Quick Guide to Portugal

Located on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is known for its famous southern holiday region, the Algarve, which is home to beautiful beaches, world-class golf courses and bustling tourist regions. However, with its many towns and cities offering rich history, lively festivals, mountain landscapes and exquisite local cuisine, there is much, much more to Portugal. Whether you travel to the mountainous north or take a short flight to the islands in the east, you will find that Portugal is one of those travel destination gems that can be explored ever so affordably.

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Planning your Holiday in Portugal

Portugal holiday packages are best suited to beach breaks and city breaks. For a multi-centre break organise car hire from the airport and then book your flights to Portugal separately. You can book hotels in Portugal when you get there but you will get better rates if you search for deals online and pre-book.

Weather-wise, the best time to visit Portugal is during the summer months when there is little rainfall and temperatures reach an average of 28°C. However, these are also the most expensive times to visit Portugal, so also consider the autumn months of September and October where temperatures are in their early 20s (although bring warm clothes for the nights). Northern Portugal is generally cooler, has higher rainfall and has longer winters than the south.

Where to Go in Portugal

Looking for a quick city break? Or planning to spend at least a week travelling around? No matter what your itinerary, you'll have an abundance of destinations to choose from during your time in Portugal. For a cheaper holiday, try and stick to the northern and central regions of Portugal, although the country as a whole is still regarded as one of the less expensive in Europe.

The Algarve

A perennial favourite with the tourists, the coastal cities and towns of the Algarve region are flooded with sun seekers in the summer months. Stop in the region's capital, Faro, and visit the Capela dos Ossos, a 19th century chapel built from the bones of over 1,000 monks. For a night of partying, roam the cobbled streets of Lagos, a town also known for its beaches. Speaking of beaches, the resort of Albufeira has 20 beaches within easy reach, including Praia dos Pescadores (Fisherman's beach) and Praia do Túnel. With several golf course resorts, such as Vilamoura, San Lorenzo, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, the Algarve is also a top choice for a golfing holiday.

Lisbon

Located near the mouth of the Tagus River, Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal. Visit the Belem Tower, a 16th century tower built to strengthen Lisbon's defences and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Immerse yourself in the city's deep history by going to one of the many museums, such as National Pantheon which houses displays about Portugal's heroes, and the Lisbon City Museum, situated in the 18th century Pimenta Palace. For a more laid-back excursion, take a cruise down the Tagus River or wander around one of the city's public parks, such as Eduardo VII Park. Lisbon Carnival, held every February, boasts street parties, traditional parades, costumes and general revelry.

Porto

As Portugal's second largest city and home of the port wine, it's no wonder that Porto is very popular with tourists. Learn more about the origin of the port wine and check out historic cellars at one of the wineries such as Barros and Ramos Pinto. Then take a walk until you reach the Dom Luis Bridge, a double-decker metal arch bridge (pedestrians on top, road traffic on bottom) that provides great views of the city. For the party-loving visitor, there is an abundance of bars and clubs, but one of the highlights is the Sao Joao festival that will take place on 23 June 2013. Revellers flock to the banks of the River Duoro, armed with leeks and plastic hammers and ready to hit people on the head with them!

Madeira

The Portuguese island of Madeira and nearby Porto Santo is about a one and half hour flight from Lisbon. For a cultural and historical overview of Madeira, visit the Madeira Story Centre, located in the capital city of Funchal and open daily from 10am till 6pm. Then make your way to the Garajau Marine Nature Reserve on the east coast, where you can snorkel and scuba dive; keep an eye out for Dusky Groupers and eels. If you want to enjoy the open air scenery and landscapes, embark on a levada walk. Levadas refer to the water channels that were first built in the 16th century as a way to transport water around the island. Nowadays the levadas provide explorers with an extensive network of walking paths. Madeira is also famous for its many gardens and parks, so have a break and enjoy nature at the Botanical Gardens, the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens or the Gardens of Palheiro Ferreiro. Finally, make sure you try the local seafood cuisine as well as a Poncha, a traditionally Indian drink adapted by the Madeirian people.

Azores

The Azores archipelago consists of nine volcanic islands located east of mainland Portugal, approximately a two hour flight from Lisbon. The largest island is Sao Miguel and its biggest city Ponta Delgada, is home to the international airport hub for the Azores. East of Ponta Delgada you will find the Lagoa do Fogo or Fire Lake, a huge crater lake that has some breathtaking views and even further east, the Terra Nostra Park, an 18th century park composed of small lakes, gardens and a thermal pool. You can island hop over to Pico Island, a great option for those wanting to get in touch with nature, as caving, swimming, hiking, bird watching and whale watching are just a few of the activities available.