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Discover Portugal: Essential Info for Holidaymakers

If you’re thinking about booking a trip to Portugal but don’t know much about the country, we can help. In this blog we’ll talk you through five important aspects of the country – which, incidentally, are also five reasons you should definitely visit.

1) The long, rich history

Portugal’s history is far too complex and interesting to outline here. As you might expect, the Romans played a huge part in its development and expansion, but did you know that Portugal was the first ever country to establish a global empire?

And did you know about the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance? It was signed in 1373 and is still in force, making it the world’s oldest active alliance between two countries. Perhaps that’s part of the reason we Britons are so drawn to it.

2) The glorious climate

Like almost any country, Portugal’s climate varies greatly depending on the region you’re in and the time of year, but speaking broadly it has a Mediterranean climate. In other words, it’s nice and warm throughout most of the year.

The Algarve region enjoys particularly agreeable weather, usually staying above 20°C from April until November. The average annual temperature is said to be around 18°C in the south and about 12°C in the north (which could be because it’s mountainous and thus has a higher altitude).

3) The awe-inspiring archipelagos

Azores and Madeira are Portugal’s two autonomous regions. They’re classed as archipelagos, which means they’re both made up of several islands. Their landscapes are about as breathtaking as they come – dominated by imposing mountain ridges and stunning shades of green.

On the map, Azores actually lies further north than Portugal’s mainland – in line with the middle of France.

Madeira, on the other hand, lies further south than Portugal’s mainland – just about level with the top of North Africa.

4) The Algarve

“The West”, as it translates to in English, is actually located in the south of mainland Portugal – right at the bottom in fact. It covers almost 5,000 square kilometres (1,930 square miles).

The Algarve became a popular holiday destination in the 1960s, and now attracts roughly 7,000,000 foreign tourists each year.

Despite its enormous popularity, the Algarve still has its quiet regions – such as Cabo Sao Vicente, which is the most south-westerly point in Europe. The scenery here is unspoiled and the coastal towns and villages are quiet and peaceful, so they’re ideal for walking and cycling activities.

5) The food and drink

On a walking or cycling holiday you need plenty of fuel to get you through each day’s activities, so it’s great when the country you’re visiting has unique and interesting cuisine that you can dig into.

Food and drink are a huge part of Portuguese culture. Many of the staple dishes feature fish and other seafood, because the country’s fishing industry has thrived since the Roman times. Bacalhau (salted cod) is a national favourite, but the Portuguese people cook their fish in pretty much every way you can think of.

Their cuisine is generally known for its incorporation of many different spices, which makes it seem Mediterranean even though it technically isn’t.

Portugal was introduced to wine and wine-production by several ancient civilisations (most notably the Greeks and the Romans). Today the country grows many different types of grape in various regions, which results in a delightful range of wines.

Enjoy Portugal with Headwater

Our holidays allow you to see countries in all their natural splendour. Take a look at our selection of activity holidays in Portugal – we’re pretty sure we have one with an itinerary that’s perfect for you.