When you think of Portugal, your mind instantly wanders to the sandy beaches set against the stunning backdrops and famous golf courses. Of course the beautiful weather sits top of the list as a reason to visit this beautiful part of the world, with over 300 days of sun a year, you are pretty much guaranteed sunshine.
Situated on the Iberian Peninsula, with borders to Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, the Oceanside lifestyle holds many influences on many different cuisines within the country with national dishes being Salt Cod and Grilled Sardines.
The Algarve is a popular tourist destination and is a regaular winner of the World Travel Awards, which just so happens to be the tourism industry's answer to the Oscars. It draws an average of 10 million tourists each year as they flock to the golden sandy shores, and bask by the crystal clear waters, making it the ideal place to partake in some open water diving.
The Algarve is a great base to make plans to visit some of Portugal's popular resorts such as Madeira and Porto Santo.
Madeira has been nicknamed the Floating Garden over the years because of it's outstanding natural beauty. It is because of this that Madeira is a very popular destination for golf fanatics, surfers and of course scuba diving at the Garajau Marine Nature Reserve. A popular pass time for tourists is hiking along Old Levada (Aqueducts) in the mountains.
You only need to venture a short way from the main roads in order to appreciate the Aquaducts in all of their glory and marvel at their design. Hikers can make the trek as adventurous or simple as they wish, and they are certainly part of Madeira that you won't want to miss.
Porto Santo Island
Porto Santo is known as Madeira's little sister. It's a small island that actually only measures 6 by 11 kilometres, and due to it's small size, it is only in recent years that it has crept up on the tourist radar. If you can locate Madeira on the map then you have pretty much found it!
There is nothing quite like visiting a part of the world that is seemingly untouched by the commercial world, and just seeing how raw and natural the culture is. The beaches have to be one of the top reasons to pay this stunning location a visit.
The Top 10 Places to Visit in Portugal
If you are planning a trip to Portugal there are a great variety of different places to visit, and these are our top 10:
1. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Lisbon - One of the country's most cherished and revered buildings, and a "must see' on every tourist's agenda.
2. Oceanário de Lisboa, Lisbon - One of Portugals most popular tourist attractions. The is brilliantly conceived to highlight the world's diverse ocean habitats. This is one of Europe's best and largest oceanariums, containing a vast array of fish and marine animals.
3. Silves Castle - was once the capital city of Moorish Algarve, and the Arabs named the region al-Gharb. During the early 12th century, the town was renowned as a center of learning, a place where Islamic writers, philosophers, and geographers gathered. To protect the inhabitants, the Moors built a mighty castle on an elevated position overlooking the town.
4. Torre de Belém, Lisbon - One of Portugal's best-loved historic monuments and a Lisbon icon, the Torre de Belém stands as a symbol of the Age of Discovery and the voyages of exploration undertaken in the 15th and 16th centuries.
5. Convento do Cristo, Tomar - Founded in 1160 as the headquarters of the Order of the Knights Templar, the Convent of Christ is as awe-inspiring as it is mysterious
6. Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga - Portugal's grandest religious sanctuary, is located on a wooded slope six kilometers east of Braga and is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the country.
7. Universidade de Coimbra - The Universidade de Coimbra is Portugal's oldest seat of learning, founded in 1290 by King Dinis. Acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the historic buildings of the Velha Universidade, or old Coimbra University, surround a beautiful colonnaded central square, the Paço das Escolas.
8. Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon - The museum's collection numbers some 6,000 pieces, all of which belonged to just one man - Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, a wealthy Armenian oil magnate who bequeathed his priceless hoard to the Portuguese nation upon his death in 1955.
9. Castelo de Guimarães - The birthplace of the nation and where Portugal's first monarch, Dom Afonso Henriques, was born in 1110. It was originally built in the 10th century, but substantially extended by Henry of Burgundy two centuries later.
10. Sé (cathedral) and Roman Temple, Évora - The Romans established themselves here in BC 57, but it was under Moorish rule that the town began to take shape, its maze of narrow lanes and alleys.