Holidays to Portugal are a big bundle of Blue Flag beaches, suave cities and pretty-as-a-picture islands.
This slice of southern Europe has its fingers in a lot of pies. Getaway-wise, it’s got the cities with cobbled streets, the strapping sands and the tasty food and drink. Plus, it doesn’t stop when you step off the mainland, thanks to a duo of islands bringing even more goods to the table.
When it comes to beach holidays, the Algarve delivers. This bumper-beach region hogs most of Portugal’s south coast. Albufeira’s one of the big dogs, bringing a huge dose of Blue Flag-waving belts and a bar crawl-ready strip. There’s also a huddle of hush-hush villages still repping their fishing roots. Wherever you lay your head, you’ll never be far from a world-class golf course, either.
Portugal’s off-shore islands give it a few bonus points. First up, there’s natural beauty, Madeira. This place doesn’t need golden sand to win over tourists. Its toasty, year-round climate means it’s popular for hiking, botanical gardens and dolphin-spotting. Wine boffs go mad for its sweet wine, too – head to capital Funchal for a swig. Floating nearby, Porto Santo Island is more off the package holidays trail. And it’s the opposite of its neighbour, with tonnes of sandy coves and a 27-hole golf club.
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It’s impossible to pick fault with the Algarve’s kid-friendly CV. Every beach worth its salt comes with a full roster of watersports, and the eating out scene juggles home favourites with Portuguese seafood and fiery piri-piri chicken. Theme and waterparks are in good supply, and there are go-karting tracks, zoos and little and large golf courses. The whole lot’s propped up by a spread of family-focused hotels.
Families and arty types aside, Madeira’s rapidly becoming the destination of choice for the trendy twenty-something crowd. For one thing, the island is forging a reputation as one of Europe’s top spa destinations, so it’s girlie getaways a go-go. And, while it won’t wipe Ibiza off the nightlife map any time soon, there’s an up-and-coming club scene to boot.
Porto Santo Island
Porto Santo’s like a starlet teetering on the brink of worldwide fame. There’s a hum of excitement about the island at the moment, and you get the impression it’s a destination tipped for big things. Strangely enough, though, you’d be hard-pressed to find it on a map. Measuring up at just 11 kilometres by 6, it’s little more than a speck just north of Madeira.
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