Spain Or Portugal – Which Would You Choose?

11 October 2014

Choosing between a holiday to Spain or Portugal is no easy feat – they’re both amazingly beautiful, rooted in vibrant historic culture and packed with oodles of good times. If you’re still having trouble picking one, keep in mind that they’re only a hop, skip and a jump away from each other. That means you can try to visit them both!

 Boat your way around Portugal's coastline

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Attractions

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Spain has plenty of must-sees. Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville are brimming with attractions such as the La Sagrada Família, the Royal Palace of Madrid and Las Ramblas – and that’s not even a quarter of it. Attractions vary in vibrancy between northern and southern Spain, and its coasts are literally dotted with fantastic beaches.

The Costa Blanca and Costa Brava are popular beach destinations. Alternatively, if you want to sunbathe in solitude, the beaches of Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park are virtually deserted.

If we’re talking about beaches, Portugal can hold its own. The Algarve is renowned for its fabulous tropical holiday vibe and there are not many places in the world that can come close to what it has to offer. Hiking among granite peaks in Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês or dolphin watching in Sado Estuary Natural Reserve are just the tip of the iceberg.

Stop by Vila Nova de Foz Côa to check out some rare Palaeolithic rock art that dates back 22,000 years. And a stop in Lamego will offer a 600-step climb (at least) to the church of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios where you can try Raposeira – Portugal’s sparkling wine.

 Spanish tapas seduce the senses

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Food

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Paella, tapas, jamón (ham), olive oil, seafood, pintxos (small snacks) – Spain’s culinary culture is hard to beat. Despite its mind-blowing flavours, the pillars of Spanish cooking are actually quite simple: the variety of ingredients and spices, and the flawless combinations they create are what make the food in Spain impeccable.

You might get the best gastronomic experience of your life eating tapas at a local bar or get your mind blown at a Michelin-star restaurant; either way, your tastebuds won’t be disappointed.

Portugal’s pastel de nata (custard tart) is world famous for a reason, but the Portuguese have more to offer than sweet pastry. Olives, cheese, red wine or vinho verde (Portuguese wine), smoked meats, cataplana (seafood stew) await you at the table.

The country’s fertile countryside is a smorgasbord of gastronomic proportions and the locals have refined the art of fusing together these diverse ingredients to create simple but knockout dishes.

 Be mesmerised by flamenco dancers and fashions in Seville

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History and Culture

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Spain’s rich cultural tapestry needs no introduction – from Roman ruins and opulent cathedrals to glittering gems of Islamic architecture and contemporary artistic expressions of rebellion, the country’s history is etched through a creative landscape that spans many centuries.

You can have a taste of old Spain in Granada and medieval culture in Ávila or immerse yourself in the artistic flair of Barcelona, and join in the raucous fanfare of the infamous Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.

The Portuguese know how to drink, dance, and feast. Festivals in Portugal are abundant and history has made its mark on the Iberian country. There are handfuls of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Tomar, Belém, Alcobaça and Batalha; and if you can catch the sunset over the mysterious megaliths just outside Évora you’ll thank yourself immensely for making the trip.

For the festival fiend in you, pull an all-nighter at Lisbon’s Festa de Santo António or dance until the sun comes up at Porto’s Festa de São João. Otherwise, just hit up the bars in Lagos and breathe in the salty air that makes the Portuguese such happy people.

Annisa Dharma

Annisa Dharma was born in Surabaya, grew up in Montreal, found home in Bali, and is now living in Melbourne. She's currently plotting her next move. When she’s not busy chatting up random locals while travelling, or submerged underwater surrounded by colourful fish, you’ll probably find her upside down in downward facing dog.