Portugal means orange in more than one language and I bet you did not know that! However, besides being maybe the only country in the world named after a delicious fruit, Portugal is a very interesting traveling destination by any metrics.
With a land surface of 92, 345 square kilometers and a population of 10.3 million, Portugal sits on the shores of the Atlantic ocean, or vice-versa, depending upon your system of reference. The country boasts its friendly people, its vibrant and cosmopolitan cities, together with traditional villages and a beautiful scenery.
Visiting Portugal will make for a memorable experience, as you’ll be flabbergasted by the country’s rolling countryside, its stunning golden beaches with the Atlantic lapping upon its shores, not to mention the abundance of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the likes of the fifteenth century port (impeccably preserved) of Angra do Heroismo or, why not, the prehistoric drawings at Foz Coa.
Portugal has something to offer for everybody and that’s quite rare in such a small country. Lisbon is the main city and the country’s capital, a lively city with an incredibly energetic night life. Porto (just like the wine, yes indeed) is its vibrant Northern counterpart, the second largest city in Portugal and a true joy to explore and discover.
Both Porto and Lisbon are old-school cities, classic European architecture gems, with still-working trams which are rattling up and down hills, or along promenades, with majestic plazas, narrow and mysterious (even romantic) side streets, bohemian cafes and hip night clubs, alluring boutiques and world class restaurants.
However, there’s more to see in Portugal than Porto and Lisbon. Thing is, as Portugal was conquered by muslims (Moors) back in the day, just like Spain, parts of Italy etc, the conquerors left behind a number of stunning palaces and mosques. In Portugal’s case, Sintra is the place to visit if you want to admire a former Moorish castle which is nowadays the National Palace. Other sites worth seeing are the dramatic villa of Quinta de Regaleira, not to mention the ancient cities of Guimaraes, Coimbra, Evora and Braga, all boasting their medieval charm and beautiful architecture. Evora is (very unusual) harboring a chapel that was build one hundred percent from human bones, which is very creepy to say the least, but it makes for the ideal place to visit if you’re into horror movies and cool stories to tell to your friends and family.
For rural aficionados, Portugal will provide an unique opportunity to wander around the country’s ancient vineyards, or to trek the beautiful mountains in search of old stone-made villages, not to mention Portugal’s magnificent shoreline in the south, where you can take full advantage of the warm and sunny weather even now, in December.
If you’re old and tired, don’t worry, as you can relax your bones in the sun as you drop in on a sleepy sulfur spa, and then, reinvigorated and healthy once again, hop around and enjoy the Pousadas, which makes for an exquisite collection of monasteries and covenants, which were converted into beautiful accommodations for the intrepid tourists.
For outdoors enthusiasts, Portugal has much to offer, and I am not talking about the country’s secluded beaches and imposing cliffs on the coastline. What I mean is that Portugal is the perfect place to visit if you’re into surfing waves, horseback riding, hill hiking, paddling down rivers, diving shipwrecks, or, last but not least, exploring ancient Roman ruins or Moorish castles, between having the time of your life playing golf on some of the world’s best courses.
Portugal is also sovereign over a couple of offshore islands, the likes of Berlenga and Madeira, not to mention the Azores Archipelago, where you can go look for the elusive and mythical remains of the Atlantis.