Oh Portugal, where big landscapes meet with intimate cultures, where mystery leads to surprise and there's so much more than the guidelines. What to do in Portugal is to not follow the hype, not follow the hoards who have heard it's the next big European destination. As Lisbon throbs and the coast packs with crowds, there's an authentic heart that goes mostly undiscovered. And there's so much space and exclusivity!
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Palaces and vineyards, golf lodges and casas in the hills - what do you not do in Portugal? Accommodation is an experience on this land of contrasts and it's all so fanciful. The best places to stay reflect the Portuguese ambiance, part laid-back haven and tradition, then part vibrant style and energy. Here is a small selection of places that Portugal's leading travel designers recommend.
Into the north of Portugal, where splashes of blue dominate the towns and the sense of history stretches a millennia through time. Cobblestone streets and rolling rivers set the stage here. Cruise down the Douro, indulge at vineyards, step through the history with expert guides, and wonder why everyone is flocking to Lisbon when Porto is so exquisite. Take your time in these places of yesteryear and sail through all the mystery.
Lisbon, the beach and then maybe Porto. That's the typical Portugal itinerary. But who does typical when what to do in Portugal can be so many things? Cork forests blur into vineyards and fortified towns embrace 500 years of tales. You can find streets of pure marble, wild countryside for horseback adventure, and some of the finest architecture anywhere in Europe. You just need to go a little off the beaten path.
Lisbon is the grand dame of Portugal, the chic destination that's suddenly been discovered by half of Europe. And while the centre is now unbearably crowded the Lisbon experience is very much like the rest of Portugal - you just need to look a little further to find its real heart and soul. So snap up the famous sights then make your own way, on private trams, in ancient palaces, and with the people who know Lisbon the best.
It's easy to forget Portugal has all these islands, these wild Atlantic outposts where nature reigns and a slow pace of life continues in all the villages. You can find beach bliss in Madeira and the Azores, but you can experience so much more. Like whales, wine, dolphins, craters, epic cliffs only accessible by four-wheel drive and a sense of the unknown. It seems crazy that everyone goes wild for Pacific islands and Indian Ocean islands, yet is unaware that Portugal can reveal magnificent Atlantic islands.
Southern Portugal is a tourism hot spot, a region that becomes overly crowded during the European school holiday seasons. It's ridiculously beautiful down here, with rugged cliffs, turquoise waters and traditional villages. Just avoid peak season and seek out travel moments that are more than sunbathing.
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