Portugal Holidays – The best of all worlds
A holiday in Portugal was once thought of as either somewhere to sun yourself on the beach or to play a round of golf – both of them in the Algarve, the southern and most tourist-oriented region in the country. But things have changed and people are beginning to realise that whatever sort of holiday you are looking for, Portugal has it.
The Algarve, with its 160 kilometres of beautiful beaches, which can be enormous stretches of open sands or tiny, forgotten coves, is a favourite for family holidays. To the east it is lapped by the Mediterranean, making it slightly warmer than its western shores. There is every type of resort offering an enormous array of holiday pastimes, from the once tiny fishing villages that still live life in a laid-back style, to the purpose-built resorts such as Vilamoura, with its frenetic nightlife, deep-sea fishing, and chill-out beach.
To the north, the Lisbon coast and the Cost Verde both have their unique charms. Here the accent is more on culture and exploration, but still with a heavy emphasis on sport and a hectic club scene. Both areas have historic cities, Lisbon and Oporto respectively, which are close to beautiful beaches and exquisite countryside, so you can have the best of all worlds.
When to go
For long, lazy days on the beach head to the Algarve; for intense sports such as windsurfing and body-boarding, and a calmer climate, make for a resort further north. In other words, any time is a good time to go to Portugal.
Not only does the time you go depend to a large degree on the type of holiday you are looking for, it also depends on whether you like crowds. Some holiday destinations are more family-orientated than others, so are therefore more influenced by school holidays – namely Easter, July and August. This probably applies most to the Algarve.
Also, some resorts are more popular with the Portuguese themselves than others that might see more visitors from other European countries, so it’s worth checking that out, which might make one resort much busier while another a few kilometres away is quite quiet.
The weather in Portugal
Portugal is a relatively small country, but the weather can vary considerably, as you travel south to north, or from the beach to the mountains. The Algarve moves from a Mediterranean climate as it drifts from east to west, where it is influenced by the cooler breeze of the Atlantic Ocean – but not too much. Summer temperatures in the low 30ºC are not unknown, with long blue-sky days of around twelve hours of sunshine. These drop to around 25ºC as you move north, with a noticeable decline in water temperature and considerably more rain, mainly from December to March.
Getting the best deal
Much that has been said in ‘When to go’ applies here. High season is not likely to bring much reward if you are looking for major deals, although being selective where you want to be can. The larger the resort, the more accommodation there will be on offer, which also means that there will be a lot more rooms to fill out of the main season and some great deals. The further you get from July and August the more likely a good deal will be had.
If you have a family and can’t get a bargain during the school holidays, think about going all inclusive. These can offer enormous savings over simply booking your accommodation and finding reasonably priced places to eat and drink in the resort. And many of this type of hotel offer as spas and kids clubs, which can give you more time to enjoy yourself while the kids make friends.
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Travel preparation for a holiday to Portugal
Here are some useful tips to help you prepare for your holiday in Portugal.
- Never be tempted to try and slip a few extra kilos into you bag. Most of the airlines flying to Portugal are budget and are very strict about weight allowance; any excess will cost you dearly;
- The UK and Portugal are in the same time zone;
- Flying time is 2.5 to 3 hrs., depending on your departure and arrival airports;
- Most taxi drives working from airports will usually have at least a smattering of English;
- There is a 20% surcharge on all taxis hires throughout Portugal between 9pm-6am, on weekends and national holidays (equivalent to a British bank holiday). Meters change automatically to take it into account;
- The currency is the Euro (€). Check www.oanda.com for up-to-the-minute exchange rates; ‘Please’ in Portuguese is por favour or agradar, and ‘thank you’ is obrigado. Use them both regularly.
More useful information
- For official Portugal tourist information click here - Visit Portugal
- The FCO may occasionally release travel advisory warnings for Portugal. Check the latest on the Foreign Travel Advice website.