PORTUGAL

PORTUGAL

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A European favourite

Portugal’s winning combination of sandy beaches, dramatic scenery and world-class golf courses has kept it firmly on the holiday map for decades. And if all that wasn’t enough, the country also has a good weather credentials, basking in around 300 days of sunshine a year.

The Algarve

Curving round the south coast is the Algarve region, which has a dramatic coastline scalloped with sandy bays and secluded coves. Resort-wise, you can choose between large, lively towns and sleepy fishing villages. This pocket of Portugal is also one of the best places in Europe for golfers – and some of the courses are spectacular.

Madeira

The Portuguese island of Madeira is set in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,000 kilometres away from the mainland. It’s been nicknamed the Floating Garden thanks to its flower-filled botanical gardens. The capital, Funchal, is a real mix of old and new, with cosy tavernas and traditional markets sitting next to swanky wine bars and chic boutiques.

Porto Santo

North of Madeira is tiny Porto Santo. It’s a bit of a newcomer to the travel scene, so tourists are few and far between. Vila Baleira, the only town, is a typically Portuguese affair, with cobbled lanes and whitewashed houses. It’s your gateway to the island’s 10-kilometre-long sandy beach, too.

Key information

Time difference
+1 Hour
Local currency
Euro
ALBUFEIRA

The Algarve’s main event

Albufeira is the place that put the Algarve on the map. The picturesque old town teems with pavement cafes and boutiques, and the modern resort is lined by a main strip, which sparks into action at sundown. The whole scene is framed by a 30-kilometre coastline of unspoilt beaches and little bays.

25 beaches

Albufeira’s supersized coastline notches up no less than 25 different beaches. The old town is home to Praia dos Pescadores, otherwise known as Fisherman’s Beach, where family-friendly bathing is supplemented by great dining options. At the bottom of the strip, meanwhile, is Praia d’Oura, a 5-kilometre, Blue Flag-winning beach made for watersports fans. Further east is Praia da Falesia, which is sheltered by ochre cliffs. And that’s only scratching the surface.

Old town carm

In the midday sun, light bounces off the whitewashed walls of Albufeira’s old town. You can take refuge in its churches, which date back to the 1500s, or explore the warren of cobbled alleyways that provide a cooling antidote to the heat. Come evening, the main square bursts into life and is the focal point for diners and casual drinkers.

Close to Lagos

About an hour’s drive west is Lagos, the old hub of Portugal’s maritime past. It was from the harbour here that Henry the Navigator lit the touchpaper for the Age of Discovery. Another must-see is the site of Europe’s first slave market. It’s set under the arches of Customs House and acts as a reminder of the town’s more sombre past.

ALGARVE

Award-winning destination

The Algarve is a regular winner at the World Travel Awards – the travel industry’s answer to the Oscars. In fact, over the years, it’s taken home accolades for everything from its fabulous diving and great golf resorts to its thrilling attractions and sweeping beaches.

Standout coastline

If there’s one category this part of Portugal really deserves gold for, it’s the beaches. Hidden coves, crescent-shaped bays and rocky inlets make up the Algarve’s coastline. Most of the pale sands are child-friendly, plus many come with Blue Flag credentials.

MADEIRA

The Floating Garden

Nicknamed the Floating Garden, Madeira is Portugal’s answer to the Garden of Eden. Fuchsia bougainvillea, scarlet poinsettias and lilac jacaranda trees blanket the landscape, turning entire villages Technicolor.

Scenic coastline

The good looks aren’t limited to the island’s interior. Make your way down to Madeira’s coast and you’ll come across small rocky coves and pebbly bays. Sand is in limited supply here, but there are a couple of exceptions to the rule. You’ll find a volcanic sweep of sand in Ribeira Brava, and a man-made stretch of beach in Calheta, where the sands have been especially shipped over from Morocco.

Pretty Funchal

Madeira’s capital, Funchal, is made up of colonial buildings, basalt churches and slumbering squares. The narrow backstreets of the old town are packed with wine bars and family-run tavernas, while the marina is lined with cafés and seafood restaurants.

Canico De Baixo

Just east of Funchal is the area of Canico De Baixo, which has made a name for itself as a luxury holiday spot. The parish’s old quarter is built around an 18th-century church and a sleepy square, while the new quarter is filled with boutique hotels and cliff top villas.