By Lauren Jade Hill
Sprawling vineyards, a pristine coastline and towns steeped in history have long drawn visitors to Portugal. And along with the nation’s unique culture and celebrated gastronomy, recent years have seen the arrival of chic new luxury hotels, which champion the country’s greatest attributes. We take a look at the best places to travel in Portugal for a taste of what this nation is defined by.
For many, the journey begins in the capital, and it’s a city worth setting aside plenty of time for; Lisbon abounds with heritage and culture, and boasts a vibrant restaurant and bar scene. The city lies across seven hills on the coast, and is characterized by its ruins, cathedrals and cobbled streets, along with traditions that are still very much alive to this day. Visitors can take the tram up to each viewpoint, and stroll through the historic center, before sampling the city’s seafood-rich cuisine and local wine.
Where to Stay: With its vantage point above the surrounding streets, Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon offers a scenic base within the city, with a luxurious spa to unwind in.
Costa de Prata
Costa de Prata – the Silver Coast – stretches along Portugal’s western shores between Lisbon and the ancient city of Porto. Fishing villages are dotted along the white sand coast, with monasteries, convents and castles all tucked into the mountainous region. But it’s the outstanding cuisine, which reflects this coastal setting, and local Bairrada wine that many people come here for.
Where to Stay: The stylish boutique hotel Areias do Seixo exhibits chic contemporary design with high Eco credentials, encompassing a restaurant focusing on organic fare, a spa and outdoor pool, and decking that leads to the sand dunes and Atlantic shores.
The Douro Valley
As the world’s first officially designated wine region, the Douro Valley is UNESCO World Heritage listed and a name people associate worldwide with Portugal’s outstanding wine. Vine-covered slopes rise up from the Douro River, with prestigious wineries such as Quinta do Vesuvio welcoming guests in for tastings and tours.
Where to Stay: Six Senses Douro Valley lies within this region, overlooking the vines and Douro River. The 19th-century manor house has been renovated to sumptuous standards, with a focus on showcasing the food and wine of the region.
Located on Portugal’s northwest coast, on the edge of the Douro Valley, the medieval city Porto is exceptionally rich in heritage and at the center of port wine production. As the home of the nation’s celebrated fortified wine, opportunities abound to gain insight into the regional specialty, with tastings of each winery’s own blends.
Where to Stay: Originating from the 18th century, the former palace turned hotel, Pestana Palacio do Freixo, is a grand reflection of the city’s past, with plentiful luxury amenities.
As a picturesque region of golden coves sheltered by cliffs, the Algarve is Portugal’s number one destination for travelers. It’s well worth seeking out the quieter spots along the coast from where the bays, fishing villages and castle towns can be explored.
Where to Stay: Conrad Algarve sits within Quinta do Lago, with golden shores on one side and a wildlife reserve on the other. The cuisine of Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck and proximity to excellent golf courses add to the hotel’s appeal.
Covering a vast area of central and southern Portugal, and a long stretch of Atlantic coast, the Alentejo Region has a diversity of landscape and culture to uncover. Mile upon mile of vineyards lie amidst a wild landscape of mountains and plains, and alongside a rugged coast that’s dotted with secluded bays. Time can be spent visiting the region’s vineyards, exploring the pristine coast, and seeking out the medieval villages and ancient walled cities.
Where to Stay: L’AND Vineyards Resort combines minimalist architecture and luxurious interiors with the chance to experience the surrounding vineyards and gastronomy of the region.
This Portuguese archipelago lies to the southwest of the mainland, encompassing four islands of volcanic origin, which due to their geographical location have a subtropical climate. The main island is home to the coastal capital Funchal, along with UNESCO World Heritage forest, and vineyards where the island’s famous Madeira wine is produced. With such a unique cultural, gastronomical and geographical identity, Madeira is worth traveling the extra distance for.
Where to Stay: Belmond Reid’s Palace lies to the west of Funchal Bay, with lavish suites, a spa, Michelin-starred dining, and three pools with ocean views.