Portugal is a country located in Southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula and it is the westernmost country in mainland Europe. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the North and East. Apart from mainland Portugal, there are also the Atlantic archipelagos of Azores and Madeira. Portugal is among the 20 most visited countries in world, attracting an average of 13million foreign tourists a year. Many come for the great climate and the wonderful beaches, but many people also want cultural, gastronomic, environmental, nautical or golfing activities and experiences too.
The capital city Lisbon attracts the second highest number of tourists out of all European cities, behind Spain’s Barcelona. There is a great deal of variation in the landscape of Portugal, including the high plateaus and white sandy beaches of the Algarve, the volcanic lakes of Sete Cidades and the vast rolling plains of the Alentejo. Portugal can be considered a great value destination to visit, primarily because of the great variety of diversity o landscapes available to visit in a relatively small area – green mountains, near deserts and glamorous beach resorts. The Algarve is one of the more illustrious areas in Portugal, and is renowned for its great quality golf courses. Fourteen of Portugal’s golf courses are considered to be in Europe’s Top 10.
The citizens of Portugal are looked after by the SNS (the Portuguese equivalent of the National Health Service), they operate health centres and public hospitals in the country. Residents pay a small charge for each appointment or treatment. As a member of the EU, British visitors should take an EHIC card with them, which entitles them to comparable conditions of treatment.
Travellers should be aware that the quality of tap water for drinking is not consistently good and does not comply with a series of drinking water parameters laid down in the EU drinking water directive. Bottled water is advisable.
Portuguese food is derived from Mediterranean cuisine, using a wide variety of spices (including piri piri and saffron). Olive oil is included in many meals, and garlic, parsley and coriander are common features too. Portugal is a sea-faring nation, which is reflected in the popularity of fish and seafood, with the highest consumption of fish per person compared to European averages. Cod is the main catch, and is usually provided dried or salted, and needs to be soaked before being cooked. The Portuguese taste in desserts is dominated by the rich, egg-based variety, including crème caramel and rice pudding. The traditional alcoholic drinks are wine or brandy. Wine is produced in white, red and more unusually in “green” varieties (specific to a particular region and drunk “young”).
Electricity - The voltage on the mains system in Portugal is 220-230V, and appliances from the UK can be used there. You will need to take an adapter though as the sockets are a different shape.
Currency - The Portuguese currency is the Euro.
Driving – On the right
Climate – Portugal in general, has a warm and sunny Mediterranean climate and is one of the warmest European countries. The Algarve has a similar climate to the southern coastal areas of Spain or Southern California. In some areas, such as the Guadiana basin, annual average temperatures can be as high as 20 degrees (68F) and Summer highs can reach over 45degrees (113F). In contrast to this, there is regular snowfall in the interior North and centre of the country and winter temperatures can drop as low as -10degrees. The archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira have a subtropical climate, although there are variations between islands, making general weather predictions difficult.
Clothing- This obviously varies according to which region of Portugal you are staying in, as well as the season you are travelling. Also bear in mind that it is a sensible idea to dress conservatively when visiting a church or religious monument, as a token of respect for local values.
Where to go?
For history and culture – head to the bustling capital Lisbon which boasts enough history and culture to be a stimulating alternative to lounging on the beach (tempting though that is!) Highlights include the fairytale Belem Tower, seemingly floating on the river Tagus and also the breathtaking Jeronimos Monastery, which is home to the tombs of legendary explorers Vasco da Gama and Henry the Navigator.
For kids and teens – A trip to sea to search for dolphins is sure to appeal to all ages, and will be fun even if you don’t spot any. Take a boat from Albufeira Marina, along to Alfazina’s beacon (passing golden beaches and secret caves on the way. There is also a chance for a spot of diving if you fancy a dip to look below the surface of the Atlantic.
Relaxation – Madeira is a good bet for those craving peace and tranquillity. It is known as “the garden island” due to the high number of botanical gardens to enjoy. Another idea is to raise a toast with a sweet Madeira wine in one of the capital Funchal’s quiet Squares.
Action – With such stunning coastlines and beaches, there are many watersports on offer in Portugal, it’s not just golf on offer you know! Choose from different activities that are available depending on your chosen resort and it’s characteristics, you could try sea kayaking, sailing or surfing, to name but a few options.
Nightlife – If you’re after a lively dose of evening entertainment, try the ever-popular Albufeira, which boasts an array of nightclubs and bars, and has also got some great restaurants. It is also near to aquaparks for daytime fun.