I’ve spent every summer for as long as I can remember in Portugal. Perfect for a short-haul dose of Vitamin-D, the mild climate, beguiling beaches, uber-fresh fish, Vinho Verde and port wines, and cosmopolitan cities keep pulling me back for more. With the maze of cobbled streets and rumbling wooden trams both Lisbon and Porto are spot-on for a city break and nothing beats a coffee and fresh pastel de nata from one of the many cafés. While the impressive beaches in the Algarve remain popular, the Douro Valley wine region has captured my imagination this year with its undulating hills and knowledgeable wine connoisseurs.
Fado music rings out from the open doors of Lisbon’s late-night bars evoking a sense of the Portuguese soul. All around are wide, tree-lined avenues enriched by Art Nouveau buildings, mosaic pavements and street cafés infused by an unhurried ambience. A little way along the coast the beach resorts of the Portuguese Riviera sweep into view, while up in the cool hills lies Sintra, a magical place described by Byron as ‘a garden of earthly paradise’. Far to the south, the ever popular Algarve attracts sun seekers to its one hundred mile coastline. By the gently shelving beaches, limpid waters wash romantic coves that are ideal for swimming, whilst the ocean is a playground for watersports enthusiasts. Limestone cliffs and natural grottoes form the backdrop for endless family activities, whilst those in search of Portugal’s past head for commanding sights such as Sagres fortress – a legacy of an Arabian past. The rich history is reflected in a fusion cuisine that includes spicy chicken piri-piri and salted sardines freshly plucked from the sea, tempered by refreshing rosé wines. Seemingly surging from the Atlantic lies the island of Madeira, a floating garden cradled within a mountainous interior, its landscape a riot of sub-tropical flora; violet protea, orange bird of paradise, and white cala lilies. The capital Funchal is surrounded by lush hills and dramatic shorelines, its vibrant markets overflowing with displays of colour and the air filled with the exotic lilt of the local language.
Southern Portugal including the Algarve enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters. July and August are hot but temperatures are moderated by sea breezes. A good time to visit Portugal is May to June and September to October, where days are pleasantly warm and sunny. Madeira is a good year-round destination with temperatures remaining pleasantly mild over the winter months.
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