Portugal, for me personally, is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Why? On the one hand there is wild landscape for example rough coastlines with rocks and on the other hand there are miles long beaches where one can have a walk for hours and never meet somebody. The locals are very helpful, gentle, friendly and calm. They always try to help you. So, don’t be shy and ask for help because this is how one will meet wonderful people there!
The main language spoken is portuguese. In the cities most of the people who are dealing with tourists do speak english, french or german. A lot of portuguese people are living and working abroad in France, Germany and Switzerland. It could happen that the goat herder you meet on the road in the countryside speaks fluent German. That’s what happened to me!
Location & Climate
Portugal is located in the southwest of Europe, on the iberian peninsula. It is bordered to the north and east by Spain, in the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean. The climate is moderate-maritime. Most of the wind on the coast are onshore winds, which means the wind is coming from the ocean. Due to the dry winds and the high temperatures, heavy forest fires appear during the summer months from june to september. In the north of Lisboa the weather can be sometimes quite cool in the summer. Inland of the country it could get hot in the summer and cold in the winter. In the Serra da Estrela you can find snow during winter time. My suggestion: always take a warm long-sleeved shirt or a coat with you especially in the evening.
- North Portugal around Porto: Minho, Trás-os-Montes and Douro
- Beiras (the center): Beiras Litoral and Beiras Interior
- Alentejo: Alto Alentejo and Baixa Alentejo
- Lisboa: Ribatejo, Oeste and Lisboa
- Algarve: Sotavento and Barlavento, Sotavento (downwind, east part of the Algarvian coastline, Faro to VRSA) Barlavento (windward, west part, from Faro to Cabo de Sao Vicente)
Streets & Traffic
If you are driving with a foreign car into the country and want to use highways you will need to buy a “Via Verde Toll Box” on the border. Portugal uses electronic toll, so there are almost no toll stations around. If you want to get your toll box before you arrive in Portugal and you need also some for other countries, have a look on Tolltickets. I’m using permanent toll boxes for France, Spain and Portugal and can highly recommend it.
Besides the highways there are the national roads which can easily be identify by their N+Number. These roads are mostly good but with a lot of traffic as most of the trucks don’t want to pay toll and use the national roads instead. The traffic in the cities are crowded as everywhere. I recommend you park your car in the suburbs and use the public transportations or a taxi.
Safety & Security
Portugal belongs to the most safe countries in the world. In deed it has been the number three on the “Global Peace Index 2017” after Island and New Zealand. Portugal is also a great country for solo female travellers especially on their first trips. 😉
But nevertheless keep your belongings close to you and don’t leave your bags unattended. Criminals are all over the world especially in the tourist areas of cities. Passports and cash belong on a safe place, either directly on the body or in a safety box.
The portuguese kitchen is excellent. As the sun is shining a lot fruits and vegetable are growing the whole year. If you prefer seafood, you will love this country also. On the local market you get seafood and fish freshly caught out of the ocean. The pastry is also well-known and excellent. In the cities you’ll find as well a lot of vegetarian or vegan restaurant, or at least restaurants with options.
Almost the whole country is a wine region. Starting in the north with the Douro, to the Ribatejo and the Alentejo, to the Algarve. There are fantastic white wines, rosé and red wines. I prefer the dark and deep red wines from the Alentejo, which taste dry like the sun and deep as the dusty summer heat. 🙂
“C’est magnifique” – as the french would say. Olive Oil from Portugal belongs to best in the world, therefore don’t miss to take at least one bottle with you.
Well-known brands are:
- Casa de Valpereiro, Organic
- Herdade do Esporão
- Oliveira da Serra (my favorite one)
Supermarkets, local markets & shops
There is a large variety of supermarkets such as Pingo Doce, Jumbo, Intermarché, Continente, Lidl and Aldi. Organic Food Chain is Celeiro. Watch out for local markets in the villages. Almost every village and town has a market hall opened in the morning. One will find a large variety of local and regional food, moreover the prices are lower than in the large supermarkets. Tip: Don’t eat fish on Monday, because the fisherman don’t work on Sunday and the seafood you’ll get on Monday is already two days old. The fish market is therefore closed on Mondays.
Campsites & Wild Camping
Most of the campsites are open all year and the quality varies from excellent to really bad. Nevertheless Portugal is a dream for all wild campers. There are a lot of hidden places, wonderful small beaches and places where one can find fantastic places. The sunset on the east coast is gorgeous and one shouldn’t miss. Please respect our environment and the beauty of the nature by sticking to these rules.
Portugal – Bucket List
- Sagres – Capo Sao Vicente
Portugal – Hidden places!
- Douro Valley
- Guadiana – Mértola – Alcoutim – Odeleite – Castro Marim – VRSA (Vila Real de Santo António)
- Vila Nova de Milfontes – Zambujeira do Mar – Odeceixe – Aljezur – Fóia – Serra de Monchique
- Tavira – Praia Verde – VRSA (Vila Real de Santo António)
- Serra da Estrela
- Parque Nacional Peneda Gerés
- Passadiços do Paiva