Portugal is a country full of surprises. The perfect combination of endless golden beaches, architecturally wonderful cities, charming cobbled villages, and medieval fortresses are just the tip of the iceberg. Dig deeper and this fascinating Mediterranean country will reveal to you its true and inner beauty.
What To Do
A paradise for beach lovers, Portugal has 800km of coastline blessed with calm and clear Mediterranean waters, so you are spoilt for choice when it comes to opportunities for sunbathing, swimming and relaxation. For those wanting to get a little more active in the water, however, there is the option of dolphin watching in the Sado Estuary, or boating and kayaking along the famous Rio Guadiana.
A country inhabited by Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians, this Iberian country has a rich and interesting past. With several World Heritage sites to speak of, such as Tomar, Alcobaça and Batalha, and opportunities to visit 20,000 year old stone carvings in the Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Portugal has an incredible history. Belém, the UNESCO listed monastery, is simply fantastical. Commissioned to stand out above Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India, this place is wow!
The vibrant capital of Lisbon opens doors to all kinds of experiences. You can join a food and wine tour or simply explore on your own, heading to Alfama for a taste of the authentic side of the city. Steep narrow streets bursting with backstreet cafes set the scene, and the evident lack of tourists make it even more charming.
Leaving the cities, head for Parque Natural de Serra da Estrela – one of Portugal’s first official parks. Breath-taking scenery and unique landscapes make this one of the most splendid natural wonders in the country.
Under the radar in the European gastronomy world, Portugal’s cuisine is very much traditional. Grilled fish and meat, as well as stews, such as the cataplana (seafood stew) and casseroles (sometimes made with wild boar) are all staple features on any menu. Bacalhau (salt cod) is a favourite among the locals, and for any fish lover Portugal has plenty of fresh options. Sardines, straight from the sea and barbequed, are simple but incredibly moreish.
Crispy suckling pig and slow cooked ragouts are all reflective of the kids of heart warming fare so synonymous with this country. Smoked meats are very popular here, as are bread, olives, cheese and the crisp vinho verde, the wine gaining rapidly in international reputation. The Pastel de Nata (custard tart) is a traditional dessert that really must be tried.
Portugal is a haven for sun lovers in the summer between June and September, when temperatures hang around the 30°C mark. It can get hot for sightseeing, so for culture buffs and hikers May and October offer much more favourable weather. Temperatures are still warm but much more pleasant than in the height of summer.
Rain falls mainly in the winter, but at this time of year there is plenty of crisp winter sunshine too. The south is generally mild all year round on the coast, but the north experiences cold winters and snow inland.
How to Get to Portugal From the UK
Travelling by train from London to Lisbon involves taking the Eurostar to Paris and then a train onto Irun, before taking the overnight ‘train-hotel” to Lisbon. Despite being a long way, if you are not in a rush, this can be a relaxing journey. You can go via Madrid too and spend a night there if you have time.
Shuttle Direct are the transfer company of choice for your onward journey to your accommodation from any of the major arrival airports or train stations.
Travelling to Portugal? Don’t Miss …
Aveira is often referred to as ‘the Venice of Portugal’. This vibrant and picturesque city is full of beautiful architecture, quaint little bridges, fabulous beaches and lots of eateries.
Porto is most famous for its production of port. Explore the Ribeira in the centre and experience the bustling street scene.
Sintra is a stunning collection of villas, castles, palaces and buildings of royal esteem. Pena’s Palace, with its fantastical features and exotic parklands, is the highlight.
About Shuttle Direct:
Shuttle Direct offers low cost transfers to and from airports, cruise ports and train stations all across Portugal, and throughout Europe and North Africa. Pre-book an airport transfer via our secure online booking system, and all your onward travel arrangements can be in place before you leave home.