At 900 years, Portugal is one of the oldest European countries. It played a major role in the New World Discoveries and colonization in such areas as Cape Verde, Mozambique, Angola, Brazil, Macau and East Timor. It is warm in Portugal. In fact it is the warmest among the countries in Europe, with an average of 15 °C or 55 °F in the northern part of the mainland while the southern part experiences about 18 °C or 64 °F on the average. It has four seasons with July and August being the warmest months, with temperature highs reaching 35 °C (86 °F) up to 40°C or 95 °F. Autumn and winter weather can range from sunny to windy and rainy. Snow is common in the mountainous areas in winter. It is a good thing to be prepared for the change in temperature when you visit Portugal. Being an old nation, Portugal is widely known for its elaborate architecture and its impressive history, which attract millions of tourists year after year. Indeed you will not run out of places to see in Portugal as well as things to do, as there are many activities that stand out that could make your itinerary more significant and momentous.
Pick up some local knowledge of the Knights Templar
It is believed that there are still modern day members of the Knights Templar, with their secrets and the Holy Grail being held dear. See the imposing, beautiful and intricately decorated Knights Templar Castle in Tomar, which was built in 1160. Learn how the most skilled fighting unit during the Crusades fell out of grace. The castle is huge and a full tour of the building will take more than two hours.
Recharge your sagging spirits in Sintra
The quaint town of Sintra is situated amid wooded hills and has been described as the country’s most beautiful place. At the center of the town in the Palacio Nacional de Sintra while on a hill is the Palacio de Peña. The town is so historic you will likely spend a lot of time taking a tour of the palaces and historic homes, as well as in checking out the local cafés and craft shops, not to mention reliving your childhood in the town’s famous Toy Museum and its more than 20,000 exhibits. But the most intriguing place to see in Sintra is the Quinta da Regaleira, another palace and its gardens. The World Heritage Site has the Initiation Well or Poço Iniciático, which resembles a tower set upside down. It reaches well into the bowels of the earth, with colonnaded stairs set along its wall, with a plateau for every 15 steps. There are nine plateaus corresponding to Hell’s nine circles, Purgatory’s nine sections and Paradise’s nine heavens. It is a dizzying sight, viewed from above.
Listen to Fado
Fado is a melancholy type of music that is very popular in Portugal. It is more exotic version of the blues. It is about yearning, longing and love. You can hear Fado often listen to Fado when you are in Lisbon, a fitting accompaniment when you tour the quaint district of Alfama.
Experience rural life
If you are seeking to experience the relaxed rural life of the Portuguese, the best region to visit is Alentejo where you are likely to see some of the region’s ancient towns with their orchards of olive trees and cork, craggy mountains and wide rivers. Portugal’s flora and fauna are protected in the region’s natural parks, including Vala Guadiana, Serra de São Mamede and Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, which is also a popular place for nature lover, divers and surfers. Sample some of the traditional delicacies in the area or check out the World Heritage Sites in Evora and explore the medieval towns of Monsaraz, Marvao and Estremoz. What else to do in this laid-back region? You can go horse-riding, cycling or walking or spend some time in the air in hot air balloons or indulge in hang gliding and paragliding.
Fun under the sun
If you happen to travel to southern Portugal, be sure to head to Algarve where you can do almost all types of outdoor activities, whether you are alone or with your family. Aside from the warm waters of its beaches and the long shoreline with golden sand, you can watch dolphins and whales playing here. If you are lucky you might even chance upon fishermen bringing in a prize catch of some large Blue Marlins. The international airport at Faro gives you quick access to flights to other parts of the EU.
Have a taste of Portugal’s wines
The wines coming from the Douro Valley are some of the finest in the country. If you happen to come to Douro Valley you will be greeted by hacienda-style wineries with terraced vineyards. You can go on your own or join one of the guided walking tours and have some casual wine tastings. It would be unthinkable if you leave Portugal without sampling some of its finest wines. As you know, Portugal’s famous export, Port wine, which is known internationally, is named after the region of Porto where its production began. Although separate from the mainland, the island of Madeira is part of Portugal. The island is almost always awash with color from the bright flowers that bloom all throughout the year. Aside from its tranquil beaches the island’s volcanic soil is rich and very suited to agriculture, thus it is a source of bananas, cherries and vines. While here you should sample the island’s equally famous dry or sweet wine called Madeira. Portugal offers a lot of things to its multitudes of visitors. It would seem like you’ll never run out of activities to enjoy while in this sunny country. Everywhere you turn there is something new to see and discover. And speaking of discovery, did you know that Portugal was the first colonial nation to abolish slavery and that the world’s oldest diplomatic alliance is between the United Kingdom and Portugal? While for the casual beach-goer, surfing is synonymous with Hawaii or Australia, it is quite interesting to know that the country is one of the top hot spots for surfing in the world.
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