Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and hidden beneath Spain lies Portugal – arguably Europe’s most underrated country. If you look closely you’ll find remote islands, world-class wines, momentous history and adventures you thought were reserved for Hawaii. Portugal is also known for its year-round mild weather, so you’re guaranteed to leave winter behind.
Here, the four reasons you need to start packing your bags for Portugal:
1. The Azores are the new (less expensive, much closer to Canada) Hawaii
Made up of 9 volcanic islands secluded on the Atlantic Ocean east of Lisbon, the Azores archipelago is majestic. Any day of the year is prime time for island hopping, paragliding, riding waves, whale watching and cooking in volcanoes. The best part? When you depart from Toronto you’ll land on Azorean soil in five hours flat – with airfare starting at $500 round-trip.
We recommend you:
Paraglide over the islands – Awaken your inner adrenaline junkie by soaring above underwater mountains, luscious greenbelts, volcanic craters and the glistening Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire). If you happen to return in July, you’re likely to bump into the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series where competitors soar off 100-foot-tall cliffs!
Ride the waves – The archipelago’s mild climate and consistent air and water temperature guarantee awesome wave riding year-round – so awesome that the World Surf League’s competitions are hosted here. Don’t surf? Spend your day with the 25 camera-friendly cetacean species spotted regularly throughout the Azores archipelago.
2. The Algarve guarantees sunshine
As the southernmost region in Portugal, the Algarve promises 300 days of sunshine (seriously), plus gorgeous golden beaches and breathtaking scenery. We recommend you:
Find your zen on a beach – With more than 100 beaches to choose from and over 200 km of coastline, you may need to extend your trip.
Stand on the edge of Portugal – The Algarve is home to Cape St. Vincent, the most southwestern point in Portugal boasting views similar to the Cliffs of Moher (without the foggy clouds).
3. Porto offers wine, history and more wine
World-famous for its wine, Porto stretches into the Atlantic and is Portugal’s second-largest city, known for its world-class architecture, impressive wine cellars, bustling metropolis and lavish history. We recommend you:
Drink all the wine – Start in the Duoro Valley (the third oldest protected wine region in the world) then make your way to Cais De Gaia to visit River Duoro and Port Wine cellars for endless sampling tours, all with Porto’s stunning skyline as a backdrop.
Visit J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts – The grand staircase in Hogwarts was inspired by the Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore), voted third best bookstore in the world by Lonely Planet.
4. Lisbon is the capital for a reason
Say au revoir to Paris and olá to Lisbon, Europe’s most overlooked capital littered with grand gothic churches, five-star restaurants and blink twice scenery. We recommend you:
Get a history lesson – Completed in 1601, the Jerónimos Monastery is an extraordinary example of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture and is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Take in aerial views of Alfama – Head to Portas do Sol for breathtaking aerial views of Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district, known for its sloping burnt orange roofs and ornate tile panels. Instagram heaven!