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From beaches to palaces: The ultimate guide to experiencing Portugal’s best attractions

Portugal is a country that offers something for everyone. From beautiful beaches and charming cities to rich history and mouth-watering cuisine, this small but diverse nation has captured the hearts of travellers from all over the world. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a cultural experience, Portugal has it all. Here are 12 incredible things to do in this enchanting country. 

Visit Pena Palace

Extravagant Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal
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Sintra is a magical town located just outside Lisbon, nestled at the base of mountains. With its fairytale-like villas and palaces in all pastel shades, it’s no surprise that Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the colourful Pena Palace with its Romanticism architecture and ornamental carvings. Take a stroll through the lush grounds and hidden trails that surround the palace, including the chalet and garden of Countess d’Edla. 

Take an 11-day tour through Portugal’s cities and countryside on the Country Roads of Portugal trip through Insight Vacations. This guided tour begins and ends in Lisbon, so it’s easy to add a solo excursion to visit Pena Palace, close to the city.    

Explore the Jeronimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, Lisbon
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Lisbon, the vibrant capital city of Portugal, boasts colourful streets, charming architecture, endless sunshine and rich history. During your trip, take a stroll to the Jeronimos Monastery. This impressive monastery was built in the 16th century and is a prime example of Portuguese Late Gothic architecture. Wander below vaulted ceilings and visit the final resting place of the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. Admission to the church is free, and a ticket is needed to see the cloisters and attached museum.   

The monastery is a featured stop during the Lisbon visit on Insight Vacations Best of Spain and Portugal guided tour.   

Marvel At The Belem Tower

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The Belem Tower is an iconic landmark in Lisbon and a symbol of Portugal’s Age of Discovery, a time of exploration and power for the country. Also found in Lisbon, the 16th-century tower was a fortress and now stands as a beautiful example of Manueline architecture, mixing traditional designs and maritime features. Take advantage of the opportunity to climb to the top for incredible views of the Tagus River.

Begin a vacation day in the Belem Quarter and visit the towering monument during your Lisbon stop on the Spain and Portugal in Style guided tour with Luxury Gold  

See the Romain Ruins in Evora

Roman Temple or Temple of Diana in Evora
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Explore the magical city of Evora, filled with impressive historical sites, white-washed buildings with coloured tiles and beautiful Gothic architecture. It is home to some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in Europe, including the impressive Temple of Evora (also called the Temple of Diana). Continue touring the top sights with a visit to the Almendres Cromlech, a massive stone circle with megalithic monuments, and the Chapel of Bones, a small interior chapel with walls lined with human bones. 

Join Insight Vacations on its Amazing Spain & Portugal nine-day tour, which features a day in Evora, where you’ll enjoy the history and atmosphere of the city.  

Admire Sete Cidades

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For a truly unique experience, visit the Sete Cidades Twin Lake on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. The lakes are said to have been formed by the tears of a shepherd and princess who were forbidden to be together. Hike around the crater’s rim for stunning views of lagoons, tree-lined craters and the ocean.

Explore the Azores during a scheduled stop on the Mediterranean Explorer and Crossing cruise by Viking Cruises. This 24-day adventure touches ports in France, Italy and other countries, as well as Portugal.   

Hike to Covao Dos Conchos

Covao Dos Conchos - A hole in the middle of the Lake in Serra da Estrela. Bell mouth spillway in Portugal
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Escape the big cities to admire Covao Dos Conchos, an artificial lake found in Serra da Estrela Nature Park. Hike along Portugal’s highest mountain range, beginning at Lagoa Comprida, as you wander through nature from one lake to another. While the mystical spillway within the lake looks like a portal to another dimension, it was created in the 1950s when the nearby hydroelectric dam was built. A tunnel collects water for local communities, but this strange-appearing phenomenon looks like it is part of the environment, as moss and waterfalls line the interior.

Visiting the nature park is doable via a day trip from Lisbon, and the Western Mediterranean Explorer tour by Viking Cruises conveniently concludes its itinerary in Lisbon, Portugal.

Wander the Madeira Botanical Gardens

Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, Botanical garden.
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Nature lovers and flower enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Madeira Botanical Gardens in Funchal. This stunning garden was once part of a family estate and is home to over 2,000 species of plants, boasting beautiful views of the city and ocean. Stroll through the multiple hectares of gardens or join a guided tour for a more in-depth experience.  

A new trip with Viking Cruises, Atlantic & Mediterranean Horizons, is a 21-day trek through multiple countries, including Spain, Italy and Portugal. Admire the “garden island” during the stop in Funchal.

Visit the Monserrate Palace

Monserrte Palace in Sintra, Portugal
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Situated just a short drive from Sintra, the Monserrate Palace is another stunning example of Romantic architecture in Portugal, with striking influences from the Middle East. With its intricate details and lush gardens, it’s no surprise that this palace has been a filming location for several movies. 

If you’re looking for world exploration, Viking Cruises has a 180-day trip around the globe, which includes a stop in Lisbon. You can take a shore excursion to Sintra and other picturesque cities south of Lisbon.

View the vineyards in the Douro Valley

Old vineyards with red wine grapes in the Douro valley wine region near Porto, Portugal Europe
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Wine lovers will want to visit the Douro Valley in Portugal. This beautiful region is known for producing port wine and offers stunning views of terraced vineyards along the Douro River. Take a scenic cruise down the river or visit one of the many wineries. The valley is considered the oldest demarcated wine region in the world and hosts endless views of rolling green hills.  

Hop aboard the AmaWaterways Enticing Douro cruise on the river, highlighting the wine region on a seven-night tour, including multiple tastings.   

Relax on the Algarve Beaches and see a sea cave

woman in Benagil Cave, Algarve, Portugal
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The Algarve region is home to some of the most stunning beaches in Europe. There are over 100 beaches, offering crystal-clear waters and golden sandy beaches surrounded by towering rocky cliffs. From famous shores with beach bars like Praia da Rocha to hidden gems shielded by rock formations like Praia do Camilo, there is a beach for every type of traveller. 

Visit the Algarve on the Country Roads of Portugal guided trip with Insight Vacations, just one exciting stop on the 11-day tour through the country. 

Take a photo of Azulejo tiles

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These small, polished tiles are typically ceramic and come in various colours, patterns, and designs. Artist Jorge Colaço created the tiles, which took over 11 years to complete.   

One of the best places to see these stunning tiles is the Sao Bento Railway Station in Porto. The station was built in 1916 and features a grand entrance hall adorned with over 20,000 hand-painted Azulejo tiles depicting scenes from Portuguese history. Azulejo tiles can also be seen throughout Porto on churches, chapels, and other buildings. Some notable examples include Igreja do Carmo, Capela das Almas, and Palacio da Bolsa.  

Viking Cruises has a 15-day cruise called Trade Routes of the Middle Ages, and it stops in Porto, where you can explore the city on foot.   

Taste the local cuisine

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Portuguese cuisine is a delicious fusion of Mediterranean and Atlantic flavours. From fresh seafood dishes to hearty stews, there is no shortage of delicious food in Portugal. If you love shellfish, octopus, beef and pork, this is the country to eat your way through. Be sure to taste the famous pasteis de nata (custard tarts), which makes a great dessert or snack any time of day.   

The Flavours of Portugal and Spain tour, curated by AmaWaterways is an ideal cruise for foodies, and it features tastings of wine and regional dishes.   

Dream it... We worry about the rest

Wherever you travel, no matter how near or far, CAA Travel Consultants will make your dream vacation a reality. Is a trip to Portugal on your bucket list? Contact a travel agent by booking an appointment online to start planning. 

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