3 Best Day Adventures in Portugal
My Wife and I recently traveled to Portugal for a long overdue vacation. Portugal is located in southwest section Europe to the west of Spain. It is a relatively small country with 35k square miles. and a population of 10.4 million. What is nice about the size is that it is easily a road-trip country. By this I mean you can rent a car and drive the entire country hitting all the major spots in a week. From our trip we have identified 5 must see places in Portugal that will give you a well rounded experience. We have activities for the adventure lovers, wine conneseurs, foodies, and archielosgitst. This list is not in any particular order as the adventures were all wonderful.
1-Sea Caves and Snorkeling
For the adventure lovers Portugal has excellent hiking and water activities. One of the most incredible places is in the Algarve region located between Lagos and Faro. Here you will find beautiful sea cliffs, sea caves and excellent snorkeling. In particular the Benagil sea caves and Praia da Marinha. These two locations are about 9 minutes from each other.
Benagil Sea Caves
When you arrive to Praia da Benagil you will find ample parking at the top of the hill across from the local cafe. As you walk down to the beach you will encounter a guided boat tour company. This company speaks excelent Engislifh and are very frienmdly. They will take you to see around 20 caves in local area in about a 1 hour tour. All the caves are very close to each other. Be sure to visit the caves at low tide as this will provide the best access for all the caves. They save the Benagil Cave for the last stop where they will drop you off for a few minutes to explore and take photos. This cave was absolutley incredible and worth exploring longer if you have the time.
After the caves take a quick ride over to Praia da Marinha, which was rated in the world's top 100 beaches. The views from above the beach are simply breathtaking but what is even better is the water. Though a little chilly when we were there in September it was refreshing and had tons of areas to snorkel around. This area is not the best for colorful reefs and tropical fish but the rock formations offer home to lot's of fish. In fact if you swim out 50' or so from the shore you can find schools of sardines, sheephead, flounder, and many others. If you want to relax on the beach it has this incredible sand that you just sink right into. it is courser than the beaches here in Florida, but the uniform texture made it wonderful. If you get hungry there is a little cafe on the beach providing snacks and drinks
2-Duro Wine Region
The Douro Valley is one of Europe's greatest wine destinations. Located in the mountainous scene of northern Portugal this region produces incredible full bodied wines. The climate is hot and dry in the summer and wet and cold in the winter. This region is mainly know for producing Port wines. Port wines are typically sweet desert wines that are broadly categorized into two styles.
- Wines that are matured in a glass bottle. These are sealed and have no exposure to air. This is wine loses its color very slowly and is usually a little smoother on the palet.
- Wine that is matured in a wooden barrel that allows for more oxidation.They are more viscous and usually have more of a bite. The most common type of these are Tawny ports. The 10 year Tawnys are excellent.
This region offers excellent wineries with tours, however, make sure that you book a reservation as it is difficult to get a tour.
The city of Porto is one of Portugal's finest gems. It was named the European best destination in 2012 and 2014. The city is split into two section with the river seprating the two regions. The area along Diogo Leite is filled with wonderful restaurants and wine cellars. Many of the cellars offer port wine tasting that offer a great variety of wines.
The older part of the city if filled with beautiful buildings and cathedrals. Be sure to check out the main square along Av dos Aliados. This area also has a beautiful area called the crystal palace gardens. it is next to the university and offers spraewling gardens, ornate fountains, and is the location of the crystal palace. Finally check out the Ribeira region for beautiful views of the river and the stunning Dom Luís I Bridge, which was built by a student of Gustave Eiffel
3-Lisbon and Sintra
Lisbon is Portugal largest city, yet it still maintains a level of charm that rivals most European cities. Situated centrally on the west coast it features incredible museums, cathedrals, and up-town shopping. Start your day by eating at the Pastéis de Belém. get there early as there is often a line and they sell out. All of their items are divine. Then head down to the Praça do Comércio for some shopping, people watching and gelato. After exploring this area take a 30 minute trip to the mountainous city of Sintra. Here you will find excellent craft shops, castles and palaces. Castelo Dos Mouros is a castle situated on the top of the mountain. It is a bit of a hike, but the views are breathtaking. it also offers some neat history.
You will also want to check out Quinta da Regaleira. it is less colorful, but it is just as impressive with the Gothic architecture, gargoyles, and octagonal turret. What is really impressive with this location is the sprawling gardens featuring grottoes, secret passages, waterfalls, ponds, and ornate wells and fountains.
Portugal, though often overshadowed by other European countires is an incredible country to visit that features some of the best wines, food, archaeological sites, and regions to explore. Portugal is excellent to visit by car as the distance between points of interest if fairly small. Hopefully you will have a chance to visit this incredible country and experience their rich culture.