Top to Toe: Portugal Laid Bare

A journey down through the five beautiful regions of mainland Portugal.

The mainland of Portugal is split into five main regions, each offering a unique take on the rich Portuguese culture, but all featuring the country’s renowned hospitality, natural beauty and fine weather. Starting in the north, here’s a look at five reasons why Portugal holidays remain as popular as ever.

Porto E Norte

The Alto Douro region

The northernmost region of Portugal combines beautiful green landscapes with a rich sense of history and a wealth of towns and cities to explore. Porto – the region’s capital and Portugal’s second city – is a good base from which to discover the area, and itself offers a more laid-back city experience than bustling Lisbon.

Porto's historic riverside

Wine lovers will enjoy visiting Porto’s numerous port wine warehouses along the Douro river which cuts through the city, and along which the old barges would transport the port wines from the vineyards down into Porto.

Centro De Portugal

Tejo Internacional national park

Sometimes called the ‘green heart’ of Portugal, the central region boasts thickly forested areas of pine and eucalyptus trees, picturesque, verdant valleys and rugged mountainous landscapes around the Serra da Estrela mountain range. Nature lovers might want to spend time staking out the area’s wild inhabitants, which include wolves, wild cats, wild boar, and even the elusive Iberian Lynx.

The endangered Iberian wolf

  Lisboa Regiao

Morning sun on Lisbon's colourful houses

The region around Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon offers visitors a taste of the best the country has to offer. The city is one Europe’s best capitals when it comes to beaches, with a variety of beautiful sandy stretches within easy reach of the town centre.

Lisbon's residents benefit from the proximity of numerous beaches

History buffs will appreciate the region’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the Convent of Christ, the Monastery of Alcobaça, the Monastery of Batalha and the town of Sintra, with its historic palaces, churches and museums.

No holiday to Portugal is complete without a visit to Lisbon, and visitors taking a day or two to explore the city itself should spend some time in the Bairro Alto quarter, where the city’s various youth cultures all coexist in a cultural melting pot of bars, boutiques, cafes and restaurants.

The delicious pastel de nata custard tart

Sampling a pastel de nata custard pastry is also a must-do, and although they are available everywhere, the original source of the delicacy can be found in the Belém area of the city.


Fortifications at Juromenha in south eastern Portugal

The Alentejo has an open and expansive landscape, with extensive wheat fields inland and wide open plains broken by the occasional group of olive trees or cork oaks, or perhaps an ancient fort. The coastline along the west of the region is wild and remote, offering travellers seeking a more secluded break plenty of coves and quiet beaches to discover.

Architecture of Evora

The Roman town of Évora, with its churches and temple of Diana, provides a vivid lesson in the history of the region, along with the many Arabic influences to be seen in the architecture of the area.


The golden sands at Vilamoura

The ever-popular Algarve region of Portugal attracts thousands of visitors each year, thanks to its many beaches and warm bathing waters, as well as its world-class golf courses, huge range of resorts and hotels and plentiful supply of sunshine.

Younger holidaymakers looking for bars and clubs to keep them entertained will find more than enough along the south coast’s thriving resorts, while older visitors will appreciate the region’s smaller villages along the River Guadiana, its various historical sites and the nature trails and bird sanctuaries inland.

Sunset over the Algarve town of Portimao


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