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A Beginner’s Guide to Exploring 7 of Portugal's Most Beautiful Regions

Whether you’re the type of traveler who loves exploring historic monuments and medieval villages or the type of traveler who’d rather spend your days chasing waterfalls and hiking through canyons, there’s a little something for everyone to do during a trip to Portugal. Head north to enjoy food and wine or head central to see the mountains. If you’re more of an urban explorer, Porto and Lisbon offer amazing art scenes and nightlife. Or if you’re all about the beaches, Lagos might be the best spot for you.

The Mediterranean climate makes the off-season a really good time to travel, as you’ll find everything to be just a little less crowded. But if you’re only able to get to this part of the world in the summer, you’ll still enjoy peace and quiet in the hinterland and less populous islands. And while Porto and Lisbon may be well known travel destinations, the islands and hinterland regions of Portugal offer some of the country’s most stunning landscapes. Ready to start planning a trip? Let’s get started!

Reporter: Alyssa Brown
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Lisboa Region

Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon is a mecca for travelers interested in modern museums, historic neighborhoods, bohemian hangouts, old castles and cathedrals, boutique hotels, and cafés, bars and restaurant culture. Don’t skip a visit to the Belém district, where you’ll find some of the city’s most magnificent historic monuments and impressively designed parks and gardens.
Photo:RenÇe Kemps
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Stay at Santa Clara 1728

Lisbon, Portugal
This beautiful 18th-century design hotel sits in the heart of Lisbon, overlooking the river, parks and the old cultural quarter of the city. There are just six suites, each spacious and warm. Downstairs you’ll find an intimate restaurant that serves seasonal, local Portuguese fare with local wines to match.
Photo:Tom Byrom
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Explore Bairro Alto & Alfama

Lisbon, Portugal
Considered the bohemian district of Lisbon, Bairro Alto dates back to 1513 and the streets feel rooted in its history. It’s a hub for architecture, art, bars, restaurants and cafés. Nearby Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest quarter – first settled in the 7th century! – and today its notoriously maze-like streets make for a lovely place to enjoy getting lost.
Photo:Prado
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Dine at Prado

Lisbon, Portugal
Loose greenery and pretty brass light fittings dangle from the ceilings in beautiful Prado, a space that’s one of our all-time design favorites. Organic, biodynamic and natural wines complement the ever-changing menu of fresh, seasonal, regional dishes.
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Dine at A Cevicheria

Lisbon, Portugal
You can’t go to Portugal without getting a delicious serve of ceviche, and this spot specializes in exactly that. The indoor space is nice and bright, with an octopus hanging overhead, but you’ll want to sit outside to take in the scenery while sipping local wines.

Visit MAAT

Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon’s Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology offers some of the city’s best exhibitions. Take a look at what’s on the calendar while you’re in town because the special events here can be pretty rad too.
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Dine at Dear Breakfast

Lisbon, Portugal
Head to this bright-white café in São Bento when you’re in the mood for a big, indulgent breakfast and opt for the full breakfast serve of eggs, toast, a croissant, a smoothie and coffee. Maybe you’ll skip lunch today. Or not.
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Grab Coffee at Hello, Kristof

Lisbon, Portugal
If and when you’re ready for a break from touring the city, this small coffee shop offers an oasis of magazines and coffee served in a comfy setting.
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Dine at Taberna Finalearn more

Located inside boutique hotel Le Consulat, Taberna Fina is a fine dining restaurant with Portuguese produce, flavors and techniques at the helm. The dark-walled interiors feature beautiful architectural details and a warm, comfortable ambience.
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Stay at The Lumiares Hotel & Spalearn more

The artsy cultural hub of the Barrio Alto neighborhood sets the scene for The Lumiares Hotel & Spa, a modern Portuguese hotel in an old historic building with 53 apartment-style suites including three penthouses. With a stay here you’ll have easy access to local cafés, restaurants, shops and more.
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Porto and the North

The Douro River winds through the mountains and cliffs of northern Portugal, creating a valley with rich conditions for vineyards. It’s here that grapes for Port are grown and here that you’ll want to explore some of the oldest wineries. The great city of Porto is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating back 2,000 years. Its architecture spans the ages and styles of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical, and modern design, and the streets and local culture are alive with artsy enclaves and vibrant nightlife.
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Visit Livraria Lello

Porto, Portugal
This historic bookshop dates back over a hundred years and serves not only as a beautiful place to visit in Porto, but also as a great spot to discover some of Portugal’s most famous authors and poets. Even if you’re not big on literature, Livraria Lello is a stunning example of Portuguese Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.
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Stay at Six Senses Douro Valleylearn more

This luxury getaway provides guests with a front-row seat to the views of the Douro Valley. The sprawling 19th-century manor property is spread over rolling acres that gaze out to the vineyards and mountains of the region. Plush accommodations include spacious suites, apartments and villas with one, two and three bedrooms.
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Ride The Presidential Train

Douro Valley, Portugal
Hop aboard the crown jewel of Portugal’s railway for a food centric sightseeing experience that takes you from the beautiful São Bento Train Station through the Douro Valley to wineries of the region. You’ll return back to the train station having enjoyed a full day of indulging in delicious food and wine, and seeing the stunning local landscape.
Photo:grapril1
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Visit Quinta do Crasto

Peso da Régua, Portugal
The cascading hills of vineyards at this winery are nothing short of spectacular. Head here when you can make a day of it and enjoy wine tastings, a full property tour with a boat ride along the Douro and an extravagant lunch or dinner.
Photo:Luis Ferraz
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Stay at ROSA ET AL Townhouselearn more

Set in an artistic enclave of Porto, this 8-suite 19th-century townhouse offers modern luxury in a setting that feels rich and historic. ROSA ET AL Townhouse includes a small café for guests, beautiful gardens and an art, architecture and design bookshop.
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Photo:EARLY
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Dine at EARLYlearn more

A designer space in a trendy neighbourhood sets the scene for this restaurant. On the menu you’ll find organic and locally sourced ingredients used to make things like spiced ginger bread, sandwiches on house made sourdough bread, salads and more. There’s also an old vault that was once used to store government bonds that’s been refurbished as a unique bronze-mirrored private dining room for up to six guests.
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Stay at Pensão Favorita

Porto, Portugal
Located in the historic center of Porto, Pensão Favorita is a convenient place to stay if walking distance to art galleries and museums is important to your experience. There are seven suites in the main house and another five in the garden, each with its own style and perks.
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Visit the Dom Luís I Bridge

Porto, Portugal
A feat of 19th-century engineering, the Dom Luís Bridge was completed by a student of Gustave Eiffel and features two decks that loom high over the River Douro. The bridge connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia and has pedestrian access on both the upper and lower deck. We’d recommend crossing one way on the upper level and the other direction on the lower level to grasp the grand scale of this bridge.
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Alentejo

The flattest of the regions, Alentejo has vast segments of marshlands, fields of wheat and wild coastal beaches. Here you’ll find some of the most secluded whitewashed villages, old stone castles and plenty of cork oaks, olive trees and wildflowers. Because of its flatness, this is a great area to explore on a bicycle tour.
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Stay at Casa Azimute

Estremoz, Portugal
This sleek, minimalist guesthouse overlooks the historic city of Estremoz and its surrounding rolling landscape. An affordable stay here (room rates start at 110€) includes an extravagant breakfast spread and access to a swimming pool and plenty of local activities.
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Dine at Quinta Do Quetzal

Vila de Frades, Portugal
Wine, food and art collide at this estate in picturesque Vidigueira. Almost hidden in the landscape, you’ll find it’s easy to spend the day here perusing the art collections, learning about winemaking traditions and tasting your way through the Quetzal restaurant’s local, seasonal menus paired with the vineyard’s wines.
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Stay at Casas Caiadas

Sabugueiro, Portugal
This collection of three old water mills in the heart of Alentejo has been transformed into a beautiful boutique hotel property that can sleep up to eight guests at a time. The Mediterranean style abodes with stonework and whitewashed walls are complemented with comfortable, simple design that embraces the landscape. There’s a pool on the grounds as well as a fully equipped kitchen and a local chef can be brought in to add to the luxurious experience of a stay here.
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Visit Évora

Évora, Portugal
The city of Évora is itself a World Heritage Site, complete with many monuments and historic spaces and structures. A must-see of the area is the impressive Gothic-style Cathedral of Évora, which dates back to the 13th century and is the city’s highest point, making it the best spot for a city panorama.
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Stay at Casa no Tempo

Arraiolos, Portugal
White walls, huge windows and clay floors make up this minimalist guesthouse in the countryside of Montemor-o-Novo. Casa no Tempo is an old family property that’s more about the landscape than the architecture, though both are stunning. Here you’ll find four suites, a fully equipped kitchen, a living space with a fireplace and an extra-large swimming pool.
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Shop & Dine at Mercearia Gadanha

Estremoz, Portugal
This mercantile is part wine shop, party artisanal grocer and part casual restaurant. Swing by for lunch or dinner and stay for dessert and to peruse the shop’s gourmet goodies.
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Stay at Paraíso Escondidolearn more

A couple of bungalows tower on stilts overlooking the lush, forested hills of Alentejo at Paraíso Escondido. There’s also a farmhouse and an expansive outdoor deck and pool area where guests can enjoy communal space. Inside the farmhouse is a conservatory dining room that opens right up to the view. The whole resort property is just ten rooms, making this getaway one to add to the list if you’re looking for someplace quiet and cozy.
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Stay at L'AND Vineyards

Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal
A dozen suites open out to views of the vineyards and local terrain via terraces with fireplaces at L’AND while another set of suites are all about the sky views. And yet, this spot isn’t just a hotel – it’s a vineyard, restaurant and spa too.
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Algarve

The beaches of Algarve are perhaps the region’s most famous attraction, complete with towering limestone cliffs, stunning rock formations and archways towering out of bright azure waters. As such, there are plenty of resorts in the region and you’ll find that much of the culture around here is water centric.
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Stay at Casa Mãe Lagoslearn more

Case Mãe Lagos is the kind of hotel property that tiptoes between old and new. The gardens are bordered by 16th-century walls but there’s a newly constructed hotel building that houses 22 suites and a restaurant. Then there’s a 19th-century villa that houses five additional suites, from which the place is named. Details reign high on the design priorities list here and it’d be easy to stick around for days at a time.
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Drink at Quinta Dos Santos

Estômbar, Portugal
Craft beer is the main focus at this taproom overlooking the vineyards of Quinta Dos Santos. Santos produces just three mainstay beers – Pilsner, Amber Ale and Golden Lager – and rotates three additional seasonal taps. Wine drinkers and tapas lovers will be happy hanging at this indoor/outdoor spot too.
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Stay at Casa Luum

Faro, Portugal
If you love modern minimalism, this designer villa in Algarve might be just your speed. Located amongst olive, almond and cork trees, the secluded getaway offers four bedrooms, large gardens and patios, a semi-enclosed pool, a rooftop terrace and plenty of places to lounge around with your friends or family.
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Visit the Benagil Caves

Algarve, Portugal
The towering limestone cliffs and rock formations that jut out of turquoise waters in southern Portugal​ have landed this stunning, secluded beach on the cover of many a travel brochure for the Algarve Coast. We recommend exploring the area via paddle boat and bringing snorkeling gear along for the adventure.
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Dine at Vila Joya

Guia, Portugal
One of the most famous restaurants on the Algarve Coast, Vila Joya by chef Dieter Koschina is a two Michelin star restaurant with a menu that changes daily. The fine dining restaurant sits on a terrace overlooking the beach and includes both indoor and outdoor seating.
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Go Golfing

Algarve, Portugal
If you’re a golf fanatic, Algarve is the place for you. Between Lagos, Sagres and Serra de Monchique, you’ll have your pick of nearly four-dozen courses in this region. Plus, the beach scenes, vineyards and greenways make beautiful backdrops when the weather’s right – and it’s almost always right.
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Centro de Portugal

Between the Douro River and Tagus River, Beirus (or Central Portugal) includes everything from the white sandy coastline of the Atlantic to pine forests, rolling hinterland, the Estrela Mountain Range, and historic towns and sites like castles, convents, churches and monasteries that date back centuries. It’s a region you’ll want to take your time to explore, especially if you’re interested in medieval towns and old-world architecture.
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See the Umbrella Sky Project

Águeda, Portugal
The annual Ágitagueda Art Festival spans from July through August and brings with it daily performances and street art exhibitions. The Umbrella Sky Project is part of Agueda’s celebration, which brings in colorful umbrellas to shade the narrow old streets of the town.
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Go on a Windpassenger Hot Air Balloon Ride

Santarem, Portugal
Whether you opt for a sunrise, sunset or night ride, a hot air balloon excursion over Santarem is stunning. You’ll fly over rice fields, pine forests, olive groves and vineyards, and endless blocks of green pastures.
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Dine at Mesa de Lemos

Viseu, Portugal
Artistically plated and robust with flavors, the dishes at Mesa de Lemos are almost as visually appealing as the view through the restaurant’s window walls. This 30-seat restaurant sits atop a hill overlooking thousands of olive trees and endless rows of grape vines. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to splurge on the chef’s tasting menu and pair it with wines from the 93-point wine cellar.

Stay at Casa de São Lourenço

Manteigas, Portugal
The only five-star resort of the region, Casa de São Lourenço offers beautiful modern suites with floor-to-ceiling windows, a mountain spa and indoor pool, an authentic Beiras region restaurant overlooking Glacier Valley, and a big lounge terrace. The stone building that houses the hotel dates back to the 1940s and recently underwent a big renovation to modernize the property. The resulting contemporary spaces are a gorgeous combination of old world and new.
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Stay at Natura Glamping

Fundão, Portugal
If you’re looking for a great way to really connect with the local landscape, check out this collection of geodesic domes that sits overlooking Cova de Beira and Serra de Estrela. The Natura Glamping grounds sit within close proximity to river beaches, rock art and historic villages.
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Drink at Quinta do Encontro

São Lourenço do Bairro, Portugal
This cylindrical restaurant, winery and event space towers above the surrounding vineyards. Inside, you’ll have the option to dine on traditional local fare in a fine dining setting or simply enjoy a wine tasting.
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Azores

Nine volcanic islands make up the Azores archipelago, a place where sightseeing includes everything from geysers, hot springs and mud pots to whale watching and scuba diving. Hiking the Azores Trails promises spectacular views of mossy cliffs that drop right down to the sea, while those who prefer to have their feet floating in water will have plenty of hydrothermal options to choose from.
Photo:Fernando Guerra FG+SG
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Stay at Pink House

Sao Roque, Portugal
Two contemporary guesthouses sit on this sprawling six-generation family farm on São Miguel Island. Surrounded by orchards, gardens and stunning landscape, Pink House sleeps five to seven guests in a comfortable, luxurious setting that feels completely secluded.
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Shop at Louvre Michaelense

Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Whether you’re looking for souvenirs to bring back home, or simply shopping for some tasty picnic treats to bring to a local park, this specialty grocer and casual café in Ponta Delgada has you covered. Be sure to taste at least a few of the house made dishes.

Stay at Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort

Ribeira Grande, Portugal
This eco beach resort sits right along the beach’s edge, with a pool that looks out the salty seas. The modern accommodations here range from studios to two-bedroom villas, and there’s a nice glass-walled restaurant, bar and beach club overlooking São Miguel Island’s Santa Barbara beach.
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Visit Chá Gorreana Tea Plantation

Maia, Portugal
The oldest tea plantation in Europe, Gorreana has been in operation since 1883. Its stunning setting on São Miguel includes a factory, museum and retail shop that are open to the public for educational tours.
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Visit Parque Terra Nostra

Furnas, Portugal
Set in the volcanic crater of Furnas, this 200-year-old botanical park and garden is home to over 300 species of ferns along with various trees, shrubs and flowers. There’s also a water garden with a serpentine canal, grottoes and a geothermal pool that’s worth a visit after a few days of exploring and hiking the area.

Stay at White Exclusive Suites & Villas

Ponta Delgada, Portugal
This property sits right on the edge of a cliff in São Miguel Island, offering bright, modern suites and villas on the water’s edge along with a small hotel restaurant overlooking the ocean. Hot tip: if you’re traveling with your family, the La Maison villa is going to blow your mind with its private heated pool, croquet field, playground and barbecue area.
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Madeira

Located off the northwest coast of Africa, there are just four islands that make up the Madeira region. The landscape is volcanic, green, lush and rugged, making it an incredible place to hike through semi-tropical vegetation and explore black lava bathing pools. Madeira is home to a number of festivals, including those celebrating flowers, food and Carnival parades. But the month-long New Year party in Funchal takes the cake, culminating in a massive ten-minute firework show on New Year’s Eve.

Stay at Belmond Reid’s Palace

Funchal, Portugal
The most luxurious resort in the Madeira region, Belmond Reid’s Palace features a Michelin-starred restaurant, a tea terrace, spacious and elegantly designed suites, and a spa with private terraces and ocean views.

Have Afternoon Tea at Belmond Reid’s Palace

Funchal, Portugal
Enjoying afternoon tea is a great way to unwind from a busy day on the islands. At Belmond Reid’s Palace, there’s a traditional, formal tea terrace overlooking the coast. Here, you’ll have 24 tea options to choose from and a selection of accompanying finger sandwiches, scones, pastries and champagne.
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Hike Madeira

Madeira, Portugal
We can’t say enough about how beautiful this region of Portugal is, and it really is best explored on foot via various hiking trails. Each of the volcanic islands has its own series of trails that may take you through towering cliffs, lush canyons and tunnels, up steep mountain climbs and alongside waterfalls. When the wildflowers are in bloom, this place is pure magic.
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Dine at Mercearia Dona Mécia

Funchal, Portugal
Located down a narrow alleyway in Funchal, this small café is a great spot to sit outside and enjoy authentic, light Madeiran food, wine and beer.
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Stay at Quinta da Casa Branca

Funchal, Portugal
Surrounded by stately gardens and flowering trees, this 19th-century estate includes guest suites in an old manor house and in a modern structure of glass, wood and stone. The juxtaposition of the two styles comes together seamlessly via five-star hospitality and a timeless sense of design. There are two restaurants on the property along with a large heated pool and plenty of lounging nooks.

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