Portugal has been voted best summer destination at the 2019 Irish Travel Industry Awards.
Susana Cardoso, director of the Portuguese National Tourist Office in Ireland, said it came as no surprise, adding: “Portugal is a beautiful country with historic cities, world-renowned cuisine, natural landscapes and some of the world’s most spectacular beaches.”
And while she might be a tad biased, she’s not wrong. As a summer sun option Portugal has it all – it’s the longest-lived of Europe’s modern empires with a complex history to match its breath-taking terrain.
From whale watching to a visit to a chapel made of human skeletons, here are just a few of our favourite things to see and do.
The Algarve is famous for its stunning beaches (there are 150 to choose from) not to mention its spectacular waves.
Surfers keen to avoid gaggles of tourists should steer clear of the south coast and head west instead.
Praia do Amado on the Costa Vicentina is Portugal’s best-known surfing beach, with good reason.
While huge Atlantic waves attract international competitors, it is also family-friendly and has its own surf school.
The opulent castles and palaces of Sintra are located on the central western Portuguese coast, not far from Lisbon.
The most notable is the Palacio da Pena, a sumptuous royal summer retreat built in the Nineteenth Century for Ferdinand II.
It is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal boasting an eclectic and heady mix of Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance architecture.
Not only that, but it is just one of several well-preserved castles and palaces dotting the Sintra region which has, unsurprisingly, been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Visiting the Beira Baixa region in Eastern Portugal is like going back in time. The Moorish village of Monsanto is perched 2,486ft above sea level and built from granite boulders.
It looks like something straight out of Lord of the Rings, with boulders used as floors, walls, and even roofs in houses dating back 500 years. Keep an eye out for the Casa de Uma So Telha – the house with only one tile, which is essentially a massive lump of granite.
If you fancy a spot of whale watching then the Azores is where it’s at. This Atlantic Ocean outcrop has one of the best marine habitats in the world, with one quarter of the world’s known species identified off its coasts.
Boat trippers in any season can expect to spot pilot and sperm whales as well as a variety of species of dolphin. Blue, humpback, orcas and fin whales are also in evidence from April to June.
Human skeletons are not your average tourist attraction but when they’re cemented into the walls of an old chapel, then they pretty much become a must-see. They can be found in the old walled citadel of Evora in the wine region of Alentego which is one of Portugal’s best-preserved medieval towns.
From the Praca do Giraldo to the Se de Evora Cathedral the city is awash with history. The Capella dos Ossos (chapel of bones) is estimated to have the human skulls and other bones of around 5,000 bodies cemented into its walls.
If you’re a city slicker then why not stroll around the atmospheric capital of Lisbon, which is just a short train hop away from the hippy dippy seaside resort of Estoril?
Alternatively there’s Porto, the city which gave its name to the country and to its most famous export, port.
For further information, see www.visitportugal.com.