My name is Paulo Garcia Martins and welcome to my Portugal travel guide. I’m a passionate photographer who started taking photos the day I visited a beautiful place called Marialva, Portugal all the way back in 2002.
I went there on a Friday afternoon and was one of the only visitors to Marialva that week. As I spoke with the locals I started to get the sense that forgotten places like this should be promoted more. From then on my mission has been to share these wonderful hidden gems of Portugal.
Believe it or not – I was born in Angola. I came to Portugal when I was two. I’ve lived in a few other countries such as Venezuela and South Africa. So I have dual nationality of Portuguese and South African. But I choose to share Portugal with the world as it has a special place in my heart.
Why Portugal Should be on your Bucket List
Portugal is an old country full of history. It’s also an adopter of what we call ‘globalisation’. So what can you take out of this mix of old and new? Well, a big handful of magical places with history, traditions, carnivals, gastronomy, architecture, art and if we add nature – places like mountains and beaches.
Every destination in Portugal is unique. Some of my favourite places in Portugal include Leiria, Monsanto, Ponte de Lima, Peneda-Geres National Park, Sintra, Costa Vicenta, Pico Island and Flores Island in the Azores.
Designing the Ultimate Portugal Itinerary
Your itinerary to Portugal will all depend on how much time you have and what type of experiences you enjoy. I recommend starting in the north and feeling the nature of Peneda-Geres National Park. Then head to Braga and immerse yourself in the religious heritage and culture of this city.
Next stop would be Guimaraes which is only 25km away from Braga. Its historic town centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After taking in this stunning town head to Porto which will be one of highlights of your trip to Portugal. Travel up the Douro River and try the famous Porto wine.
From Porto we start to head south to the Portuguese version of Venice called Aveiro. The city is set along a lagoon called Ria de Aveiro. It’s a beautiful place to explore. Then head to Nazare where some of the biggest waves in the world are located. See the surfers take on jaw-dropping waves.
Venture east and visit a town called Fatima. Only 45 minutes drive from Nazare, you will encounter a place full of catholic culture such as the famous Sanctuary of Fatima – an important Catholic pilgrimage site. Continue one hour south to the romantic medieval town of Obidos.
Soon you will arrive in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. There is so much to see in this wonderful city plus you have the surroundings of Lisbon. Places like Sintra, Setubal and Serra da Arrabida make for great day trips from the capital. Finish your journey in the beautiful Alentejo region.
You should pick the cities, villages and places that resonate with you the most. It’s a hard thing to choose where to go in Portugal because there is so much on offer. Not only on the mainland but then we have islands like the Azores and Madeira which add an extra dimension to your trip.
Immersing in the Rich Culture of Portugal
Every destination in Portugal offers a unique culture and way of life all while being distinctly Portuguese. We are known for our hospitality and we are proud of our roots. The best way to get to know Portuguese people is to visit the smaller and more authentic towns across the country.
You can visit the typical cafes, restaurants, and markets that locals attend. Or just ask locals questions and they will tell you everything you need to know, what to see and where to experience the best hidden gems. Some may even go deep with you and tell you about the history of the places.
We also have one of the best gastronomies in the world. Portugal thrives off a Mediterranean diet. Adding to that, we inherited cuisines from the Moors during the Medieval times. Ingredients were introduced from Africa, India, China and South America. From fish, meat, fruits – you name it!
Best Way to Travel around the Country
Portugal has some fantastic public transport in cities like Lisbon and Porto. But going from village to village – you will definitely need the freedom of a car. A caravan is a great choice for those who like this type of transport.
Between each place you discover amazing landscapes and so a caravan can be wonderful to stop off at places along the way. There are treasures all around Portugal. Even after reading all the maps, travel books and doing my own exploration – I still find new places that blow me away!
What you Need to Know Before you Go
The most important thing is to do your research beforehand. How many days do you plan on coming for? I would recommend at least a couple of weeks if not more to see the best attractions. Of course, make sure you hire a car so you can travel around the country in freedom and with flexibility.
Once you arrive at the cities, take a walk around and get lost. That’s the best way to find local life. You can always hit up the tourist offices if you need advice on where to go. Portugal is a safe and welcoming country and you won’t have to worry about much. Enjoy your trip to Portugal!