Portugal was once in the shadow of Spain but is now one of the most visited countries in the world. From the cosmopolitan city of Lisbon to the luxury beach resorts of the Algarve, you might be surprised at the variety of options available to you on a Portuguese holiday. Make the most of your visit and look into booking some cheap car hire before you set off; you’ll know you’ve got the best deal available and will be free to explore as soon as you get there.
Five top things to do include:
Belém often tops the list of tourist attractions in Portugal and shouldn’t be missed. Built in 1515 to protect Lisbon’s harbour, the Tower was the starting point for many explorers setting off on their voyages of discovery and would have been the last thing they saw before many rocky days and nights crossing the Atlantic. Not a bad last sight at all.
Diana Temple, Évora
Two hours’ drive from Lisbon is the ancient city of Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its wonderfully preserved monuments spanning two thousand years. The Temple of Diana is a reminder of the Roman presence in Portugal, built in the 2nd century AD but probably only named after Diana the Roman goddess much later. It’s had a varied past, surviving a great earthquake in 1755 and being used as a butchers shop during the Middle Ages and an execution site during the Inquisition.
Boca do Inferno
A twenty minute coastal walk from the little beach town of Cascais will lead you to Boca do Inferno, or the ‘Mouth of Hell’ if you were hoping it might sound less scary in English. Actually it’s a beautiful and noisy place where waves crash against the huge caves which are carved in the cliff edge. It’s also the setting where the British occultist Aleister Crowley faked his own death in 1930, enjoyed reading the newspaper reports and then reappeared in Berlin three weeks later.
The Romans used the town of Sintra for moon worship and Byron thought it to be the most beautiful place in the world. The Pena National Palace was built on a hill top overlooking the town in the 1840s, on a site which started as a chapel and then became a monastery before the 1755 earthquake reduced it to ruins. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace is a spectacular piece of romantic architecture and transports you so directly into a fairytale that you’re surprised not to see a trail of enchanted cutlery making its way out.
Porto in the north is the second largest city and the capital of the port wine industry, so it would be rude not to try their most famous export. There are over 30 wine caves which offer tours and tasting sessions vying for tourists’ custom, so there’s no shortage of choice. The House of Sandeman comes complete with costumed tour guides – book in advance to avoid disappointment during busy times.