There are all kinds of adventures to be had on Europe’s West Coast, with activities ranging from a simple stroll on the beach to thrill-packed extreme sports. A beach-lovers paradise, Portugal has beaches to suit every taste and there’s more than enough sea for both water sports action and those who prefer to float and be carried by the tide.
Hidden along 850 kilometres of Portuguese coastline are some spectacularly beautiful places, where the beaches are so different from one another that the best thing is to come and discover them for yourself! Across the country, you’ll find idyllic beaches of golden sand and gorgeous sunshine. If you prefer the sea to be more invigorating, choose the beaches of the Minho, where travellers can bask in the friendly atmosphere and be energized by the fresh country air.
The great northern city of Porto boasts a historic centre and beautiful riverside areas that combine perfectly with the modern architecture, restaurants, bars and boutiques. This area has been classified as a World Heritage Site, like the city of Guimarães which, in 2012, is set to become the European Capital of Culture!
In the centre of Portugal, you’ll find charming cities, such as Coimbra or Aveiro and villages built entirely of schist, with genuine age-old traditions set deep in their rustic stones.
In the capital city of Lisbon, follow winding medieval streets and discover spectacular views, the leisure area of the former Expo ’98 site or the monuments of Belém (a World Heritage Site), where tourists can sample world-famous cream tarts. Take a train along the estuary of the River Tagus and let yourself be surprised by the succession of beaches so close to the capital.
At the end of the line are Estoril and Cascais, with their beautiful mansions where the aristocracy used to spend their summer holidays.
Close by is Sintra, a magical spot with palaces hidden away in lush green hills. Europe’s longest beach is only half an hour from Lisbon. The 30 kilometres of sand that you’ll find at Costa de Caparica seem to stretch endlessly into the distance.
Head further south and travel across the Alentejo. The South-West Alentejo Natural Park stands guard over the region’s wildly beautiful beaches, just waiting to be discovered. Nestling between cliffs or stretching out to form vast expanses of sand, they are ideal places for enjoying complete rest and relaxation. If you prefer somewhere more lively, head for Milfontes at the mouth of the River Mira. Here you can choose between the ocean beaches and those along the river or take an enjoyable canoe trip along the banks. Another quite different spot is the small beach at Zambujeira, where you can walk along footpaths once used by the fishermen, as you set off to discover the Fonte dos Amores (the Fountain of Love).
The Algarve, in the south of Portugal, is the perfect destination for a beach holiday. Whether you’re alone or with your friends or family, there is always a small bay or a deserted island where you can sunbathe and relax. Feel the cool breeze of the waves breaking over the unexplored beaches of the Costa Vicentina, experience the more cosmopolitan beaches between Lagos and Faro, or swim out into the calm, warm sea off the Ria Formosa islands.
And there are also the islands to explore, set in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean. In the archipelago of Madeira, the island of Porto Santo has a 9-kilometre-long beach. On the island of Madeira, its mountainous relief, sheer cliffs and footpaths that take you through some breathtaking landscapes, are all well-known to keen trekkers. If you’re looking for a rush of pure adrenaline, the coasts of Jardim do Mar and Paúl do Mar offer excellent conditions for surfing.
The Azores are a fascinating place for those who enjoy holidays filled with all kinds of excitement. Whale watching, deep sea diving, cave exploring and paragliding are just some of the activities that you can enjoy there.
At meal times, you should sample the fresh fish and seafood of the local cuisine or the tasty cod dishes accompanied with some of the excellent Portuguese wines. But don’t forget to finish your meal with one of the delicious desserts prepared according to the ancient Portuguese recipes!
After an enjoyable day of sun and sea, make the most of what the night has to offer. In Portugal, we like to have fun all night long, in the open air and in the company of our friends. Come and join in the party. We recommend that you begin with a drink on a terrace overlooking the sea or a river. Then all you have to do is choose a discothèque and dance the night away.
If you’re in Lisbon, make your way down to the Docas, on the banks of the River Tagus, and listen to music by the best DJs. Or wander round the streets of Bairro Alto, the Mecca of the alternative culture, with its design shops and fashionable bars. In Porto, go down to the Ribeira district, with its views over the River Douro, or head out to Matosinhos and Gaia, the best places for dancing till dawn. In Coimbra (Central), Braga (North) or Évora in Alentejo (South), let yourself be guided by the students to the most lively nightspots.
Here, all you have to do is catch the wave and dance the night away! This summer, come and discover Portugal!
For a full list of HI hostels in Portugal please click here: HI hostels in Portugal
This feature is sponsored by Turismo de Portugal. For more information please go to www.visitportugal.com
Each month Hostelling International focuses on a great travel destinations. Take a read and be inspired by our travel ideas.