Five reasons why Portugal keeps winning the best travel destination awards

Portugal has three hotspots for tourism: 1. the capital Lisbon with the neighboring small cities of Sintra and Cascais, 2. the city of Porto with the Duero region in north, and 3. sunny Algarve on the south coast. These three destinations, however, are vastly different experiences for visitors. What exactly is it that has made Portugal such a popular destination to visit?

Carvoeiro beach, fishing village, fishermen's beach in Algarve, Portugal. The author of the travel guidebook Algarve, Southern Portugal lists five primary reasons for the tourism success of this southern Europe country.

    1. Unique cities.
    2. Varying landscapes.
    3. Services for tourists.
    4. Climate.
    5. History.

Porto, old houses on the steep slope near the river

Portuguese cities

Lisbon and Porto are big cities that, at a first glance, may look like other old southern European cities, but that first impression quickly fades once you spend a few days in these locations. There is something unique in these cities shaped by the unique Portuguese culture. The cities not only look unique, but they also work in the unique Portuguese way.

Smaller cities, like Coimbra, Evora, or Faro are individually Portuguese as well, but because the scale is smaller, they are easier to adapt to than the big cities.

Natural landscapes

Portugal is a relatively small country, but its climate and landscapes are very different from north to south and from west to east. The long west coast that faces the Atlantic Ocean features many of the best surf beaches of the world. They are often located in small towns, fishing villages, or inhabited land like in south in Algarve.

Mountains, hills, rivers define the inland landscape. Both the west coast and south coast have so many types of beaches and coastlines that it is a worth a book of its own.

Services for visitors

Most tourists take the infrastructure built for them as granted, but it is worth reminding that it has cost millions and billions of euros to build all the modern hotels, shopping malls, hospitals, car rental facilities, villas and apartments for tourists. For some reason, roads in Portugal haven’t been kept up with development, but other than that, everything a traveler needs is readily available. In areas that have plenty of tourists, English is widely understood. Outside those areas, it is only Portuguese (no, not even Spanish).
Coimbra, up on the central university hill

Sunny south, green north

The Atlantic Ocean brings rains to Portugal but they are not evenly distributed. North (Porto region) gets more rain than south (Algarve). Especially in Algarve, the climate around the year is so pleasant that the region has become a popular place for central and northern European pensioners and digital nomads to spend their winters.

The colorful history is present everywhere

Romans established a number of Portuguese towns, but the richest history was left in Portugal by North African Moors who ruled the central and southern regions of Iberian Peninsula for hundreds of years. Magnificent castles, fortresses and other buildings still dominate the skylines of many towns in Portugal.

Another typical Portuguese thing is traditional work and life. It may seem old-fashioned, even historical life for foreigners, but that’s the way people like it in fishing villages, countryside and small towns where life is not affected by tourism.

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