So you’ve visited Spain, Italy and France? Travellers heading to Europe need only go a little further west to discover Portugal – a country that packs a punch when it comes to experiences.
“You can wander along the cobblestoned streets of Lisbon and Porto and lose yourself in ancient traditions and rich culture; explore the World Heritage-listed Jeronimos Monastery and the world-famous Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima; watch the sun sink into the ocean as surfers take on the big breaks; or simply gaze out on to a tapestry of vineyards, windmills and terracotta homesteads,” says Back-Roads Touring Country Manager Australia and New Zealand, Dennis Basham.
Portugal’s rich and fascinating history is why many people come (the Pena National Palace, located on a rocky ridge above Sintra on the outskirts of Lisbon, is one of many not-to-be-missed historical highlights). As of late the new is getting plenty of airplay too. Recently, both Lisbon and Porto have seen an influx of innovative businesses opening up, and old dilapidated spaces are being tastefully revitalised.
In Lisbon, for example, the monotonous government buildings surrounding Praca do Comercio square now house funky restaurants and cafes; while in Porto new cultural centres, hotels and top-notch eateries are pulling in the hip crowd.
It’s this tantalising synthesis of old and new that has Portugal on everyone’s lips. The old is incredible, the new raises the bar even further, and the food is – literally – icing on the cake.
“Meals that reflect the diverse landscape of the country are a highlight,” Basham says, suggesting visitors try cataplana (seafood stew) on the coast, suckling pig in Coimbra, and port wine in the Douro Valley. And of course no one sane can go past freshly baked pasteis de belems, better known as a Portuguese tarts.