Portugal is one of those travel destinations that will fill your entire holiday with pleasant surprises. It's a definite hotspot to stimulate the senses, unwind and enjoy some of the best things in life. Portugal may be considered a small country in comparison to top destinations nearby like Spain, France and Germany but rest assured it is brim-full in remarkable culture, history, architectural masterpieces and its greatest feature of all, natural beauty. Portugal is certainly one of the most striking countries in Europe with vast open landscapes just waiting to be explored, from the golden beaches along the Algarve's coastline to the greenest vineyards found along the dramatic but gentle slopes of the Douro River Valley. From a galore of outside activities to plenty of events on the entertainment calendar centred on music, food, art, history, science and sports, Portugal is an all round superb choice for that short or long break, family trip, romantic getaway or adventure-seeking holiday.
Situated in south-west Europe and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east, Portugal also holds sovereign over the small Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira which are abundant themselves in Portuguese as well as their own regional traditions, culture and must-visit points of interest. Despite being a well-developed country packed with urban cities and modern features, the splendid thing about Portugal is how it has maintained, in many parts, the traditions of their ancestors along with simple lifestyles demonstrating how particular values are still very much deep-rooted. Respect for nature also plays a huge role in the Portuguese way of life. For this reason among so many others, Portugal is an excellent holiday destination for all types of tourism, although many would say it is most famous for promoting health and well-being.
It's hard not to fall in love with this gracious country of the Iberian Peninsula once you are there. From its metropolitan capital, Lisbon, which balances the traditional Portuguese azulejo with innovative architecture like that seen at Parque das Nações to the quaint little villages found in the most tranquil parts of the country, Portugal grants its visitors endless things to see, do, taste, listen to and experience for the first time. The more time you are in Portugal, the less you'll want to leave! With more than a dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites and several more expected to be added to the list in the future, visitors are offered plenty of unique sites to discover such as natural sites like Madeira Island's Laurisilva (Laurel Forest); historical centres like that in Évora, Guimarães, and Oporto; the wine region of the Douro Valley; the University of Coimbra; the Lisbon's Tower of Belém; centuries-old monasteries like those at Alcobaça, Batalha, Hieronymites in Lisbon; and even the Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde. Apart from sites, you can listen to the sounds of the Fado, established by UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity and which can be heard mainly on the streets, in restaurants, and intimate bars in the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra.
Portugal's stunning beaches complimented by a Mediterranean-like climate along the southern part of country in the Algarve are a huge tourist-magnet during many parts of the year and not just summer. Overlooked or located near some of the Algarve's best hotels, beaches like Praia da Falésia in Vilamoura; Praia do Vau between Alvor and Praia da Rocha; Martinhal in Sagres; Praia da Marinha between Cavoeiro and Albufeira; and Meia Praia near Lagos are the some of the most popular among tourists and offer not only views and wonderful rock formations as well as opportunities to surf, canoe, dive or simply relax in the sand. Another one of Portugal's sandy treasures lies in the Madeiran archipelago known as Porto Santo or "the Golden Isle", an almost desert-like island with a yellow sandy coastline and sand dunes perfect for any quiet getaway.
For centuries, the Portuguese have worked to perfect their vibrant gastronomical recipes which will no doubt have you begging for more. Although simple, flavours are divine and nothing less than soul-comforting. One thing Portuguese cuisine is most famous for is its many marinates. The Portuguese will literally marinate all kinds of fish and meats that will have flavours popping in your mouth like never before. Furthermore, when it comes to cooking, there are few limitations in what can and should be cooked whether it comes from inside or outside the animal! Seafood and fish play a huge role in Mainland Portugal's menus, but on the archipelago of Madeira for instance, although regional types of fish like Espada and the Blue Marlin tuna fish play a huge role in Madeiran cuisine, meat is many times king with famous delicacies like Espetada or Carne de Vinho e Alhos. Other delicacies include homemade breads, fresh cheese and delicious traditional sweet pastries like the famous Pastel de Nata of Belém; the Queijadinha of Sintra, Madeira, Oeiras, Évora and Pereira; the Malassada of Madeira; and the adored Bolo Rei eaten by most families around the Christmas season.