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Portugal medium Portugal

Cork oaks and castles, coastline and vineyards

In our view, Portugal is the unassuming star of western Europe, though perhaps its light is finally emerging from under its bushel. Every bit as historically rich as its more famous neighbour, Portugal also punches above its weight when it comes to natural beauty, from cork oaks to the mountains to some of Europe’s finest beaches. While Lisbon and Porto’s fame as foodie city breaks is well established, there’s so much more to discover; we think you’ll be very amply rewarded for doing so.

Trip ideas   When to visit   Where to visit

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Portugal trip ideas we could tailor to you

Portugal alentejo rota vicentina wild beach 2
Self-guided walking tour
Fortified hilltop villages loom over ancient cork oaks, medieval pathways wind through chestnut f...
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Portugal porto sunset 3
From Porto to Lisbon by car
This self-drive trip sweeps down the country from north to south, starting in Porto and in the vi...
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Portugal minho sistelo espigueiros c diego pura
A self-guided walking holiday
New for 2020, explore the surprising variety of northern Portugal in a unique itinerary that comb...
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Top 7 things to do in Portugal

Conquer hilltop fortresses

There can’t be many areas which lend themselves so well to strategically defensive positions as the ports of inland Alentejo near the Spanish border. The villages and towns dotted here gaze out over the plains for miles around; no stealth attacks for anyone attacking these places.

Hiking up at your leisure is a very different affair however. Winding through the forests of cork oaks and strolling up cobbled medieval pathways, with gradually better and better views, is one of the treats of visiting this corner of the country. Monsaraz is one of the best examples of this, though my personal favourite is the climb up to magnificent Marvão from Galegos, it’s a gorgeous walk.

Visit authentic villages on our Portugal Explorer trip »

Sail on the Douro

The Douro is one of the great, fabled rivers of Europe, a name which conjures up images and associations even for those who have never been there. Particularly if those people like a drop or two of wine. There’s always something romantic about places by the river, especially when the river is flanked by twisting hills, covered in serried ranks of terraced vines.

While there’s no small number of ritzy cruise boats plying these waters, we prefer to take a more timeless approach: a classic ‘rabelo’, or just a simple motor boat at slow speeds. Pottering along as the sun sets - especially with a glass of the red stuff in hand - that’s what makes for one of those really blissful holiday moments.

Enjoy a small boat cruise experience on our Portugal self-drive itinerary »

Shiver in the Capela dos Ossos

Past lives are all around you wherever you travel in Portugal, from the heroic exploits of the great explorers, to the incredible architectural legacy of the country’s heyday. While legacy lives, man does not however, and there’s no starker reminder of this than one of the country’s ‘Capelas dos Ossos’ (‘Chapels of Bones’).

The most famous of these is in Alentejo’s capital, Évora, attached to the Sao Francisco church. From the inscription above the door (‘We bones who lie here await yours), to the moment you stand face to face with the rows of skulls and femurs, one’s own mortality is clearly framed. Not an obvious holiday highlight, to be sure, and yet somehow rather than morbidity, it leaves you with a sense of peace and calm.

Visit the Chapels on our exclusive Alentejo tour »

Lose yourself in the strains of Fado

You won’t be able to visit Lisbon (particularly in the Alfama) without coming across mention of the fado, which is often casually referred to as, ‘Portuguese Flamenco.’ Not, it should be said, that many Portuguese would care for it to be described that way! Traditional fado conveys mourning and longing, or saudade, a feeling of loss often associated with the sea or the struggles of the poor. Its origins may stretch back centuries, though its history can only be traced to the 1800s.

It’s no secret that there are a number of fado clubs that are pretty naff, the worst kind of tourist trap. However, there are some great places which offer a genuine cultural experience - fado is still taken very seriously indeed by many Portuguese. It can be undeniably moving to experience the strains of a traditional 12-stringed guitar (‘guitarra Portuguesa’) and the sultry voices of the city’s best ‘fadistas’.

Get a dose of Fado with our Portugal Explorer itinerary »

Taste port at the Quinta Nova

It’s a commonly heard dictum that drinks taste better in their place of manufacture, whether it’s Irish stout, Scottish single malt or anywhere that produces wine. We’re not going to argue with such well established wisdom when it comes to port! Portugal’s most famous tipple happily comes from a rather lovely part of the country, where historic quintas perch on the hillsides above the winding river.

It’s the roiling summers (and icy winters) of the Douro that give the wines and ports their depth of character, so visits are best in the spring or, better yet, the autumn. With warm temperatures, there’s nothing like sipping a rich ruby (or tawny) by the pool at Quinta Nova, watching the sun dip closer to the horizon over the vivid reds and greens of the vineyards. If temperatures are higher than expected, you could always cool off with a dip in their pool with its stunning river view, before a freshly chilled white port; they have all bases covered here.

Our Portugal Explorer trip can take you there.

Get lost in Porto

Porto is a city of historic sites and picturesque views, and it’s easy to enjoy the sunset views from Gaia, or the lively neighbourhood of Ribeira. But once past the collection of iconic images, Porto offers the curious traveller great opportunities to depart the crowded streets and get lost in the old quarters, where you can travel back in time to what other European cities looked like a few decades ago.

There are different stories across which you can stumble in these back streets, from old palaces waiting for the tourist expansion to reach them, to the colourful variety of ‘azulejo’ tile façades. Clothes hang out to dry across narrow alleyways alongside the flags of small, forgotten kingdoms. One of our favourite themes in Porto is the old traditional commerce: the little shops and their historic lettering, with their variety of typographies and designs. Whether an old art nouveau design or a modest hairdresser’s entrance, they give us a glimpse back to a time when things were done with more care to detail...

Explore Portugal's cultural capital on our self-drive itinerary »

Admire the architecture

There are certainly countries which spring to mind before Portugal when it comes to impressive buildings - Italy and France for instance. Yet Portugal’s glory days resulted in some astonishing architecture, sometimes in the most unlikely places, such as the middle of a forest. The legacies of religious conflicts, vast influxes of wealth - and some outright vanity projects - have left eye catching structures all over the country.

Whether it’s climbing up to medieval castles looking over hilltop villages or gazing at fantastically over-the-top palaces, you’re never far from a structure which will catch your eye. Intricate stonework on Gothic monasteries, Roman ruins, a teetering tower in downtown Porto - the innumerable layers of Portuguese history are writ large across the country.

Our top 5 memories of Portugal

A sunset swim at Praia Amalia

I’ve seen many great sunsets in my life, but finishing a good day’s walk by jumping into the waves against a giant red sun as it sank into the Atlantic must be one of the top ones. Easy to understand why someone with a taste for beauty like the famous Fado singer Amalia Rodrigues chose this place to build her retreat house on top of the cliff... thus lending her pretty name to the beach which gave me the most beautiful sunset.

Lunch at DOC in the Douro

I’m watching the river drift slowly past the side of my table and admiring the pretty little quinta on the opposite shore, while savouring the delicious output at DOC by Rui Paula, Portugal’s most famous chef. Suddenly I realise the waiter is hovering - no, wait - it’s not a waiter, it’s the man himself! Here I am, lingering over some of the best meat I’ve ever tasted, and he asks me if I would like some more vegetables… It may be the glass of Douro, but I’m hugely touched by this level of solicitousness - it’s impossible to imagine an equivalent back home.

Watching the cork harvest

It felt to me like an ancient ceremony of the Mediterranean forest... As the morning mist was clearing, I could feel, rather than hear, the cork being torn from the venerable trees by the expert hands of silent men, as if they were collecting a ritual offering. The bright ochre of their naked trunks completed a theatrical scene that made me feel the connection between the forest, the people and the raw material of the cork, so intrinsic to the culture here.

Hiking to Cruz Alta

I’ll be honest, the ‘trail map’ I’ve been given isn’t terribly useful. Maybe it’s inaccurate, maybe there are just too many dinky / cute / eerie little chapels tucked into the folds of the forest. In any case, I find myself taking ‘route one’ to the top of the hill through some steep undergrowth and following my nose. Finally, I emerge at the tiny structure bearing the ‘Cruz Alta’ - the ‘High Cross’ looking over the forests of Bussaco. As I peer over the blanket of trees to the palace and plains below, I’m filled with that perfect ratio of exertion to reward.

Out-of-season sardines

I usually adhere to the, 'When In Rome...' mantra, but obstinately ignored my guide on this occasion. It might not have been the optimum time of year, and I accepted that no Lisbonite would consider it, but I had my heart set on some sardines for my last lunch in Portugal. They duly arrived, immaculately chargrilled, and after the painstaking removal of bones, I popped the first forkful into my mouth, where the delicate flesh melted on my tongue. 'Wow,' I thought. If this is when they're not at their best...!

Why us?

Because we work in Portugal exactly the way we work in Spain: personally. With extensive and continuous research into every corner of the country. As we do in Spain, we work directly with every single partner in Portugal, be that your beautiful pousada, the farmer-sailor who takes you down the Douro and to his family’s historic quinta, or the provider of the delicious picnic you eat in the shade of a cork oak tree.

Although we’re ‘publicising’ it for the first time, Portugal isn’t new to us by any means. After all, we’re part Spanish, and we definitely believe in close ties with our neighbours. One of our founders has been wandering through Portugal from top to toe for many years now, and has even been quietly taking some special clients there in recent times.

So whether it’s hiking between hilltop fortress villages near the border, sipping wine or port while watching the Douro drift past you, or discovering the astonishing palaces and castles, we can show you the very best of this beautiful, historic land.

Portugal at a glance

Capital city


Famous highlights

Lisbon, Porto, the Douro, the Algarve, Costa Vicentina

Hidden gems

Marvão, Bussaco, Alvados, Évora


Portuguese, Mirandese (in the Miranda do Douro area)

Food & drink

Petiscos, sardines, bacalhau, octopus, clams, suckling pig, presunto, pasteis de nata, francesinhas, olive oil, wine, port, ginjinha. 

How far?

2 hours (London to Porto, non-stop)





When to go to Portugal

January in Portugal

Lisbon is a very pleasant place to visiting during the winter months, with an average temperature of around 11°C during January, and a reasonable amount of sunshine, although typically you would see more rainfall too. In the southern half of Portugal, you probably won’t see temperatures dip too low, with the winter months averaging 16ºC. Up in the Douro it can get quite bitter, and with bare vines, this is not going to make for a great time to visit.

Self-drive Portugal Explorer »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 14 5 155 Okay
Central 13 8 124 Good
Inland 12 4 62 Okay
South 14 10 3 Okay
February in Portugal

February sees a fair bit of rainfall, particularly in the north of the country. Coastal temperatures are cool but mild, while further inland it is likely to be much colder, especially as you move to higher altitudes in the mountains. During winter months it isn’t uncommon to see some snowfall in the northern mountainous regions. A number of cities across Portugal host Carnival celebrations through February, so what it lacks in weather, it can make up for in festive spirit!

Self-drive Portugal Explorer »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 14 5 140 Okay
Central 14 8 84 Okay
Inland 14 6 56 Okay
South 15 7 3 Okay
February events in Portugal

Carnaval, Essência do Vinho

March in Portugal

March days tend to be rainy and quite chilly in most of Portugal, although the southern parts do see more sun, especially as the month progresses.

Self-drive Portugal » | Alentejo Inn to Inn »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 16 8 124 Okay
Central 16 9 124 Okay
Inland 17 7 41 Good
South 19 8 3 Good
March events in Portugal

International Chocolate Festival, Semana Santa (Easter, date varies)

April in Portugal

Portugal says goodbye to winter and welcomes spring in April, which brings warmer temperatures and lots of sunshine in the north and south of the country. The season is just starting to see people visiting but it isn’t busy by any means just yet.

Self-drive Portugal » | Alentejo Inn to Inn » | Minho Inn to Inn »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 18 9 120 Good
Central 18 11 60 Good
Inland 19 9 60 Best
South 20 8 3 Best
April events in Portugal

Semana Santa (Easter, date varies), Ovibeja agricultural fair

May in Portugal

Between May and August, there’s at least 10 hours of daily sunshine for Portugal, making it a pleasant place to be at this time of year! The crowds are still lacking now too, so you have all of the lovely weather, none of the crowds. Porto especially makes for a lovely May destination, while walking in Alentejo, Minho and the Douro is fantastic.

Self-drive Portugal » | Alentejo Inn to Inn » | Minho Inn to Inn »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 20 11 93 Best
Central 20 13 62 Best
Inland 24 12 37 Best
South 24 11 3 Best
May events in Portugal

Feira das Cantarinhas in Bragança, Festa de Cruzes, Fátima Romaris, Festa do Mar

June in Portugal

June is one of the liveliest and loveliest times to visit, with lots going on, warm temperatures and long daylight hours. The sea temperatures are still refreshing in coastal areas, and humidity tends to be low, along with rainfall. Things are starting to get busier, and it’s not unknown for there to be some very warm temperatures, so later in the month should be considered carefully for serious hiking.

Self-drive Portugal » | Alentejo Inn to Inn » | Minho Inn to Inn »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 23 13 60 Best
Central 23 15 30 Best
Inland 29 16 30 Best
South 29 14 1 Best
June events in Portugal

Festa do Corpo de Deus, Corpus Christi, Festas de Junho

July in Portugal

Peak summer temperatures of 29°C in Lisbon and the southern half of Portugal can be expected during the daytime, so be prepared. Hours of sunlight also rise to 12 hours in July - so there’s plenty of time to be outdoors for a good dose of vitamin D! Porto doesn’t quite hit the same highs as the south, being that little bit further from the equator and warm winds from Africa. Coastal areas are also kept a little cooler than the central / inland regions of Portugal, where things can get very sticky indeed.

Self-drive Portugal Explorer »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 24 14 31 Good
Central 26 17 0 Good
Inland 33 19 0 Okay
South 33 16 0 Okay
July events in Portugal

Marés Vivas, Mercado Medieval

August in Portugal

Another one of the hottest months of the year, with temperatures in and around the Algarve, one of the sunniest places in Europe, averaging at 26ºC. In the north, however, you will probably still want a light jacket in the evening as temperatures do drop. Prepare for some sweltering days at the beach, though hopefully that Atlantic breeze will be blowing to cool you down!

Self-drive Portugal Explorer »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 25 14 31 Good
Central 26 17 0 Good
Inland 33 19 0 Okay
South 33 16 0 Okay
August events in Portugal

Feria de São Mateus, Festival de Sudoeste, Festival do Marisco

September in Portugal

It’s still hot in the Algarve and Alentejo in early September, with Portugal’s typical Mediterranean weather patterns. The Costa Vicentina can start to get a bit windy, as breezes come in from across the Atlantic and cool things slightly. As you head north up the coast, things actually warm up with the Gulf Stream bringing in warm waters. Up in the Douro it’s grape harvest season, and with autumn colours on the vines and warm temperatures, this month is fabulous for walking and hiking.

Self-drive Portugal » | Alentejo Inn to Inn » | Minho Inn to Inn »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 24 13 60 Best
Central 24 16 30 Best
Inland 29 17 30 Best
South 29 16 4 Best
September events in Portugal

Nossa Senhora da Nazaré, Ferias Novas

October in Portugal

Usually October is pleasant weather-wise, cooling down a little more and perhaps seeing the odd shower, though you can definitely still expect some sunshine. Crowds are starting to die down too as the country transitions out of peak season. The average high in and around the capital of Lisbon during October is 23ºC, so ideal for hours exploring the streets. Remember that temperatures can fall at night to around 15ºC, so bring something warm!

Self-drive Portugal » | Alentejo Inn to Inn » | Minho Inn to Inn »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 20 11 155 Best
Central 20 14 62 Best
Inland 21 12 56 Best
South 23 13 2 Best
October events in Portugal

Grape harvest

November in Portugal

November grows even quieter and temperatures continue to steadily fall. Winds pick up and rains increase, especially in the north and in the higher regions, though again, in the south around the Algarve, weather can often still be quite pleasant.

Alentejo Inn to Inn »

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 17 8 180 Okay
Central 17 11 90 Okay
Inland 16 9 81 Okay
South 18 10 3 Good
December in Portugal

Rainfall tends to peak in the north during December, and the rain is often accompanied by strong winds. Sunlight hours also drop right down to just five or six hours a day. In the far south, things are much drier, although this is the Algarve’s wettest month too.

Max (°C) Min (°C) Precip. (mm)
North 14 6 155 Okay
Central 14 8 93 Okay
Inland 13 6 67 Okay
South 15 7 3 Okay
December events in Portugal

Festa dos Rapazes

Book Subscribe to The Pothole » A rabelo sailing at sunset on the Douro in Porto Portugal When to Go Map - January Portugal When to Go Map - February Portugal When to Go Map - March Portugal When to Go Map - April Portugal When to Go Map - May Portugal When to Go Map - June Portugal When to Go Map - July Portugal When to Go Map - August Portugal When to Go Map - September Portugal When to Go Map - October Portugal When to Go Map - November Portugal When to Go Map - December The menhir of Monsaraz Douro river from the terrace of the DOC restaurant Stark reminder of mortality in the eerie Chapel of Bones in Evora Fado night show in the Alfama neighborhood Mist over the Quinta Nova Street scene in Porto's Rua das Flores Palacio de Bussaco and its pretty gardens Lovely sunset over the beach of Zambujeira The emblematic cork oak of Alentejo Improvised lunch along the Camino de Santiago Wonderful food at Rui Paula's gorgeous DOC restaurant in the Douro The Cruz Alta (High Cross) in the forest above Bussaco Palace