You’ve probably seen Portugal popping up as a top travel destination. Travel & Leisure named the country the “destination of the year” in 2016. The Huffington Post coined Portugal as the “new Iceland” and said it’s “the country everybody will be visiting in 2017.”
Breathtaking. Gorgeous. Unforgettable.
It’s impossible to find the right combination of words to describe the appeal of Portugal.
The people are incredibly welcoming and just about everyone speaks English. And with Portugal being one of the closest European countries to the United States, it’s hard to find a reason not to visit.
While each of these deserves its own highlight, here is a taste of five places that will make you want to book your plane ticket immediately:
Lisbon is a top contender for my favorite European city. It has everything you could want in a city – tons of history, top-rated restaurants, cobblestone streets to get lost on, and the friendliest people. Top that off with the aesthetics – amazing hilltop views from miradouros (lookout points) scattered across the city, a beautiful river, and gorgeous tiled buildings. The beauty of Lisbon is astonishing.
And the food! Whether you're eating cheese pastries at a cafe in the Alfama neighborhood, having a famous Pastel de Nate at Pasteis de Belem, or having dinner at the end of the pier at Ponto Final with the best sunset and view of the city, your taste buds will be satisfied.
Don't miss Portugal's gateway city!
Sintra is a town straight out of a story book, full of magical forests and wondrous castles. It's only an hour train ride from Lisbon to Sintra. As you hike up the path to the ninth century Moorish Castle you'll feel like you are in the middle of a medieval movie set (or on-location filming Game of Thrones). Just look at those views! The colorful Palace of Pena is equally mesmerizing. Exploring the palace makes it easy to see why it inspired the king of fairy tales himself: Walt Disney!
My husband and I only spent a day hiking up to see the Moorish Castle and Palace of Pena, but we could have spent two. No trip to Portugal is complete without experiencing the enchantment of Sintra.
Douro Valley wine region
Many call the Douro Valley the most beautiful wine region in the world, and I certainly can’t argue. The wines and ports are top-notch, the scenery is unbelievable, the prices are affordable, and the charming small towns give you a true taste of Portuguese culture. Driving atop the cliff-top winding roads from vineyard to vineyard was exhilarating and awe-inspiring. Just don't look down! That said, pictures of the Douro Valley alone will convince you to visit.
Porto is a riverside city full of life. If you step onto the streets when night falls, fado music fills the air and will lure you into the bars and restaurants. Walk across the bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia and you will fall in love with port (Portuguese fortified wine). A tour of the port cellars will leave you with a better understanding of the history of the city. And even if you think you dislike dessert wine, the tastes of a true aged tawny or ruby port may convince you otherwise.
Any coastal beach town
Though Portugal is a relatively small country compared to neighboring Spain, its long coastline provides a multitude of gorgeous beaches. Due to our limited time in Portugal, my husband and I decided to visit a small beach town just north of Lisbon called Ericeira. The whitewashed buildings with blue accents reminded us of Greece and we were smitten. The town was incredibly endearing and the beaches were stunning. As you drive south from Lisbon, you’ll eventually hit the famous Algarve area. If you want to spend more than a couple of days, the Algarve is a better option for basking on the beaches and soaking in views of ocean waves and rocky cliffs. For us, Ericeira was a perfect taste of Portugal's turqoise blue waters.
Portugal and the Portuguese people stole my heart and a return trip is inevitable. Pick just one of these five places and I'm confident you'll share that feeling.