Portugal bucket list – guest post by Katie
Fascinating history, breathtaking beaches, scrumptious seafood, warm sunshine – there are so many must-sees packed into Portugal’s 92,000-square kilometres. A lifetime of exploring Portugal could never become anything less than intoxicating, and with an abundance of low-cost packages and easy travel links, it’s no wonder Portugal is one of the world’s favourite holiday destinations.
Alvor’s beach, in the western Algarve is truly stunning no matter what time of year you visit. In the summer, families splash in the cooling Atlantic, while in the winter, you almost have this golden stretch of sand to yourself. And behind it, the fishing village is a delightful tangle of cobbled streets and tiled houses.
Silves Castle, with its Moorish past is fascinating to wander round while the Monchique hills, with delicious rustic-style home-cooked food served up in the restaurants of the area and the stunning views are well-worth the winding drive.
Albufeira, with its cosmopolitan atmosphere and Sagres, dubbed the “end of the world” are also not to be missed. But, this is a country of such depth and variety that I still have a very large bucket list of Portuguese destinations, attractions and hidden treasures that I simply must see. These are just some of them:
Cruising the Douro River
While the Rhine, Danube and the Rhone may be better known river cruising destinations, Portugal’s Douro River is surely no less beautiful. With steeply terraced vineyards, medieval hilltop villages and the UNESCO city of Porto, sleepily drifting along the Douro River sounds like the stuff dreams are made of.
The festival of the crosses
In Portugal, folk customs live on in the form of vibrant festivals, pilgrimages and fiestas. Whatever time of year you visit, there’s sure to be one of these traditional events. Described as “the most Portuguese village in Portugal,” Monsanto hosts the Festival of the Holy Cross every May, commemorating the resistance to a long history of sieges. Dating back to the 2nd century BC when Roman troops held the village population under siege in their own castle, women carry rag dolls known as marafonas, and clay jars full of flowers to throw from the walls. It’s a uniquely authentic Portuguese experience.
Heart sea arch Portugal
I’m not sure how I happened upon this. But, type in heart sea arch into a Google search and it comes up with the most geographically stunning rock formation. Surely one of Portugal’s most romantic spots and one of the wonders of Mother Nature, thousands upon thousands of years of lashing waves have formed a cliff into a natural heart shape. The only problem is, no one seems to know or be willing to share where this beauty spot is. So, it looks as though I’ll simply have to search Portugal’s coastline until I find it…
Getting deliberately lost in the oldest district in Lisbon’s narrow, winding streets is one of Portugal’s perfect day trips. A village inside a city with pretty whitewashed houses, tiny hidden squares, historic churches and ornate wrought iron railings strung with laundry and adorned with window boxes, Alfama is a true slice of Portuguese tradition.
Learning to surf in Cascais
Now, while my hand-eye coordination may be terrible, I like to think sports involving balance are my forte. But, I still haven’t tried surfing. So, where better to give it a go than Praia do Guincho in Cascais, where the World Surfing Championships have been held? But, with crashing rollers, strong currents and a dangerous undertow, perhaps I need to find somewhere with baby waves first – maybe the protected break at Arrifana, near Lagos, a favourite for learners at low tide.
Katie is the travel-addicted blogger behind delightso.me. She has been lucky enough to visit Portugal lots of times and has already found so many hotspots she could happily go back to again and again.