Holidays to Portugal are about more than just the mainland. You’ve also got the Floating Garden of Madeira and the untouched shores of Porto Santo to consider.
A European favourite
Portugal’s winning combination of sandy beaches, dramatic scenery and world-class golf courses has kept it firmly on the holiday map for decades. And if all that wasn’t enough, the country also has good weather credentials, basking in around 300 days of sunshine a year.
Curving round the south coast is the Algarve region, which has a dramatic coastline scalloped with sandy bays and secluded coves. Resort-wise, you can choose between large, lively towns and sleepy fishing villages. This pocket of Portugal is also one of the best places in Europe for golfers – and some of the courses are spectacular.
The Portuguese island of Madeira is set in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,000 kilometres away from the mainland. It’s been nicknamed the Floating Garden thanks to its flower-filled botanical gardens. The capital, Funchal, is a real mix of old and new, with cosy tavernas and traditional markets sitting next to swanky wine bars and chic boutiques.
North of Madeira is tiny Porto Santo. It’s a bit of a newcomer to the travel scene, so tourists are few and far between. Vila Baleira, the only town, is a typically Portuguese affair, with cobbled lanes and whitewashed houses. It’s your gateway to the island’s 10-kilometre-long sandy beach, too.
Wonderful Lisbon has absolutely every element vital for a great weekend break (or more). Burgeoning social, food, arts and design scenes; great little places to eat and drink; interesting old corners and markets to poke around; glorious architecture with just the right amount of crumbling, poster-paint-bright historic facades. There are old palaces to stay in, rooftop bars with pools to hang out in. It’s beside the sea! And it’s all ridiculously, delightfully affordable. Go at any time – though April is a great time to go to Lisbon, when the days are long and sunny and the cobbled streets are beginning to warm up.