Why a Portuguese Jaunt is in Our Near Future

Dec 15, 2017

Portugal staggered dangerously close to the edge of bankruptcy in 2016, but a subsequent tourism boom (epic affordability + gorgeous country + mild climate = millions of visitors) has helped fuel the recovery. The upshot is a whole new crop of fabulous places to stay, layered over centuries -- and in some cases millennia -- of history.

Bonus: Portugal takes the concept of a town and country vacation to new heights—because “country,” in this case, could mean a nearly 8,000-foot volcanic peak in the middle of the Atlantic. More on that -- and the other big local draws for us -- below:

One of the Best Climates in Europe

With more than 300 days of sunshine annually, Portugal is welcoming year-round. And its beaches -- which tend to be mobbed in summer -- come with a lot more breathing room (and extra-great prices) in winter. So now is a great time to see everything from the Algarve’s ancient castles to Nazare’s surfer-luring swell (Europe’s notorious big wave season is in high gear).

Old World Wonder

Portugal’s borders have remained almost unchanged for close to 1000 years, and though most of its ancient buildings were destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, history buffs can still tour the remarkable monuments that have withstood the test of time, from the 12th century Monastery of Alcobaça to the 16th century Belém Tower. Newer old-world touches include the beloved wooden trams that crisscross Lisbon -- and fill the Instagram accounts of everyone who visits.

Adventures on the Volcanic Islands

A trip to the Azores, a chain of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic, unlocks a world of mud pots, hot springs, volcanic steam vents, more than thirty Blue Flag beaches and an impressive list of UNESCO World Heritage sites -- for starters, the centuries-old, stone wall-protected vineyards. This is also home to the aforementioned nearly 8,000-foot peak -- Mount Pico -- Portugal’s tallest. Hike at least a section of this icon (with a guide) for pastoral prettiness that quickly gives way to stunning sea views.

TAP Stopover Program

All transatlantic flights on this Portuguese carrier include the option of a stopover in Lisbon or Porto. For passengers with layovers longer than 24 hours, the deal is sweetened with the likes of free wine, museum tickets and hotel discounts. If you go the stopover route, you have up to five days to get to know, say, Lisbon’s Fado scene, or Porto’s vineyards and Gothic architecture– without paying any additional airfare. TAP flies daily from JFK, Newark, Boston and Miami Airports.

Champagne taste on a beer budget

Though alcohol is typically one of the most expensive elements of a trip, not so here: Portugal’s bottles of award-winning wine often sell for less than a glass in Manhattan. And reaching one of the most renowned wine-producing regions -- the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Alto Douro -- got easier last year with the opening of a tunnel through the Serra do Marao mountains.

Take a quick tour of the oldest country in Europe:

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