Portugal and the Azores
Why 2017 is the year to go
For Canadians, Portugal is easy to get to and considerably cheaper than other Western European destinations. Portugal and the Azores use the same euro as many other popular countries in Europe, but prices are still considerably lower than places like France, Germany and Italy. A good bottle of wine can often be found for $10 at a restaurant, and meals at casual tavernas are extremely reasonable. In fact, Lisbon is the cheapest Western European destination for a city break and one of the cheapest European cities to fly into from Toronto. Travelzoo deal experts are seeing incredible deals for the beautiful Azores too. A recent offer included air from Toronto plus 11 nights for just $999!
What it's known for
Portugal is famous for its friendly people, good food, seacoast, fine beaches in the Algarve and great wines. Lisbon is an awesome city, with fabulous architecture, hilltop castles and excellent shopping. Porto is famous for its Port wines. The Azores are a combination of Portugal, Hawaii and Ireland. The deep green fields are lined with ancient stone, shrub walls and steep cliffs leading to the deep blue ocean. In the tiny villages, the whitewashed homes are topped with red-tile roofs. The islands that make up the Azores have remarkably well-marked hiking trails that crisscross wrinkled, volcanic mountains as well as low-lying hills that are easy for beginners. You’ll also find thermal pools with just the right temperature of hot water for soaking your tired bones.
The Algarve in the south of Portugal is a justifiably famous retreat for Canadians and Europeans, with sunny skies and pleasant temperatures year-round. The beaches and seaside restaurants are outstanding and the hiking is marvellous. Ditto for the sea kayak trips along the rocky coastline. Lagos can be a bit touristy, but you’ll find quieter areas to the west. The town of Burgau is also a great option, with simple, whitewashed homes, narrow alleys and steep streets plunging down towards one of the best beaches in Portugal. The locals are also very friendly. In Lisbon, the Alfama area offers vibrant, colourful streets and great views from Castelo de Sao Jorge. At sunset, the city views from Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara parks are worth it.
Best time to visit
Fall or spring are the best times to visit mainland Portugal, as summer can get quite busy. There are lovely beaches just outside of downtown Lisbon, and the water in southern Portugal and the Algarve should be warm enough to swim in September and even October. Spring is lovely in the Azores, as the hydrangeas that are often used as hedgerows erupt in spectacular blue blossoms. May features average daily high temperatures pushing the 20 C mark; ideal for outdoor activities. September is usually a tad warmer.
On the island of Sao Miguel, just east of Ponta Delgada, there’s a lovely coastline that feels like southern California. The area around Caloura features lovely, chalky brown cliffs and affordable, seaside restaurants with tons of charm. For dinner in Sao Jorge, the famous Azorean cockles, which grow only around the coastline of Sao Jorge, make for rare and tasty seafood offerings. The old clifftop castles and stunning gardens in Sintra are worth the trek just a few minutes north of Lisbon
Air Canada rouge flies to Lisbon, but you also can try Azores Airlines from Canada. Air Transat is increasing its direct flight service from Montreal and Toronto to both Lisbon and Porto. Air Canada Rouge is also adding new flights for summer 2017. Lisbon can also be reached via short flights from London, Paris, Madrid or by train. It’s only about five hours from Toronto to Ponta Delgada’s airport in the Azores, which is less time than a flight from Toronto to Vancouver.