No plans yet for your Christmas holidays? We have some suggestions for you!
With so many trips on offer and at such reasonable prices you're sure to find something appealing. What are you waiting for? Book your flight and in about two hours you could be landing in Portugal for a well-deserved break – Lisbon, Porto, Faro, the Azores or Madeira could be the start of your explorations...
At this time of year, the entire country comes to life with Christmas entertainment, starting with the lights that bring sparkle and colour to the city centres. Here you can enjoy shopping in the many shops and markets, watch choirs singing Christmas carols and sample some of the foods traditionally eaten at this time of year, such as Bolo-rei ("King cake"), "filhoses" (traditional deep fried sweet pastry sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon) or "rabanadas" (type of French toast). And once you've taken your first step in Portuguese gastronomy, you'll want to keep going! From sweet treats such as our famous “pastel de nata” (custard tart) to some of the best fish in the world, our cuisine features many hallmarks of the World Heritage Mediterranean Diet.
And what about some family fun? With an average of over 300 sunny days a year, winter here can sometime seem more like spring, with sunshine up and down the country and temperatures rarely dropping below 10ºC. Days like this make you want to explore the streets of Lisbon on foot, or walk up to the castle or some other viewpoint to admire the view over the rooftops and the River Tagus. But a tram ride is fun and so too is a visit to the monuments and museums, many of which have cosy tea rooms where you can recharge your batteries. From Belém to the Parque das Nações there's loads to see. And outside Lisbon, places like Cascais, Estoril, Sintra and Mafra should definitely not be missed.
If you hire a car, a short drive will take you from Lisbon to Ericeira, Peniche or Nazaré, well-known for their waves that attract surfers of all levels. Other options include UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Tomar, Alcobaça, Batalha and Coimbra. If you point your GPS southwards, the Alentejo region has many not-to-be-missed sites, including Évora, Elvas, Marvão and the huge Alqueva lake.
In the opposite direction, the northern city of Porto, famed for the wine that takes its name, has its own special charm. This granite city, where old monuments contrast with the contemporary architecture of Serralves or the Casa da Música, has a great deal worth seeing from Ribeira to Foz. Perhaps you could take a boat trip along the river and discover the marvellous scenery of the Douro Valley. Even farther north there are other cities which should also not be missed, such as Guimarães, Viana do Castelo and Braga. Or the well-preserved natural surroundings in the Peneda-Gerês National Park and the Trás-os-Montes region, synonymous with authenticity and tradition.
If you are heading to Faro in the Algarve, you can admire the beauty of the uncrowded beaches or play a round of golf on one of the region's many courses. Other options might include boat trips, bicycle rides, a relaxing spa or some lively nightlife. If your preference is culture, there is plenty to be explored in Faro, Lagos, Sagres, Silves and Tavira, for example.
With direct flights to the Azores, there are no more excuses for not getting to know this mid-Atlantic archipelago. There are nine completely unspoiled islands to visit at a leisurely pace. Start with São Miguel and discover all the tones of green in its landscapes and lakes, or with Ilha Terceira where Angra do Heroísmo is a landmark in terms of architectural heritage.
And then there is Madeira, a favourite destination for New Year festivities. The entire island is decorated with myriad multi-coloured lights and a huge fireworks display heralds the New Year, attracting cruise ships and visitors from all over the world. Another big surprise is the climate. The temperatures ranging from 20ºC to 25ºC are ideal for appreciating all the charm of the local landscapes. Can you think of a better way to start the New Year?