Our First Impressions of Portugal

We crossed off Portugal from our list when 2014 started. We’ve seen glimpses of Portuguese architecture in Cochin and Goa in India, but our knowledge about this pocket size country was limited to their connection with India, Vasco da Gama and Christiano Ronaldo, in that order!!  So initially we weren’t sure if Portugal would impress us like their more famous Iberian neighbour. But eventually it did win our heart. We have tried to list down our first impressions as we road tripped around this tiny country during December. 

There’s art everywhere
Portuguese take art quite seriously.  And it is evident in every corner of the country.  Known as Azulejo, they are decorative tiles – a form of painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tile that can be seen in train stations, designed walking paths, street names, on church walls, even as restaurant name board.  They sometimes depict a story, or a scene from the history, or simply a combination of colors and designs. And it is obvious that these tiles formed an important part of Portuguese architecture.  
Exteriors of a Church in Porto
Portugal loves art A beautifully decorated tile with a street name, in Albufeira

Graffiti in abundance 
Graffiti is commonly seen in a lot of countries. So what’s special in Portugal, you may ask?  Well, for the record, Lisbon’s street art is listed  among the top 10 street arts in the world.  No wonder why we couldn’t resist clicking pictures of these graffiti art while travelling πŸ™‚

Portugal Graffiti Lisbon

Pristine Beaches that stretches for miles

Stretching for about 600 miles of coast boasting excellent climate, Portugal is a beach lover’s and surfer’s paradise. From honey colored rock formations of Algarve coast to windswept rugged coastlines in west (like Cascais), there are plenty of crystal clear beaches that have blue flag status. 
Pristine beaches Portugal Ilha desert on Ria Formosa National Park, close to Faro

Roads are well maintained and signposted
Throughout our trip in Portugal, we drove a lot in Autoestradas (Motorways) and National routes and in general, the roads were smooth and there were appropriate road signs and signposts for easy navigation.
Portugal roads signposted well maintained

Inexpensive and convenient public transport

Although we hired a car during our time in Portugal, we felt public transport to be the cheap and best option, especially in major cities like Lisbon and Porto. 
Cheap public Transport Portugal 
Amazing architecture under it’s sleeve
Portugal is not all about sea, sand and sun. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and within Western Europe. The architecture and heritage monuments speaks volume about the bygone history. Be it the Palaces of Sintra or historic centre of Evora or Belem Tower, Portugal has its best! 
Portugal Architecture UNESCOThe grotesque gargoyle that peers down over the main entrance in the extravagant Pena Palace in Sintra
Historic Centre Evora UnescoTemple of Diana in the historic centre of Evora
Spain is only 2-3 hours from anywhere in Portugal 
Spain close PortugalSignpost of Spain while driving from Faro 

Winter is not dull and gloomy 
Unlike other European countries, winter is not grey and gloomy or freezing cold. They are more like their Spanish neighbors.  December is also the time we saw wild flowers in full bloom. 

Wild Flowers Portugal December 

Great for bird watching

Throughout the year, you can see exotic birds that you else can’t find back in your home.  Algarve region is known for it’s bird watching and we got a glimpse of some birds that migrated from cold European countries. We saw Flamingos, White Storks, Little Egret just to name a few. 
Bird Watching Portugal Algarve 

Plenty of orange trees that dotted the landscape 

Clementines Winter Orange Trees Portugal 

Postcard perfect buildings 
Ribeira Buildings Unesco Postcard PortoColorful buildings of Ribeira district in Porto

Our latest addiction –>Portuguese language πŸ™‚

Portuguese and Spanish are totally different languages. And boy, did we say we fell in love with Portuguese language!!

Portugal is a perfect package for any kind of traveler – be it adventure, beach, history or architecture. Add to it amazing food/wine and good weather, Portugal is a great one stop destination.  But it is often overshadowed by other European countries, particularly Spain, and it’s such a shame that a lot of tourists do not consider Portugal while planning holidays.  

Have you been to Portugal?  What was your first impression? 

38 Responses

  1. Interesting observations. Nice read.

  2. not been to portugal but your post tempts me so!!!


  3. That picture perfect buildings photo is an epic shot! If so many oranges can be grown in one tree, I am thinking of growing just one tree for my own consumption in Chennai. You think it'll grow? πŸ˜›

    Destination Infinity

    • Seriously DI. There were much more than these. Even on roadside these trees were planted..It really tempted me to pluck and eat them fresh πŸ˜‰
      It might grow in India I guess, because of the climate.

  4. Nice place and good photographs!!

  5. I have been to Portugal, and really loved their tile work everywhere. I loved Porto, and all the other places visited there, especially Cascais, Evora and of course Lisbon.
    I have also visited Spain, and I found Spain more beautiful and very clean compared to Portugal. Spanish tiles are really very beautiful too. I really fell in love with Barcelona, and felt I have to take birth there, in one of my life cycles.
    The place is so good and people of Spain are so stylish and also beautiful.
    Your pictures are beautiful, took me down the memory lane. The trams there are also very comfortable and good.

    • I am relieved that atleast there is one person whom I know has been to Portugal already, and liked it! I wish I had known this earlier. Would have asked you for some tips πŸ™‚

  6. I'm so glad you loved Portuguese architecture and stunning buildings. Never been there, but I have a lot of Portuguese friends who showed me tones of photos of their hometowns and I was speechless!

  7. Wonderful impressions! I love the graffiti works and the convenience of the local transport – simply makes travelling so much more fun and easy!

  8. Nice post Anu. What is special about the Portuguese language?! Every language is interesting if understood well, I thought!

    • That is true. But there are only certain languages that draws this kind of affinity when spoken. It's probably goes to the way they are pronounced. When I heard someone talking the language in Portugal, I actually yearned to hear it more. Alhtough I did not understand a single word of it πŸ˜›

  9. This is the first post about Portugal that I have come across and that made it really interesting to know more about this country. Nice post.

  10. Was not aware of the art connection of Portugal. So, one should cover both the countries together as they are quite close. Love that graffiti shot, Anu πŸ™‚

  11. Amazing coverage. Thank you guys! As Portuguese, I'm obviously biased but I think more people need to see it to believe it. Anyone that travels to Portugal turns into "a believer". It's that true. The country is fill of hidden gems and that you hardly find without local connections though. That's why I recommend anyone visiting Portugal to use sites like http://www.WiserGo.com to connect with local experts. You design several travel packages with Portuguese agents, select your favorite, they will book everything and provide customer support while you're in Portugal. Since they are local agents, they know the ins-and-outs of everything and you get to experience the country as a local!

    • I loved Portugal, and would love to go back here in summer..there's so much to discover! I just went through the site you recommended, and it does have a lot of information about Portugal. Will keep this in mind when I am travelling there again.

  12. These are certainly some great reasons to return to Portugal! I fell in love with the art while I was there too and would love to go bird-watching.

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  14. I have been to Portugal and loved it. The beaches, the art, the food … only I went in August and it was way to warm. Looks like a much better idea to go during winter time.

  15. This is really appreciable work in my eyes πŸ™‚ I do love it. First impressions is most attractive πŸ™‚

  16. We loved Portugal. We slipped into the Algarve from southern Spain and loved it so much we extended our stay there. I've been itching to go back ever since.

  17. Nice to know so much about Portugal. I agree it's overshadowed by Spain and other European countries.

  18. A lot of people seem to be writing about the joys of Portugal – I've only been to the Algarve and not seen much of the rest of the place but I'm beginning to get a feel for the fact that it's a bit of a hidden secret as far as European destinations go – would like to go and explore the rest of it!

  19. This really does look like a gorgeous holiday destination. I may need to add it to our list (I've never been!)

  20. Yes I visited Portugal afterboston to washington dc bus toursand my first impression was just like astonishing. I found it more beautiful and attractive than I heard. I visited its many areas Lisbon, Funchal, Portimao, Lagos, Porto and Albufeira. I also found them mesmerizing and full of hustle and bustle. It was my first trip but I extremely enjoyed it.

  21. I spent last summer with my mom in Lisbon and Fatima, two the best beautiful cities in the whole country in my opinion. We absolutely loved the experience. The food was yummy, the weather was gorgeous and locals turned out to be so warming and friendly.

  22. The world has spoken- London became the world’s top tourist destination attracting upward of 16 million visitors in year 2013. It has so many Attractions
    to see

  23. Very beautiful country indeed! Colorful, charming, and rustic! It would be very nice to hike here.

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