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Holidays in Portugal
There's an idyllic Portuguese holiday paradise to suit everyone. As you unwind on a beautiful beach, or pause for a lunch of grilled sardines in a tranquil village, you might wonder why the great Portuguese explorers ever wanted to leave this enchanting and diverse country in search of far-away lands.
Portugal is pleasant throughout the year, with mild winters and comfortable summers.
If you’re going to the Algarve, you’ll arrive at Faro Airport (FAO) which is 4km west of Faro. If you’re staying in Madeira, you’ll fly to Madeira Airport (FNC), 16km northeast of Funchal.
Book a Thomas Cook holiday to Portugal for medieval market towns, quaint little fishing villages and sun-kissed sandy beaches.
With its vast, sandy beaches and kid-friendly attractions, it’s no wonder that Albufeira is the most popular resort in the Algarve. Almost 15km west of Albufeira is Armacao de Pera, a lively area with a wealth of shops, bars and restaurants and a quaint little old town. Slightly further afield is Lagos, an ancient fishing village with a modern marina and a palm-tree lined promenade. Funchal is the biggest city on the island of Madeira. Picture cobbled streets lined with traditional restaurants and charming little shops and galleries. Just 6km east of Funchal is Caniço de Baixo, a tranquil hillside village overlooking the ocean.
With some of Europe's finest golf courses, historical sites and a culture of colourful local festivals, the list of Portugal’s attractions is vast – and it doesn't end here. Madeira sits off the coast, adding dramatic scenery, watersports, plus gardens and valleys filled with colourful flowers, to the holiday equation. The Algarve has been a popular holiday destination for years, but there’s a still lot to discover in its charming little villages and Moorish ruins. Bask in the radiant sunshine on one of the Algarve’s golden beaches before stopping in a marisqueira for a plate of freshly grilled prawns and a glass of ice cold beer.
Portugal’s diverse beaches range from rugged, volcanic shorelines to long stretches of golden sand. One of the best places in Portugal for beaches is the Algarve. Families will love Praia Monte Gordo near the Spanish border for its warm waters and seaside restaurants. For the ultimate in relaxation, take the short boat trip to the remote island of Culatra. If you’re in Madeira, visit Porto Moniz to see its unusual giant black lava rocks. One of the best places to visit in Portugal is the small island of Porto Santo, known for its azure blue waters and honey-coloured sands.
Fish is fresh and plentiful across Portugal and it plays a big part in the Portuguese diet. The most traditional fish dish is bacalau, a velvety soft salted cod, often served with sliced potatoes and rich cream. In the Algarve, most menus will feature cataplana, a mouth-watering stew of pork and fresh clams, cooked and served in a traditional copper pan. If you’re in Madeira, make sure you try espetada, succulent chunks of beef marinated in garlic and salt, then cooked on a skewer over a hot grill. Wash it all down with a glass of the famous Madeiran wine.
Whether you’re in the bustling city of Funchal or a quiet fishing village in the Algarve, you’re never too far away from one of Portugal’s exciting attractions. The Cabo Girão cliff-face in Madeira provides remarkable views of the island’s lush, green landscape. Wander the cobbled streets of Funchal and take a cable car up to the charming village of Monte. There are plenty of things for kids to do in Portugal too. If you’re in the Algarve, take them to Zoomarine theme park where they can swim with dolphins and watch acrobatic animal shows. Madeira’s Aquaparque promises thrilling water slides for all ages.
Sun-worshippers: Soak up the sunshine on one of the Algarve’s glorious beaches.
Walkers: Venture through the lush, green mountains of Madeira.
Foodies: Try succulent espetada and freshly caught sardines in one of Funchal’s quaint little restaurants.
Language: The language spoken in Portugal is Portuguese.
Currency: The currency used in Portugal is Euro (€).
Local time: Portugal has the same time as GMT/UK time.
Fly to: If you’re going to the Algarve, you’ll arrive at Faro Airport (FAO) which is 4km west of Faro. If you’re staying in Madeira, you’ll fly to Madeira Airport (FNC), 16km northeast of Funchal.
Flight time from UK: 3-4 hours
Tourist Information: Further Portugal tourist information can be found at www.visitportugal.com/en
Visas & Health Before you travel, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/portugal for recommendations and advice on visas and health for your holiday to Portugal.
Temperatures: Summers are generally hot and dry with temperatures averaging between the mid and late 20s (°C).
Best time to visit Portugal: Pleasant throughout the year, with mild winters and comfortable summers.
Weather in Portugal varies from region to region. Portugal weather is usually mild during winter, with temperatures rarely falling below 10°C. Coastal regions such as the Algarve are slightly cooler than inland areas, but still warm and sunny.
By taxi: Resort areas have plenty of taxi ranks. Be aware that it is standard for taxi drivers to charge extra for luggage.
By hire car: A hire car is a good idea if you want to explore the more rural areas of the Algarve or Madeira.
By train: Portugal has a vast railway network that covers most of the country. The state-of-the-art Alfa Pendular trains are a great option if you want to travel directly from the Algarve to Lisbon.
Carnival time For a real Portuguese party, visit the Loulé Carnaval in February. The locals dress up in neon colours, feathers and lots of glitter as they parade through the streets to samba music.
Floral floats Two weeks after Easter is the Madeira Flower Festival, one of the biggest annual events on the island. Floats travel through the city of Funchal, each decorated with the island’s native blooms.
World music The Loulé Med Festival is a popular world music celebration which attracts thousands of festival-goers every June.
For golfers If you’re a golf fanatic, you won’t want to miss the Portugal Masters which takes place in October.