If you find yourself wanting a bit of a change from your usual holidays in the Costa de la Luz in neighbouring Spain and want to move on to a new county, but don't want to travel too far away, then it's time to visit Portugal. With the locals' laid-back way of life, the welcoming beaches, towns and cities, and warm weather lightened by gentle breezes, it's hard to feel anything other than relaxation during your Portugal holidays. If you're looking for a city break, then the country's largest city and capital, Lisbon, is the ideal destination. Not only is it a large metropolitan area, but it is also surrounded by beautiful coastline which means that you can combine your city trip with a beach break. Don't forget that there are Portuguese islands in the Atlantic sea, Madeira and the Azores isles, so if you fancy a trip to a paradise island then that is also possible in Portugal, for example in the largest of the Azores, São Miguel, and the subtropical weather here is bound to leave you wanting to go back! Mainland Portugal boasts a Mediterranean climate, indeed one of the warmest in all of Europe, and the Algarve in particular experiences temperatures similar to those on the south west coasts of Australia.
Beaches and Seaside Towns of the Algarve
Located in the southernmost point of Portugal, the Algarve has been a tourist destination since the 60s, and is becoming frequented by more foreign holidaymakers who book holiday homes in Portugal in the south each year. However, the western coastline of the Algarve is in fact still very much undeveloped, and directly facing towards the Atlantic it is a rocky coastline whose waters can sometimes be wild and dangerous, but are often ideal for surfing. The scenery here is still rural as a lot of it is part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina nature reserve, so it's great if you want to escape it all and get away from the usual touristy areas.
Albufeira is a top destination to book private Portugal holiday villas, and there are two main tourist areas in the municipality, The Strip and the Old Town. Here you can rent holiday apartments and enjoy both the beach, the feel of the old fisherman's village that the area retains, and the buzzing nightlife that is on offer here. At night, the Strip in particular comes alive with plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs, and is very popular with young people from all around. Self catering Albufeira villas in the Old Town are a great option for holiday accommodation if you want something a bit more traditional, as there are plenty of small cobbled streets and Portuguese architecture as well as good views onto the beach! There are two main beaches in Albufeira: Fisherman's Beach and Albufeira Beach. Not far away is the popular marine park Zoomarine which is a fun-filled attraction with its own beach, aquarium water rides, and even the opportunity to swim with dolphins.
The nearby resort of Vilamoura is the ideal location for luxury holidays in Portugal, as it is home to Vilamoura marina with its designer shops, luxurious boutiques, and the elegant yachts and boats moored here. Vilamoura also houses some interesting Roman, Neoclassical and Moorish architecture. The area is well known for its Portuguese cuisine, and there are plenty of good restaurants here, many of which offer seafood dishes which Portugal is famous for, for example at Casa do Pescador where you can pick out the fish you want from the freezer and the chef will prepare it for you! There are many more things to do other than eating in Vilamoura, for example boat rides along the beautiful coastline from the marina, where you can either just relax and enjoy the views (either of the cliffs, magnificent skyline or the wildlife such as dolphins and birds) or do a spot of deep sea fishing if you want to! Of course, what better way is there to soak up the sun and appreciate the lovely weather than by going to the beach? Vilamoura is also a great spot for family beach breaks, for example on sandy Vilamoura Beach, part of which is Purobeach which hosts a DJ and live guests during the evening, or Praia da Rocha Baixinha, both of which are supervised and easily accessible for children and disabled people, so they are ideal for the whole family.
Lagos is an up-and-coming tourist resort thanks to its beautiful welcoming beaches and stunning yellow-gold natural rock formations such as the Ponta da Piedade, where you can take boat trips to navigate the turquoise waters in between these jutting sandstone cliffs and discover the hidden caves amongst them. As Lagos is in the south west of Portugal, it means that it is closer to some of the wilder beaches on its western coastline. Meia Praia beach is especially popular amongst those who like walking and surfing, as well as being a good family beach with easy acces, sand dunes and restaurants, but be warned: the eastern end of the beach is favoured by naturists! Dona Ana beach and the small Camilo Beach are also nice, as well as Porto de Mós which is a little further away and so is less crowded, but tends to have a stronger breeze due to its lack of protection from the Atlantic. There are plenty of restaurants to eat at here, but the good thing about renting self catering holiday villas in Portugal is that you can cook your own food too if you fancy it. There is both a daily market and a market every Saturday morning in town, where you can buy vegetables and freshly caught fish to cook yourself a delicious Portuguese meal later on in your rental property. Other regions which are well known for their excellent seafood include The Basque Country and Galicia in northern Spain. Things to see in the town of Lagos are the Governor's Castle, the Praça Infante Dom Henrique and the fascinating 'golden church' of St Anthony. Go on a walking tour to discover all of these attractions and learn about their history from a guide, or take a wonder and find them for yourself. If you are in Lagos with children, a great day out is to Lagos Zoo, where you'll find an impressive variety of animals which are sure to entertain children and adults alike.
Lisbon – the Captivating Capital
The lively capital of Portugal is a colourful coastal city filled with history and twisting Baroque streets. It is the ideal location for a combination of a beach and city holiday, as the seaside suburbs like Cascais and Estoril are only 20 minutes away from the centre of the city by car. The city centre itself is filled with little artsy shops and old-fashioned gifts and products, many of which are still produced in Portugal itself, such as the traditional blue and white azulejos (tiles). There is also a flea market, the Feira da Ladra which literally means ''thieves' market'' and is held every Tuesday and Saturday, where you can find all sorts of treasures for a good price. The night life in Lisbon is influenced by the country's proximity to countries in northern Africa such as the northernmost province of Morocco, Tangier Tetouan. Throughout the town, old buildings have been renovated and turned into cool new clubs, such as Casa Independente, the Ritz Club, B. Leza, Station and Lux. If you want a night out but you're not up for dancing in a room filled with too many people and loud music, head to the Bairro Alto , which has more than 100 bars and restaurants, where there is often jazzy or African music, but here it is quiet enough for you to enjoy a drink with friends and still be able to have a conversation! A must-do whilst renting self catering holiday homes in Portugal is a visit to the nearby town of Sintra, whose centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses some amazing sights such as the beautifully colourful Palácio Nacional de Pena, Sintra National Palace and the Quina da Regaleria estate which is home to the incredible Masonic Initiation Well. The nearest beaches to Lisbon are on the Estoril, Cascais and Oeiras coasts, and the beaches of Guincho, Adraga and Grande, all about 30 minutes away, are also not to be missed.
Golfing Holidays in Portugal
Portugal is a popular destination in Europe for golfing holidays, as, despite the fact that there are only 70 or so golf courses in the country, they are all of high standard and well looked after. The favourite of the courses here is probably Monte Rei in the east of the Algarve region, very close to the border leading into Andalusia, although many other areas such as Vilamoura are also favoured by golfers. Other popular courses include Oitavos Dunes and San Lorenzo Golf Resort. If you're a keen golfer, maybe you'd like to visit St. Andrews in Scotland, the birthplace of the sport? Wherever you decide to go, have a good time!