I noticed a lot of interest in travel to Portugal a few years ago. I had been myself around 20 years ago but only as an ending to a trip to Spain. I had done a lot of research for my client’s trips and was eager to travel there myself. Portugal is a country with very diverse scenery and climate. We started our trip by flying into Lisbon. Our intent was to rent a car and drive 3 hours to Porto to begin our adventure. One can take very short flight from Lisbon to Porto but I figured that we needed a car eventually and flying was around the same amount of time as driving. Looking back I really should have considered flying to Porto. We arrived in Lisbon to see a couple thousand people waiting for immigration and passport control After 14 hours travel time, jet lagged and hungry that is the last thing you want to see. After 2 ½ hours in the line we finally made it to the car rental which was unorganized and crowded as well. 3 ½ hours after we landed we were on the road for our 3 hour drive. If we had connected in Lisbon we could have easily gone through the short line for connecting flights, been on the plane within an hour and in Porto in another hour. Lessons learned! Apparently there has been a boom in travel to Portugal and immigration told us that since everyone had put off summer travel to Portugal, everyone was going now.
The drive to Porto was very easy. Road signs in Portugal are in English as well as Portuguese. We were rewarded for our difficult time traveling to Porto by this beautiful city. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel, which I highly recommend because of it’s wonderful location to the old city, beautiful rooms, amazing service and beautiful historical building. We explored a bit that evening, finding an excellent seafood restaurant. The next day we took a walking tour of the city which included a Douro River cruise. This was a fun way to get to know Porto and the scenery along the river. The city itself is a exquisite city with historic, amazing architecture. One thing you notice is the colorful blue tiles on the buildings. There was a great street market along the river and we enjoyed browsing the city after our tour. We had wonderful Portuguese food that evening which consist mainly of seafood since Porto is a fishing port. Get ready to have the whole fish or whole prawn ready to dissect, but once you finish it’s well worth it for the freshest seafood you may ever have.
After Porto we drove to the Douro River area to a town called Vidago. This area is famous for it’s alpine forests, rolling misty hills and colorful vineyards. A stay at the Vidago Palace Resort was one of the highlights. Here we enjoyed some beautiful nature walks and their world class spa.
Next we traveled 6 hours to the south to Algarve. After 3 hours we made a stop in Nazare. My husband and I are huge fans of the HBO Max series, “100 Foot Wave” which is filmed in Nazare Portugal. The largest waves in the world have been recorded here and famous surfers have made this their home to try to conquer these huge waves. It was a misty day but we were still able to climb to the lighthouse and see the museum that has the surfboards from the surfers that have set world records here.
On to Algarve which couldn’t be more different scenery than the north. Here you find turquoise water, caramel colored beaches and caves along the coast. We stayed at the Vila Vita Parc resort, which was a wonderful way to pamper ourselves after a busy trip. This resort boasts a Michelin star restaurant and 6 other options to dine. The resort’s shuttle will take you to a picturesque beach restaurant, sushi dinning or a Bavarian restaurant depending on your mood. All restaurants are part of the resort and have dining privileges. There are 3 pools including an adult pool. The beach is stunning and beach beds are plentiful and free to guests. We took a fun boat cruise along the coast for the day to see the famous Albufeira Caves. The water is pretty cold here so my paddle boarding was brief but still lots of fun.
Lastly we spent a couple days in Lisbon. Lisbon is a breathtaking city with beautiful bridges, architecture and an incredible history. We enjoyed another food, walking tour that took us up and down the steep hills. The main square has some wonderful dining and shopping. I highly recommend at least a few nights in Lisbon to experience this exciting city.
Traveling within Portugal is very easy. English is widely spoken and people are friendly and eager to help tourists. I am excited to help my clients plan a trip to explore Portugal as part of a European experience or just on its own. It is a memorable experience.
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