Portugal, in Southern Europe, shares the Iberian peninsula at the western tip of Europe with Spain. Geographically and culturally somewhat isolated from its neighbor, Portugal has a rich, unique culture, lively cities and beautiful countryside. Although it was once one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, the end of dictatorship and introduction of Democracy in 1974, as well as its incorporation into the European Union in 1986, has meant significantly increased prosperity. However it may be one of the best value destinations on the Continent. This is because the country offers outstanding landscape diversity, due to its North-South disposition along the western shore of the Iberian peninsula. You can travel in a single day from green mountains in the North, covered with vines and all varieties of trees to rocky mountains, with spectacular slopes and falls in the Centre, to a near-desert landscape in the Alentejo region and finally to the glamorous beach holidays destination Algarve.
The climate, combined with investments in the golfing infrastructure in recent years, has also turned the country into a golfing haven. Portugal was recently named "Best Golf Destination 2006" by readers of Golfers Today, a British publication. Fourteen of Portugal's courses are rated in the top 100 best in Europe. If you want a condensed view of European landscapes, culture and way of life, Portugal might very well fit the bill.
Portugal is one of the warmest European countries. In mainland Portugal, yearly temperature averages are about 15°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south. Madeira and Azores have a narrower temperature range as expected given their insularity, with the former having low precipitation in most of the archipelago and the latter being wet and rainy. Spring and Summer months are usually sunny and temperature maximum are very high during July and August, with maximums averaging between 35°C and 40°C (86°F - 95°F) in the interior of the country, 30°C and 35°C in the north, and occasionally reaching 45°C (113°F) in the south. Autumn and Winter are typically rainy and windy, yet sunny days are not rare either. Temperatures rarely fall below 5°C (41°F) nearer to the sea, averaging 10°C (50°F), but can reach several degrees below 0°C (32°F) further inland. Snow is common in the mountainous areas of the north, especially in Serra da Estrela. Portugal's climate can be classified as Mediterranean (particularly the southern parts of the Algarve and Alentejo, though technically on Atlantic shore).
* Lisbon - Known for its thrilling nightlife and famed monuments, in the last few years it has become recognized as one of Europe's cosmopolitan centers.
* Aveiro - Part of the city is full of canals, bridges, and painted boats called moliceiros, similar to the gondolas of Venice. However, the real charm of Aveiro lies in its coast, with its fantastic sandy beaches.
* Coimbra - Home of the ninth oldest university in the world. Many historic and cultural sites.
* Évora - "Museum City", Alentejo regional capital. Many historic and cultural sites, including Roman ruins and the capela dos ossos, which is ornamented with real human bones. Creepy, but a must see.
* Funchal - the capital of Madeira. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal.
* Guimarães - the founding place of the nation, with many historic attractions, including the magnificent Guimarães Castle.
* Porto - (Oporto), the northern capital, "Invincible City", along the river Douro and the Atlantic Ocean.
* Viseu - A charming hilltop city in central Portugal.
* Peneda-Gerês National Park
* Cabo da Roca - the westernmost point of mainland Portugal and European continent, near Cascais
* Sintra - stunning views, the majestic Moorish Castle and the Royal Palace.
* Lamego - a historic city in the Douro valley
* Chaves - is a beautiful city in Trás-os-Montes and one of the most historical cities in Portugal.
* Amarante - a beautiful city, in northern Portugal's Oporto district. Amarante sits on a hill overlooking the bucolic river Tamega.In the distance stands the gourgeous mountain/serra do Marão.
Things To See
If you are into visiting beautiful monuments and enjoy remarkable views, then Lisbon, Sintra, and Porto are the top three places, and all of them are well worth a visit.
The most popular beaches are in the Algarve, which has stunning coastlines and gobs of natural beauty. The water along the southern coast tends to be warmer and calmer than the water along the west coast. For surfing, or just playing in the surf there are great beaches all along the west coast,near Lisbon.
For nightlife Lisbon, Porto and Alfufeira,Algarve are the best choices as you have major places of entertainment.
If you want to spend your holidays in the countryside, you might want to visit Viana do Castelo,Chaves,Miranda do Douro,Douro Valley,Lamego,Tomar,Leiria,Castelo Branco,Guarda,Portalegre,Elvas or even Viseu.
And even if you wish to observe wild life in its natural state, Madeira and Azores Islands are places to remember, not forgetting of course the Natural Reserve of Pened