Besides the unspoilt and rarely visited nature of this southern European country, there are more things to do in Portugal on your active holiday. Whether you are a walking or cycling fanatic – or both, here are 10 reasons to spend your holidays in Portugal!
Wine & Port
When better to do a wine & port tasting than on your visit to Portugal
The surprisingly unspoilt Douro Valley is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world. Established in 1756 when the Port industry developed, it has Portugal’s highest wine classification as a denominação de origem controlada
and, although associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine. What better thing to do than to taste these libations in the region of origin itself!
Tapetes de Arraiolos are carpets embroidered with wool ©Jose Barreiro
Wander the streets of the charming village of Arraiolos and you’ll find plenty of shops with the famous Tapetes de Arraiolos
on display. They are carpets embroidered with wool in decorations of flowers and geometric designs. The making of these rugs probably started in the 12th
century and is still mostly done by hand. Watching the craftspeople work on the carpets is something well worth doing in Portugal.
The rugged coastline of Portugal is a reason on its own to visit
Away from the busy tourist centres, western Algarve’s quiet roads and trails often follow the dramatic coastline. This southwestern part of Portugal is blessed with steep cliffs and an abundance of colourful flowers. Along the coastline you can visit traditional Portuguese fishing villages, admire the dramatic rocky coastline interspersed with unspoilt sandy beaches, swim in the azure coastal waters and of course sample delicious seafood.
Piri Piri Chicken
Piri Piri is an amazingly hot and spicy sauce or marinade based on chili’s that you can find in the Algarve region. A specialty there, often you’ll find a restaurant serving only this dish. Complemented with some French fries or rice and a tomato salad, what more do you need? You can also find shrimp prepared with the spicy Piri Piri marinade and what about going to the supermarket to find a large selection of jars with the sauce to bring home!
Caminho Portugués – the Portuguese Way
The Caminho Portuguese can be walked or cycled with UTracks
Pilgrims looking for an alternative experience on the Camino de Santiago can now reach St James’ resting place from the south following ‘Caminho Portugués
’, the Portuguese Way. Often overlooked and much quieter, the Portuguese path – from Lisbon to Coimbra, on to Porto and finally Santiago – combines a wealth of history with picturesque rural landscapes. Walking the Portuguese Camino
is one of the top things to do in Portugal for many travellers. While traditionally walked by pilgrims, in Portugal it is also possible to enjoy the route by bike in just over two weeks.
Responsible Travel – Rota Vicentina
Follow the Rota Vicentina long distance footpath in Portugal
South of capital Lisbon awaits a contrasting landscape of wild beauty, where tourists to Portugal rarely visit despite endless beaches and authentic fishing villages: this is the Alentejo region. It covers a third of Portugal’s landmass but only four percent of its population. The Rota Vicentina long-distance footpath goes through a protected area of the Sw Alentejo and Vicencta Coast Natural Park. It is a successful Portuguese eco-tourism initiative that allows you to take a holiday with a low impact in this relatively untouched region. Part of it is the Fishermen’s Trail that follows the coast from the picture-perfect beaches of Odeceixe via rural traditional villages to Porto Covo, perched on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Alqueva Dam Reservoir
The Alqueva Dam Reservoir is the largest artificial lake in Europe ©Honza Soukup
Located near the town of Alqueva on the right bank of the dam, Alqueva Dam Reservoir
is the largest artificial lake that you can find in Europe. It took 10 years to fill the reservoir and now distributes water throughout this region of Portugal that borders Spain. Visit the dam on our new Portugal Wine and Castles guided or self guided cycling holidays
Looking for things to do in Portugal? Visit charming capital Lisbon!
Known as Olispio by the Romans, settled by the Visigoths and Arabs before becoming the base for the Discoveries by Columbus and Magellan, Lisbon is one of the world’s oldest cities and a fantastic place to visit. The capital of Portugal is situated on the Tagus River and is blessed with beautiful streets that are great for a stroll. Lisbon breathes history and its unpretentious charm makes it great for a relaxing visit, before or after the more active part of your holiday. The first waymark of the Portuguese Camino is at the Cathedral.
Olive & Cork Oak Plantations
Cork is sourced locally in the Algarve ©Paul Stephenson
The Portuguese are great craftsmen and you’ll see this in the wonderful crafts and products they produce from locally sourced cork, marble, olive oil and of course their grapes. Put this area in the south on your list of things to do in Portugal and go on a cycling trip through an undulating terrain dotted with olive, orange, cork and grape plantations. Hide in the shadow of the trees for a short break and enjoy the interaction with the friendly Portuguese living in the countryside.
The views from Portugal's castle ruins are often magnificent ©Habladorcito
Not far from Lisbon you will find an area where the wars between the Moors and Spain took place. Many castles from this time still stand today and you can take a steep climb by bicycle up Monsaraz castle for example. Visit Tomar’s castle, which was the headquarters of the Portuguese Templars. Enjoy magnificent views from the top of the lovely castle in Arraiolos and discover the Roman past of the mysterious castle of Valongo. If all of this is not enough 'castle' for you yet, what do you think about the opportunity of sleeping in one? In Estremoz you can: in the marble Donjon tower of the castle on our Portugal Wine and Castles cycling holiday
. We can imagine that you like to book a visit to the country after learning about these inspiring things to do in Portugal. To give you an idea of the possibilities with UTracks, have a look at our complete overview of active holidays in Portugal
or get in touch with one of our travel consultants
around the world.