Having travelled around the world a fair bit, I have recently discovered another unique place on our little blue planet that I had on my bucket list for so long: Portugal. When I got invited to road trip around the country with the Getaway Van, I had no second thoughts and was absolutely thrilled!
After two weeks, I was so not ready to leave so I wanted to put together my 10 reasons why Portugal is so worth paying a visit to! Plus 1 little tiny reason why you should not travel to Portugal. Read on!
#1 You will never get bored travelling around Portugal’s diverse landscape.
Personally, when spending time in Portugal’s nature I felt like I was being beamed back to Australia, as literally almost everything looked and smelled like the fifth continent. That surely must be a reason why people call the westernmost country of continental Europe the European Australia.
Being among the smaller countries of Europe doesn’t mean that Portugal has little to offer. It is quite the opposite actually!
Portugal can give you the all-in-one solution! Try and match surfing the waves in Viana do Castelo up North, going for a hike in Gerês National Park the next day, walking the streets of historical Guimarães, Portugal’s birth place, the day after and overlook the world famous wine region Douro Valley on your fourth day. And then, on the fifth day, you can enjoy metropolitan life in a small café in the beautiful streets of Porto, how does that sound?
Want to know more about how to make the most of a road trip through Portugal and how to best organise your itinerary? Check out my best itinerary for a 14-day road trip!
#2 Roam freely and undisturbed through any corner of the country.
You may want to consider throwing out your expensive travel books as you will not need them when travelling through Portugal.
Especially outside of the high season like spring and autumn, there are not many people travelling outside the cities, so go and explore by yourself. You will find the most beautiful and authentic places which have not yet been rated or commented on anywhere. Talk to the locals and take their recommendations – trust me, you will not regret it.
This is pretty much how I road tripped across the whole North until Lisbon and I loved every moment of essentially “being lost” because I didn’t open the guide book or put the destination in the navigation. Wrong turns never felt so good!
#3 Visiting Portugal will not burn a hole in your pocket!
I could write a whole article just on the small prices you will find when travelling through Portugal. As Portugal’s tourism industry is only just picking up, prices are not yet as inflated by the vast crowd of travellers. Therefore, food and drinks as well as accommodation is fairly cheap. Especially in rural areas you can travel much more while spending less.
Besides, low-fare airlines like Ryanair or Easyjet will take you to Porto and Lisbon from many European cities for not much more than 60 to 80 Euros. And you may know how much I like to find cheap flights!
#4 The Authenticity and kindness in this country will amaze you.
Seems to me that the terms friendly and easy-going might have been invented in Portugal as its people are really just that. They will make you feel right at home and connect with you by simply spending time with you and enjoying a good and real conversation.
While I was travelling in Vietnam last year, I met a few very nice Portuguese who I then met up with again in Lisbon while I was there. They shared so many tips with me and recommended places and things to see and eat everywhere – such an amazing local insight to have. They for example took my friend and me to this amazing vegetarian restaurant called The Food Temple, which I still rave about long after!
#5 The Pastéis de Nata are to die for!
Some will say it is simply a custard tart, I call it heaven on earth: Pastéis de Nata! The Portuguese sure know the art of making pastries let me tell you. Pair the delicious pastry with a coffee and preferably a good view (choose the beach, the hinterland nature, Lisbon’s cobblestone streets – the opportunities are endless) and you will find it is the most perfect way to start a new day!
For the ultimate upgrade of Pastéis de Nata, you have to try the Pastéis de Belém! These can only be found in the neighbourhood of Belem in Lisbon and you will surely know what I am talking about when you get there and see the line at the most famous shop selling the Pastéis de Belém. Queue up, it is definitely worth the wait!
#6 There is no better place to fall in love with surfing.
Portugal, known to be an amazing surf country, can offer you a big surfing community with lots of surf camps all around.
However, when talking about surf spots it is mostly the stretch from Lisbon further up towards the small fishing village of Nazaré which has recently made the headlines with Garret MacNamara claiming to have surfed the world’s largest wave with 30 meters high that comes to mind.
Other famous spots like Ericeira and Peniche have also been promoted and spoken about plenty. But what about the rest of Portugal’s roughly 1,800 km long coast line?
Have you ever heard of the Northern part of Portugal having perfect surf spots and amazing waves? Me neither, but it is surprisingly so. Portugal’s North has a huge surfing community who breathe and embrace the art of surfing even when it’s only 5 degrees outside. They throw on their wetsuits and battle the rough waves no matter what. And they will welcome you to join them as up there, surfing is not a sport you enjoy on your holidays it surely is a way of life.
Having gone surfing in Viana do Castelo with The Drifter Surfing Club made me come up with the conclusion: surfing in Portugal’s North is utterly underrated!
#7 You can get around easily with English.
It may come as a bit of a surprise (yer, Portugal is pretty good with those!), but you can actually find more Portuguese who are fluent in English than in any other country in the South of Europe. Especially the younger generation has grown up with subtitled rather than dubbed TV shows and movies so they feel very comfortable with English.
If asking older Portuguese people for help you might want to dig out your long forgotten and pretty rusty French or Spanish as they might be helpful to get your message across. Anyhow, one way or the other you will not have trouble finding your way around this beautiful country.
#8 Portugal has the perfect climate on offer.
Portugal’s mild climate lets you enjoy your travels pretty much all year round. Depending on what you are looking for when travelling to Portugal, you can choose the winter and enjoy hiking as temperatures rarely drop below 5 degrees. Actually, I think temperatures are quite reasonable. I mean, strolling around Porto in a shirt in February didn’t give me much cause to complain.
Generally speaking, the best seasons to pay Portugal a visit are spring and autumn, as the weather is nice with about 18 to 25 degrees all over the country and you will be able to enjoy the landscape, the lookouts and the sights without many other travellers around you (or breaking into a sweat).
In summer it gets pretty hot, especially in the Algarve region which has about 300 sunny days yearly to offer. However, as the climate is rather dry and the breeze along the coast will cool you down you will not have to endure wet and oppressive heat. So really, travel to Portugal and enjoy whenever you have some time, you will surely find decent conditions.
#9 Indulge in Portugal’s food scene.
Apart from the many, many ways to cook (some say over 1001!) and have the freshly caught codfish, the Portuguese food scene has so much more to offer.
The Portuguese people will surely try to turn your attention to the uber-famous Francesinha which is a combination of toast, different sorts of meat, a lot of cheese and heavy gravy all around. It also may come with the optional fried egg on top. It is something like their national dish, they will claim.
Honestly, I have to admit it is not something I can truly recommend. I don’t think Francesinha and I aren’t meant to become best buds anytime soon. But go ahead and at least try it. If you’re into greasy food you might find it to your liking.
#10 The advantages of camping are huge in Portugal!
Airbnb and hotels are an option for sure, but nothing makes you experience the lifestyle and get to know the people better than road tripping and camping through a country. For me, getting this amazing opportunity with The Getaway Van was definitely like hitting the jackpot of travel arrangements.
However, when deciding for camping or caravaning – do you recognise this situation? You are fully embracing the travel experience and going with the flow, and when with the sun (oh so suddenly) sets, you realise you should’ve already checked campsites‘ opening hours and found a place to stay ages ago.
Well, guess what guys? In Portugal, apart from few signs where camping is forbidden you can literally just camp anywhere. ANYWHERE! So fall asleep right by the beach, wake up to a scenic mountain panorama or stumble out of the camper straight into a nice little bakery in the middle of a city. Yep, it’s all possible in Portugal!
Final note to self: Always make sure the camper stays level, otherwise you will not have a pleasant sleeping experience rolling around. Ha, this did happen to me…
I thought about including this for a while, but really, I have nothing to loose by putting it out there and you have only something to gain. So the only reason why you shouldn’t travel to Portugal?
There is literally just this one.
+1 Once you’ve been you won’t want to leave!
Once you have been to Portugal you will not want to leave anytime soon: you have surfed the most amazing waves, woken up in the best spots with the most amazing views or the sound of waves (or both!) and truly devoured on the delicious custard tards while chatting to the nice local baker.
And even if you have to go – cause let’s be honest: even the most amazing travel experiences come to an end eventually – you will finally understand the true meaning of the Portuguese word saudade describing the super intense longing towards the country, its people, amazing weather and culture.
Until I see you again, Portugal!