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PORTUGAL SAMPLE ITINERARY
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ESSENTIAL PORTUGAL TRAVEL GUIDE
WHY GO TO PORTUGAL?
Portugal is a country of a thousand surprises, where medieval castles, fascinating ancient towns, museums and beautiful beaches, create endless opportunities for either who would like a cultural holiday and who would like to relax on a beach. The itinerary suggested in this travelogue covers either the places interesting for their history, mainly located on the hills in the interior, either the main beach destinations along the beautiful Algarve coast in the southern part of the country.
WHAT IS THE BEST SEASON TO GO TO PORTUGAL?
Most of the tourist attractions in Portugal imply a rather active holiday with many hours spent outside, therefore, the best time to visit Portugal during late spring or early autumn, when temperatures are more pleasant and the flow of tourists is less. The months of July and August are ideal for a beach holiday in the Algarve or in the rest of Portugal, but in the cities the temperatures often exceed 35 degrees centigrades, making long walks among historical monuments less pleasant, moreover in this period of the year the country is assaulted by mass tourism, meaning that most of the main attractions will be very crowded. The months between November and February are the most peaceful, but the temperatures could sometimes be too cool or even cold, with possible frosts or snowfalls at higher altitudes. The rainfall in Portugal is never excessive and the country has the highest number of sunshine hours per year in Europe, however, the driest season is still summer, while between late autumn and winter, the chances of getting some rain increase.
IS PORTUGAL SUITABLE FOR A BEACH HOLIDAY?
Since the country directly faces the Atlantic Ocean, without significant protection or natural barriers, you may be wondering if Portugal is the ideal destination for a beach holiday, where tourists can find calm and not too cold water. First of all, you should be aware that the average temperature of the sea is significantly lower than other southern-Europe countries facing the closed Mediterranean sea, and also regarding the waves, they can be sometimes quite powerful. However, although these conditions are common along the west coast of Portugal, it should be noted that in the Algarve region, located in the south, the situation is far better, with much calmer sea and water temperature that in late summer can often exceed 25 degrees centigrades. Along most of southern Portugal (Algarve), picturesque bays enclose golden sandy beaches, framed by high cliffs of colored and oddly-shaped rocks, making it one of the most spectacular seascapes of all Europe. Of course there are also spectacular beaches in the rest of Portugal and in the immediate vicinity of Lisbon, but the water temperature is generally around 18 degrees centigrades, while the waves along the less protected bays are so powerful, that they are often ridden by surf enthusiasts.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS NOT TO BE MISSED IN PORTUGAL?
As anticipated, Portugal has a mix of lot of things, from landscape to history, from beaches to culture. But wishing to see everything in a single trip can be very challenging, unless you have lot of time, even if the country is not very big. In this sample itinerary, you will find most of the attractions that should not be missed during an holiday in Portugal, but the schedule is quite tight and it is suitable only for the most active travelers (anyway, by adding just a week, there will be much more free time to relax and to visit the various location in full peace of mind).
As anticipated, this travel plan is suitable only for particularly active travelers and can only be done by renting a car (using public transport, it would take much longer). The layover time in some of the places is a little bit short if you want to visit all the museums or have a rest for a few more hours: if you have more days available, you might consider adding an overnight stay in Sintra, one in Coimbra, one in Castelo de Vide, one in Evora, one or two in Lisbon, according to your interests. Other interesting places not included in this sample itinerary may be Setubal, Fatima and its Sanctuary, Porto (Oporto) and more small towns scattered all over the country.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND IN PORTUGAL?
For maximum flexibility and freedom of movement, especially on very complex itineraries (like the one proposed here), we recommend to rent a car. The style of driving in Portugal is better and more correct than other European countries (like Italy), while the highways arrive just everywhere and are not full of trucks or other heavy vehicles as it happens instead almost everywhere in the continent. The most important suggestion we can give, is to avoid driving inside the historical centers, because the parking lots are very small and the roads very narrow, sometimes with steep slopes (it's therefore better to park outside the walls of the town and then continue on foot). In Lisbon, on the other hand, there is an efficient network of subway, tram and bus, which makes the car quite useless and inconvenient (you can just leave it parked at the hotel). When hiring the car, make sure that the car rental company takes care of paying every highway tolls on your behalf (by charging the credit card you provided), as the toll cannot be paid cash at the gate, but the vehicle is photographed and then the driver should later pay through a website. It is also advisable to bring a navigator software which works without an Internet connection, unless you don't pay the roaming for Internet traffic.
OTHER TRAVEL TIPS ABOUT PORTUGAL
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TRAVELOGUE AND PICTURES OF PORTUGAL
|<<-- GO In the immediate vicinity of Lisbon, Cascais offers a well-preserved historic center and is the ideal destination for a day tour from the capital of Portugal or as a stopover for a journey that covers wider areas of the country.|
|<<-- GO Sintra is a city with lot of attractions included in the list of world heritage sites by UNESCO and, although in high season it may be very crowded, you shouldn't miss the Palacio da Pena (friendly called "Sintra Castle") and the Quinta da Regaleira palace.|
|<<-- GO The incredible village of Obidos is a tiny aggregate of old white-painted houses, enclosed between imposing walls dating back to the eleventh century. Instead, Coimbra is home to prestigious university built in a huge district overlooking the new town.|
|<<-- GO The town of Guimaraes has one of the most beautiful historical centers among all the villages of Portugal, with old medieval houses deformed by the centuries. In the immediate vicinity, Braga offers an interesting day trip.|
|<<-- GO In the heart of Portugal, Viseu is an interesting town that offers numerous museums and a cathedral with a fascinating history, while ancient walls enclose a picturesque old town.|
|<<-- GO Monsanto is one of the most picturesque villages of Portugal, and perhaps of the whole of Europe, where bizarre granitic boulders not only dominate the landscape, but are also used as integral parts of houses and other buildings.|
|<<-- GO Along the road that connects the coast to the mountain villages of Portugal, there are various towns rich in history such as Castelo Branco, Portalegre, and the interesting Castelo de Vide.|
|<<-- GO Evora is one of the richest cities of the whole Portugal in terms of history and monuments, where there are also ruins dating back to the Roman era. There are numerous museums, as well as churches, where to spend a at least a full day.|
|<<-- GO Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and the starting or ending point of most tours to the country, certainly deserves a visit of at least a couple of days, but if your time is more limited, we have chosen the best attractions that you shouldn't miss.|
|<<-- GO If after having spent days among ancient villages, museums and churches, you finally want to relax by the sea, the southern coast of Portugal (Algarve) offers golden beaches and crystal clear water, in an extraordinary seascape of caves and cliffs.|
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