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
| 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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!
The grotesque gargoyle that peers down over the main entrance in the extravagant Pena Palace in Sintra
|Temple of Diana in the historic centre of Evora
Spain is only 2-3 hours from anywhere in Portugal
|Signpost 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.
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.
Plenty of orange trees that dotted the landscape
Postcard perfect buildings
|Colorful buildings of Ribeira district in Porto
Our latest addiction –>Portuguese language 🙂
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?