One of the emotions I dislike most is regretting that I did not properly explore a place in the time given. I have been able to prevent this feeling from hitting me over the years by extensive research prior to a trip, setting an early alarm in the destination and generally being open to acquainting myself with a new locale on foot. A place that has gnawed at me over the years is Portugal.
I spent a year studying and working in Lisbon, a city I truly adore. I had classes three mornings per week (including Saturday morning) and maintained a full-time – and extremely busy – job. This schedule resulted in less travel time than I would have preferred and I am hoping to get back soon. I’ll always stay a few days in Lisbon whenever I head to Portugal, but I satisfied my wanderlust for the capital. Here are some of the locations I intend to visit in the future.
My only time in the Azores was a layover on my way from Lisbon back to the east coast several years ago. This archipelago is calling me for a few reasons. First, a sizable portion of the Portuguese population in the US has Azorean blood running through their veins. So many of the Portuguese foods I grew up sampling were typical of the seafaring inhabitants of these islands. Second, I am dying to visit the vineyards on the islands that grow from rocky, volcanic soil – the contrast of the vines with the dark land has always been fascinating to me and I’ve wanted to photograph this landscape for quite some time. Finally, I love out-of-the-way places for the people they produce and the calming sensation of geographic separateness. The Azores are in the middle of the north Atlantic and should provide just that.
Beautiful Madeira and Porto Santo
Madeira was known for its fortified wine long before famous son Cristiano Ronaldo pranced onto a soccer pitch. The topography of Madeira is striking and the climate is similar to that of Spain’s Canary Islands to the south – just perfect. Additionally, the hiking around Madeira is supposed to be superb and presents some dramatic views. Daily ferries connect Madeira with its sister island of Porto Santo. A few days on the idyllic beaches of Porto Santo would be a nice respite for my legs weary from trekking. The ideal sundowner on either isle would be a poncha da madeira, a potent but refreshing local cocktail. Flights from Lisbon to the capital, Funchal, are less than two hours, so this will be an easy desire to fulfill.
The Charm of Porto
I feel slightly ashamed that the second-largest city in the country makes this list. I spent a couple days in Porto when I first visited the country more than a decade ago and have only been in the bus depot since. I really owe it to this historic and now blossoming city to set up camp for a week and explore what I have missed. I’ll especially enjoy the opportunity to take some shots of the buildings on the riverbanks from higher elevations on each side. Of course, serious time and effort would need to be dedicated to the city’s signature beverage, Port. My sweet tooth and love of wine have ensured that a small glass of Port is a necessity at the conclusion of a hearty Portuguese meal.
The Hidden Spectacles of the Algarve
The Algarve may conjure images of expats drinking Guinness to some, but the natural offerings of southern Portugal are very impressive. In particular, the Ria Formosa lagoon is a travel goal of mine. With some 30,000 species of birds visiting this wetland throughout the year, I’m sure that the early mornings and evenings make for incredible photographic opportunities. During the day, I’d be exploring Tavira, a town who name always elicits a positive response from fellow travelers.
If you’re planning a holiday in Portugal as I hope to in the near future, travel agencies like First Choice make the process easier as they offer some stellar packages to destinations like the ones above.
Have you spent time in Portugal? If so, what are some other must-see corners of the country?
This post was in collaboration with First Choice.