With its volcanic lakes, wealth of historic sites, white-sand beaches and hip urban centres, Portugal is the queen of the Iberian Peninsula.
Here you will find exquisitely rich cuisine and wine, hillside castles, picturesque ports, bustling cities and stunning resorts with opulent hotels, catering to your every whim. Find out more about luxury holidays to Portugal with Club Med and come and let this jewel of the Atlantic make its mark on you – here are five of the top reasons why.
1. The food and drink
Perhaps Portugal’s best-known gift to the world, port wine – or simply port – has been produced in the country’s Douro Valley for centuries. Indeed, it is the official oldest and protected wine region on the planet. There are so many varieties of this beverage available in Portugal that it would be a shame not to try a considerable few of them out. Of course, sating your thirst goes hand in hand with sating your appetite. Portugal is a nautical nation and seafood and fish dishes are huge – bacalhau (salt cod) being especially popular. The Mediterranean influence is unsurprisingly strong, as seen in caldo verde soup, which contains chorizo. Lush caramel custard is a favourite dessert.
2. The Algarve
Almost as famous as Portugal itself, this dazzling sun-soaked southern region is rightly revered for its gorgeous beaches, luxury hotels and beautiful, tranquil resorts. But it also has everything from ancient cities, whose fortifications still stand, to mountain ranges, Roman ruins, lagoons and nature reserves. The coastline, where it isn’t made up of golden sands, is quite rugged, featuring limestone caves which can be visited by boat.
3. The History
After variously being plundered by Moorish, Roman and Goth invaders, Portugal had established itself independently by the 12th century. Much of this rich and turbulent history is still visible through various ruins, castles, monasteries and palaces. The Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary sits high on a hill outside Porto and can be reached via a funicular. Parts of it date back to 1373. The town of Sintra, just outside the capital, boasts not one but three palaces, as well as a Moorish castle, old town and beautiful waterfront.
4. The Capital
Lisbon is a city that’s both historic and contemporary, with UNESCO World Heritage listed monuments, palaces, bars, boutiques, cosmopolitan and alternative nightlife and restaurants serving haute cuisine and street food. The old town, Alfama, is a marvel and dates back to medieval times. The Jerónimos Monastery is also a breath-taking sight and the castle blah is a must-see. Visit the Alcântra district for shopping and dining and the Bairro Alto for a more hip, edgy vibe and for gigs and clubs.
5. The Azores
An autonomous region of Portugal, this collection of volcanic islands is made up of emerald hills, glassy lakes, vertiginous mountains – some of the highest in the world, including Mount Pico – and a rich mix of cultures, dialects and foods. The oldest settled town there, Angra du Heroísmo, has a breath-taking, picture-postcard beauty and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is stunning sea and wildlife, too. Handcrafts and festivals are two of the mainstays of this amazingly inexpensive region, which is till, surprisingly, something of a well-kept secret.