holiday visitors who come to relax on the golden beaches and enjoy Carvoeiro’s restaurants without the crowds..

Perched on the cliffside and offering stunning bay views is one of the popular Carvoeiro hotels, named Tivoli Carvoeiro.

Danny’s Top Tip:

If you plan on taking a day trip to Carvoeiro, make sure you arrive early to park. It can be challenging to find a spot on the narrow Portuguese streets, especially in peak season.

Things to do in Carvoeiro

Ria Formosa Natural Park

Contributed by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple

Ria Formosa is a protected natural park in the northern Algarve region. Stretching over 60kms of the Algarve coastline and covering an area of 18000 hectares, Ria Formosa Natural Park is a patch of mudflats, marshes, and a lagoon dotted with sandy beaches. The national park also includes five barrier islands and two peninsulas, all of which together is one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal. 

With a unique environment and rich biodiversity, Ria Formosa makes an ideal home for an array of flora and fauna. The lagoon is also winter home for as many as 20000 migratory birds crossing between Europe and Africa. Visitors can see ibis, flamingoes, herons, egrets, white storks, and many other bird species throughout the year. 

Faro, Tavira and Olhao are the main towns located within or close to the natural park, making them an ideal base to explore.

As far as exploring Ria Formosa, there are many ways to do it. You can take boat tours and photography tours which take roughly 5 hours. You can also take boat trips to explore the five barrier islands. Alternatively, enjoy the walking trails through the pine forest and muddy marshes. You can also hire a kayak, stand up paddle or snorkel in the waters; the options are truly unlimited. 

Anuradha comments:

With powder sandy beaches, almost deserted islands and exciting adventures, Ria Formosa is truly a place you must visit in Portugal. 

Things to do in Ria Formosa Natural Park

Most Stunning Islands in Portugal

Madeira – Portugal’s Golden Island

Contributed by Sinead from Map Made Memories

Madeira lies over 1000 kilometres southwest of Portugal and enjoys a temperate climate all year round. The tropical Atlantic Island is an affordable and diverse destination. In the charming capital Funchal, known for its purple jacaranda trees and black and white mosaic pavements, visitors can explore the city’s parks, museums and churches. Alternatively, enjoy newer attractions such as the CR7 museum (dedicated to local hero Cristiano Ronaldo) or Aquapark Madeira.

Take a scenic cable car ride from Funchal’s long promenade to colourful Monte Palace Tropical Gardens and return to Funchal with a thrilling ride on Monte’s iconic wicker toboggans followed by a glass of Madeira wine to steady your nerves. The rest of Madeira island offers something for everyone. Swim in naturally formed pools at Porto Moniz, explore the lava tubes at Sao Vicente or learn about Madeiran culture at Santana Theme Park. Relax on a sandy beach in Calheta or tackle one of Madeira’s famous Levada hikes.

Keen hikers travel to Madeira from all over the world to walk these scenic trails running along the levadas (irrigation channels) that criss-cross Madeira. Choose between trails in the mountains, on the coast or through dense forest.

Most visitors stay in Funchal, where the major attractions can be visited on foot, but we enjoyed a rural stay in Estreito da Calheta in the sunny southwest of the island.  

If time permits, add a few days to your Madeira holiday itinerary and head over to Madeira’s sister island, Porto Santo. Here you will find idyllic golden sandy beaches and a laid back vibe extending across the whole island.

Sinead’s Top Tip:

There is a levada hike for everyone. Our favourite hike was the picturesque and varied Levada do Risco.

Things to do in Madeira

Azores – Portugal’s Green Island

Contributed by Kirstie from Hall Around The World

São Miguel, known as “Green Island,” is the largest of nine islands in the Azores archipelago situated off mainland Portugal. It is known for its lush green landscapes, natural hot springs and is a wonderful holiday destination, particularly for travellers searching for an epic outdoor adventure.

Begin your Azores holiday by flying into the main Azores airport in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel’s capital city. Explore the striking streets and cobblestone squares by foot, or take to the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. Several companies at Marina Ponta Delgada offer water sport rentals and other activities like dolphin swimming and whale watching tours. Or book on a private group island tour to see some of the hidden gems on São Miguel island.

From the capital, take a trip northwest to the twin crater lakes of Sete Cidades. Hike to jaw-dropping lookouts like Miradouro da Boca do Inferno or, if the weather allows, rent a kayak or SUP board and take in the view of the blue and green lakes from the water.

Finally, head to Furnas in the east to take a dip in the island’s famous hot springs. While you’re here, be sure to try a quirky cup of purple tea at Chalet da Tia Mercês and delicious Cozida das Furnas, or volcanic stew. This traditional stew is cooked underground with heat from the natural volcanic cooking holes and is available at many Portuguese restaurants.

Kirstie’s Top Tip:

No matter when you visit São Miguel, the weather can be wildly unpredictable – a fair price to pay when visiting a gorgeous volcanic island in the middle of the North Atlantic. Be sure to pack accordingly!

Things to do in Sao Miguel Azores

Most Stunning National Park in Portugal

Peneda-Gerês

Contributed by Jade from The Migrant Yogi

Peneda-Gerês National Park is Portugal’s only national park, situated in the north close to the Spanish border. In addition to the stunning natural landscape, at Peneda-Gerês, you can also discover the region’s impressive biodiversity, embark on some adventure sports such as canyoning or rafting, go bird-watching, swim in turquoise lagoons, or hike and take in the views.

It’s easy to spend a day exploring on your own or with the support of a local guide. Either way, it’s the perfect day trip from Porto. Visiting on your own, you’re able to go at your own pace; however, the local guides know all of the great spots for swimming or photo opportunities.

Some companies that offer small-group tours of Peneda-Gerês are also involved in local sustainability efforts, such as Oporto Adventure Tours. These tours will often include local lunch in an authentic village and time for swimming in the lagoons, with a portion of ticket revenue dedicated to reforestation in the park.

There are many entrances and routes/trails throughout the park, so be sure to do a little research if you plan on going without a guide.

Jade’s Top Tip:

Bring binoculars! Many visitors often tout the lagoons, activities, and trails without doing much service to the local flora and fauna of the region. You may even be able to spot the elusive and endangered Pyrenean desman, a relation of the mole and shrew!

Things to do in Peneda-Gerês National Park

And there you have it! 21 sensational places to visit in Portugal as recommended by fellow travellers! Have you found a favourite destination to add to your travel list? Let me know in the comments box below.

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About Author

Angela Price

Angie is a full-time travel writer with over 30 years of travel experience. She has always had a passion for travel, and after a 3-month world trip with her 18-year-old son, she created her popular travel blog to share her adventures with a wider audience. When Angie is at home in the UK, she enjoys exploring the English countryside, visiting castles and gardens and planning her next big adventure. Her motto is "Live Life Wandering not Wondering".

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Sinead
5 months ago

Useful, detailed post, thanks. Some new places added to our list!

Becks
Becks
5 months ago

Such a great post, can’t wait to get back to Portugal and visit some of these places!

danny
5 months ago

Love this post! Some beautiful little spots to add to my list!

WhereAngieWanders
Reply to  danny
5 months ago

I’m glad you found some new places to visit in Portugal – there certainly are a lot of really beautiful places to explore.

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