Yesterday, in a glitzy, red carpet ceremony at the Algarve’s NAU Salgados Palace & Congress Center, the MICHELIN Guide put on a spectacle to celebrate Portugal’s ever-evolving culinary scene. And while Portugal has hosted the Spain-Portugal joint Gala before, this year is particularly special – it’s the first time Portugal has had its own dedicated award ceremony, finally lifting Portuguese chefs out of Spain’s shadow.

Portugal’s ever-growing clutch of inventive chefs have been consistently striving for more recognition for decades, starting to earn their (well deserved) places on the World’s Best Chef lists and opening internationally acclaimed dining rooms. Yet it was around a year ago, when MICHELIN announced at a swanky event in Porto that Portugal would receive its own dedicated Gala, that tongues began wagging: was Portugal about to get its first three-starred restaurant?

Sadly, Tuesday’s event didn’t bring an elusive third star to the famed chefs such as Rui Paula or Ricardo Costa, but it did elevate plenty of other chefs into the Recommended and Bib Gourmand sections of the guide. Here’s everything you need to know about Portugal’s MICHELIN dining scene in 2024, and hopefully, this time next year, we’ll be reporting on that top-of-the-pack third star!

A dish at Rui Paula's Casa de Chá da Boa Nova which retained is Two Star designation
A dish at Rui Paula’s Casa de Chá da Boa Nova which retained is Two Star designation / Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Why is 2024 such an exciting year for Portugal’s chefs?

The MICHELIN Guide’s international team of inspectors has been stalking the country more than ever. With the launch of Portugal’s own dedicated Gala and an investment from Visit Portugal, there has never been a better time for Portugal’s chefs to shine and hopefully get themselves a place in the converted Guide. And these surprising evolutions are coming from all corners, not just big cities like Lisbon and Porto, but more and more recognition is being seen across the mainland and Madeira, although the Azores, as of yet, remain relatively unsung. 

Gwendal Poullennec, the International Director of the MICHELIN Guides, emphasized the impressive growth of the Portuguese gastronomic scene at Tuesday’s Gala award ceremony. Lauding the young local chefs who have established their own concepts and who are, in turn, reshaping Lusophone cuisine. 

Portugal's MICHELIN Gala in 2024
Portugal’s MICHELIN Gala in 2024 / Credit: Daniel James Clarke

How many new MICHELIN stars were given in 2024?

Over the two-hour-long ceremony, 30 new restaurants were added to the “Recommended” list; eight new restaurants received the Bib Gourmand award, given for high quality and fair price ratio; four new restaurants received One Star; and one restaurant was upgraded to Two Star level.

Overall, it was a resounding success for Portugal’s gastronomic scene as all current Two Star restaurants retained their titles, something that Poullennec stressed is no easy task when you’re amongst the best restaurants in the world.

The biggest win of the night was for Chef Vitor Matos and his team, who were awarded their second star at Antiqvvm in Porto. But not only did Matos gain a second star for his flagship restaurant, but he also saw success with his Lisbon opening, 2Monkeys Restaurant, receiving One Star, and the recognition of Chef Rita Magro, one of his prodigies at Porto’s Blind, receiving the MICHELIN Young Chef Award.

Other successes in the One Star category were Desarma in Funchal, Ó Balcão in Santarém, and SÁLA by João Sá in Lisbon.

MICHELIN Green Star winners

Portugal now has five restaurants awarded the MICHELIN Green Star, a special recognition for chefs and kitchens who are working hard at putting sustainability at the heart of everything they do while also being conscious leaders for the environment across the culinary scene.

The two new winners of MICHELIN Green Stars in Portugal for 2024 were Malhadinha Nova in Albernoa and Ó Balcão, which later received its first MICHELIN star.

MasterChef Portugal judge Chef Noélia Jerónimo's self-named restaurant earned Recommended status
MasterChef Portugal judge Chef Noélia Jerónimo’s self-named restaurant earned Recommended status / Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Successes in the Bib Gourmand and Recommended Categories

There are now 32 restaurants in Portugal with the Bib Gourmand, and these dining rooms are the perfect reservation for a fantastic yet affordable meal as they celebrate the best quality-to-price ratio.

The eight new Bib Gourmand winners in Portugal for 2024 were Flora in Viseu, Inato Bistrô in Braga, Norma in Guimarães, Olaias in Figueira da Foz, OMA in Baião, O Pastus in Paço de Arcos, Patio 44 in Porto and PODA in Montemor-o-Novo.

In the Recommended category of Portugal’s MICHELIN Guide, which spotlights fantastic restaurants that are mainly focused on traditional gastronomy, there are now 96 listings, including 21 new awards from 2024. Some of the most notable new listings were Blind in Porto, headed up by MICHELIN’s Young Chef of the Year, Bomfim 1896 in the Douro Valley, a partnership with legendary chef Pedro Lemos, and Restaurante Noélia in the Algarve, which is led by beloved MasterChef Portugal judge Noélia Jerónimo—who received a wild round of applause from all attending. 

Two other special awards were given to Pedro Marques of Gaia’s The Yeatman for Service and the Sommelier Award to Leonel Nunes of Madeira’s Il Gallo d’Oro, which was celebrated for its extensive Portuguese Winelist.

What can we expect from the 2025 Michelin list?

As the culinary scene in Portugal continues to evolve, the anticipation for the 2025 Michelin list is palpable. The MICHELIN Guide Portugal 2024 has already set a high standard, showcasing the country’s culinary maturity and the audacity of its chefs.

And while the third star never came in 2024, perhaps that was to be expected – restaurants must show considerably consistent quality over numerous visits before the anonymous judges award such a high level of recognition, so the hopes are high for 2025. While it hasn’t been confirmed that the Gala will again be a separate event, it’s certainly expected, given the elevated status Portuguese gastronomy now has on the world stage.

To see the full list of all restaurants, review the new MICHELIN Portugal Guide online.

A historic property, Quinta da Saraiva provides a fantastic base in Madeira, complete with a pool, hot tub and amazing views. The location of the property not only means the vistas are fantastic, but that easy access to most parts of the island is possible thanks to the nearby bus stops and highways.

Still in the hands of the family descendants, the focus here is on relaxing hospitality, delivered by a small friendly team, whilst leaving you to enjoy the Quinta at your own pace due to the Boutique B&B guest-house style lodging.

The price point is more than reasonable, the location is stunning, and the property is finished to a high standard – as such this has been deemed a ‘Guide2Portugal Unforgettable Stay’ – and you can see exactly why in this video.

Read on below for our full review of Quinta Da Saraiva, with a special €50 discount for our readers when booking direct!

A note on our scores…

We rate all accommodation, restaurants and businesses based on the type of business they are. You can just as easily achieve a 10 at an amazing yet basic cafe as an upscale luxury resort.

10 – Absolutely mind-blowing amazing
9 – Excellent
8 – Very Good
7 – Good
6 – Good, some improvements need
5 – Average
Anything below a five is poor, and these therefore never make it onto our website as recommendations.

The reception area in an old wine cellar

The reception and bar area in an old wine cellar

Arrival and check-in – 8/10

Arrival to Quinta da Saraiva was smooth and quick from the airport. Opting for a taxi, it took just over 20-minutes to reach the Quinta.

It’s well located next to the highway, and the local driver handled the narrow final road with ease, though if you’re not used to Madeiran roads, you might want to swing those wing mirrors in. Parking exclusively for the Quinta is found alongside the property, including an electric car charging station.

Due to a delay, my arrival was out of hours, and the team had provided me with codes for the main gate, and also for the bedroom doors – all of which use smart technology and code systems, making it smooth and easy. Waking up the next morning to realise how stunning the view was being a fantastic surprise.

Check-out was processed in the Reception area, located in the old wine cellar, and which doubles as a bar area. It was smooth and quick, with credit card payments and invoicing handled with ease.

All bedrooms in the Quinta have individual touches

All bedrooms in the Quinta have individual touches

Bedrooms and amenities – 8/10

Recently renovated, Quinta da Saraiva provides the perfect boutique B&B experience. A historic property, the Quinta has been loving restored and is ready to welcome guests like a part of the family. Being a 3* B&B some of the facilities of larger hotels are lacking, but this is more than made up for with the setting and service, for those who want a relaxing and traditional get away without paying for all the faff of a five-star.

Each room at the Quinta has been styled individually, with sweet-touches such as painted tiles on the doors and Portuguese patterns on the soft furnishings. The ground floor rooms retain the properties original exposed brick-work, while the upper floors are more modern. Behind the main house are some larger suites, ideal for families or those who prefer self-catering facilities.

The pool and hot-tub framed by amazing views

The pool and hot-tub framed by amazing views

The rooms are equipped with Smart TVs, USB chargers, and spacious modern bathrooms. We particularly appreciated that no miniature toiletries were used, supporting the properties aim of being as environmentally friendly as possible – right down to the Quinta’s goats who make sure there is no food waste!

The property dates back to the 18th-century, and photos, artefacts and stories can be found in the hallways – including local art and traditions like embroidery.

Still family-run, it’s a perfect blend of classic and modern. The star feature though is undoubtedly the swimming pool and hot tub with their incredible views, especially at sunset. Set amongst 5000 square meters of agricultural land, vines, banana plants and various fruits and vegetables are in the gardens and the surrounding landscapes. This means that agro-tourism activities, such as caring for the goats or hens and learning about the vines and plantations of the island are possible on site – especially fun I imagine for the little ones.

Breakfast is a delightful spread or colourful fruits cheses and breads

Breakfast is a delightful spread

Dining and drinking – 9/10

As well as the aforementioned bar in the cellar-area, which turns into an honesty bar out of hours, Breakfast is the food offering in the Quinta and they do it very well.

Of course, you can grab a banana at any time from the grounds, or get some fresh eggs in the morning to go with your breakfast. Breakfast is severed either in the formal dining lounge or the terrace with incredible views.

A delightful spread, and included with the stay, expect individual platters of fresh fruit, jam, breads, cheese, salads, hams, pastries and local juices and coffee.

Local wine tasting or Madeiran BBQs can be arranged on the on-site facilities via the manager Roberto. Lunch and dinner aren’t offered by the Quinta, but there are many local restaurants in the close-by area.

From time to time the Quinta hosts special events – such as Sushi dining experiences, or special menus, so be sure to enquire if these are an option during your visit.

Set amongst banana plantation and vineyards

Set amongst banana plantation and vineyards

Location 9/10

Situated upon a hill, in Camara do Lobos, the views are incredible across the valley and out to the Atlantic.

This positioning means you are very close to the highways, and bus stops, which allows you easy access to not just Funchal in around 10-minutes, but also all popular driving destinations and day-trips on the islands.

While there are a supermarket and restaurants in the immediate vicinity, the port, which retains an authentic fishing atmosphere is a 20-minute downhill walk away.

Here you’ll find to plenty of bars and restaurants, it also has claims to fame, such as being home to the islands signature rum cocktail, Poncha, and a favourite destination of Winston Churchill.

This part of the island seemed much more relaxed and authentic than the tourist developments closer to Funchal – with the prices and local atmosphere reflecting that. Overall, our week here out of a one-month trip to the archipelago was our favourite place to base ourselves.

The view from the balcony of green mountains and the Atlantic

Opt for a balcony room with a sea-view

In summary – 9/10

Thanks to the wonderful team, delightful furnishing, history of the property and especially the sunset soak in the hot tub, we fell in love with the Quinta.

We were very impressed with nearly all aspects of the Quinta da Saraiva – especially given its price point. It is very fairly priced, which perhaps it due to the recent opening and current 2020 situation – we would expect the price to increase in times to come, so book in now to enjoy a fantastic deal.

Book Quinta da Saraiva with a discount

For the best rates book direct at – for our readers, you may enjoy a special discount when booking direct courtesy of our travel writer Dan. When booking, simply enter the code DANFLYINGSOLO to receive a €50 discount on any stays of over 4 nights. This also includes breakfast for two, free park, and a fruit and water welcome pack. (Code valid for reservations until 31/12/2021)

Book Directly for discount Check on

The wine regions in Portugal reward visitors with some of the country’s most extraordinary experiences. Filling every corner of the land, it is a world of ageing quintas (wineries) and arresting landscapes that offer a fresh perspective on Portuguese culture and history.   

Oenophiles will know that Portugal has quietly established itself as the dark horse of European winemaking. Overshadowed by more prominent European wine producers, Portugal focuses on their greatest hits while using native grapes innovatively. 

The very best Portuguese wines are marked DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada). And while the fortified wines of Port and Madeira may be the biggest names, the sheer variety of grapes and terroir makes Portuguese wine some of the most intriguing in Europe. 

Wine tours are never just about the vinho. Portugal is no exception to the rule that vineyards are found in beautiful surroundings. Stretching around rivers, forests, beaches, and swathes of rural Portugal, the 13 Portugal wine regions have something for everybody. 

To gain a flavour of what to expect, we’re taking a flying tour down ancient rotas dos vinhos to discover the delights of Portugal’s serene wine country.  

Douro Wine Region
Take a cruise along the Douro Wine Region | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Douro Wine Region

Sitting east of Porto, picturesque Douro Valley is Portugal’s viticulture capital. UNESCO World Heritage status reflects the beauty of a mountainous region dotted with terraced vineyards that famously gave the world port wine (vinho do Porto).

The sugary, fortified wine lacks the cachet of mainstream wines and sales have declined in recent years. Yet 2,000 years of winemaking history combined with unique terroir and microclimates helps Douro Valley remain the leading Portuguese wine region. 

Partly driven by port’s declining popularity, innovative wines have gained traction. Today, the region is also known for table wines like Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca that make good use of the native grapes. 

The fast-flowing Douro river scythes across the region. Evoking a bygone age, the sleepy villages and towns dotted along the Douro Valley add character to the enchanting region.  

In contrast, Porto at the valley gateway is energetic and vibrant. An important wine outpost, it is the ideal base to explore Portugal’s northern wine regions. 

Where to stay in Douro? Quinta Da Estrada Winery Douro Valley

Get a taste of the action: Day tour from Porto with cruise, wine tasting and lunch

Vinho Verde

The celebrated Vinho Verde wine region sits in the northwest corner of Portugal, sandwiched between the Douro and Minho rivers. Encompassing 9 sub-regions, the historic Minho region is home to Portugal’s most distinctive wine.  

Vinho Verde, aka green wine, owes its characteristic freshness to young grapes and zero ageing. Red or white, Vinho Verde likely takes its name from the lush, green landscape.

The landscape partly explains why the renowned Vinho Verde wine route is so popular. Adding to the Vinho Verde experience are the ancient cities of Braga and Guimarães, affectionately known as the ‘birthplace of Portugal’. At the same time, a detour to picturesque Amarante serves up another taste of forgotten Portugal. 

Bordered in the east by the magnificent Peneda Geres National Park and the Atlantic coast in the west, the Vinho Verde region is rightly recognised as one of the most attractive wine regions in Portugal.

L'AND Resort Wine Hotel in Portugal
L’AND Resort Wine Hotel in Portugal | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Alentejo Wine Region 

The Alentejo wine region of Portugal is everything the Vinho Verde region is not. Arid, dusty, and lacking greenery, it is a province of stark landscapes. 

The tip of Alentejo is east of Lisbon, but its rural plains swell eastwards to cover nearly a third of the country. 

Home to 8 DOCs, the region is known for producing fruity red blends from native grapes, like Touriga Nacional, and international superstars like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

This expansive region also hosts beach towns and delightful cultural diversions, like UNESCO recognised Evora. One of Portugal’s tourist jewels, historic Evora regularly features on lists of Portugal’s most liveable cities. In the east sits Elvas, a fortified, medieval town and location of the immense star-shaped Fort of Graça (another UNESCO World Heritage site). 

Alentejo flies the flag for viticulture diversity, producing ageable old-style wines and fruity modern wines. A nod to Portugal’s past and present that captures the essence of the region. 

Where to stay in Alentejo? L’AND Vineyard Resort

Get a taste of the action: Four-hour wine-tasting tour from Evora

Dão Wine Region  

Sitting north of Alentejo and south of the Douro Valley is one of the leading wine regions in Portugal. Dão is known for making balanced wines, served with meals throughout the country. 

Idyllically rugged, the region is covered in rolling pine and eucalyptus forests overlooked by Portugal’s tallest mountain range, Serra da Estrela. The lifegiving rivers Dão and Rio Mondego wrap around the region. 

In recent years, Dão has moved out from the shadow of port and created sought-after Portuguese wines. Many grape varieties are grown, including prized whites from the Encruzado grape. 

Dão is endowed with many cultural and natural highlights. Foremost is the old town of Viseu, a former Roman settlement and home to a striking medieval cathedral. Other destinations of note include the spa town of Luso and the enchanting Buçaco Forest. 

With some of the most talked about wines in Portugal, a journey around bewitching Dão is perfect for wine connoisseurs and nature-lovers.  

Medieval Belmonte in Portugal's Interior Wine Region
Medieval Belmonte in Portugal’s Interior Wine Region | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Beira Interior Wine Region

The Beira interior is magnificent. Punctuated with soaring views, wooded valleys, and towering peaks, it is also the place to find some of Portugal’s finer wines. 

What marks the region out is a mountainous terrain as variable as the weather. Native grapes like Baga, Castelão, and Tinta Roriz (tempranillo) flourish there. 

The terrain also explains the region’s enduring appeal to travellers. Divided into three parts, Beira stretches from one side of the country to the other. There are no big cities in the harsh interior, but the tranquil towns of Castelo Branco and Trancoso, as well as the medieval settlement of Belmonte, are pleasant places to explore and find accommodation.  

Beira Interior is perfect for discovering unheralded wines of exceptional quality. 

Beira Atlântico Wine Region

Beira Atlantico is home to the celebrated Bairrada wine region. Sitting above Lisbon, the Atlantic flank of the Beira region is influenced by coastal proximity and temperate climates. 

Bairrada DOC embraces grape diversity, which sees popular native grapes grown alongside Bordeaux and pinot noir.

Visitors usually head to coastal Aveiro, known as the ‘Venice of Portgual’. A network of canals crisscrossed by gondola-like moliceiros (small boats) adds to the beguiling charm of this maritime city. 

If you crave more history, Coimbra in the Beria Litoral is one of Portugal’s largest and oldest cities. Home to Portugal’s oldest university, Universidade de Coimbra (another UNESCO World Heritage site for the list) and renowned fado musical performances, Coimbra is a true Portuguese cultural centre and yet another reason to spend time in the Beira Atlantico wine region. 

The Vines of Quinta dos Santos in Algarve's Portugal Wine Region
The Vines of Quinta dos Santos in Algarve’s Portugal Wine Region | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Algarve Wine Region

Yes, it is a beach-lovers paradise, but there are still plenty of Algarve hidden gems and it also has surprisingly vibrant viticulture. 

Protected by mountains, the part-Mediterranean and part-Atlantic climate allows grapes to mature longer for extra sweetness. The region holds 4 DOCs, scattered across Portugal’s southern coastline. 

Amazing beaches, lively coastal towns, and endless golf courses make the Algarve a tourist magnet. 

But wine buffs are well catered for. Lagos, with its picture-postcard beaches, and windswept Tavira in the less-visited eastern Algarve, are both great destinations with their own DOC wine. The central coastal regions of Silves and Lagoa (Quinta dos Santos is dreamy) also are home to some fantastic wines.

If you’re looking for sun, sea, sand, and great wine, Algarve is one of the unmissable wine regions in Portugal. 

Where to stay in the Algarve? Explore our hand-picked list of the best luxury hotels in the Algarve

Get a taste of the action: Half-day wine tour in Silves

Drink wine from terracotta in the old Portugal wine regions
Drink wine from terracotta in the old Portugal wine regions | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Lisbon Wine Region

The Lisboa wine region wraps around Lisbon city and covers a long strip of coastal Portugal. Boasting 9 DOCs, serious volumes of wine are produced there.  

Lisboa wines are affordable, everyday wines often sold in 1.5 and 3-litre carafes. The region is known for vinho leve (light wine), which earns comparison with the more illustrious Vinho Verde. 

Unsurprisingly for a region centred around the country’s capital, there is plenty to interest visitors. 

Lisbon is too singular to summarise, but it is an essential Portuguese destination and the ideal base to explore several Portugal wine regions. It is also a centre of gastronomy — think delicacies like pastel de nata (custard tarts) and savoury classics like bacalhau a bras (braised salted cod) — making it an ideal location to discover the food and wine of Portugal.  

Get a taste of the action: Day trip to a wine cellar, vineyard and wine house

Tejo Wine Region

Tejo wine is all about tradition. Pigéage wines (foot pressed) are common, entire communities help with harvests, and bottles are sealed with cork from local forests. 

The Ribatejo province (or the Tejo wine region) is a dry, inland area that owes its agricultural success to the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), which flows across the Iberian Peninsula to Lisbon. 

Sitting between the Alentejo and Lisbon wine regions, six DOC subregions produce distinctive wines. Despite some standout reds, the region is known as a volume producer of everyday table wines. 

The river, a vital artery for millennia, flows around historic towns, past ancient cork forests and olive groves, and famously through a flamingo-friendly protected estuary. 

Along the route are co-operative vineyards and organic quintas that open their doors to the public, and camera-friendly towns like medieval Santarém and cute Chamusca. 

If you are still ticking off UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Convento de Cristo is worth a detour. The ornate and imposing convent has a Knights-Templar origin story, capturing the essence of a region steeped in tradition. 

Transmontano Wine Region

Transmontano is tucked away in the northeast corner of the country. Mountainous, it is one of the least accessible wine regions in Portugal. 

Red, white, rosé, and even eau-de-vie are produced across the region. Rural and timeless, the changing altitudes encourage variety in grape harvests and winemaking. 

Effectively landlocked, the region is scenic yet unprosperous. For curious travellers, it is a region brimming with wonders. 

The region’s ancient enmity with Spain has littered the land with medieval castles. Magnificent natural parks are found both in and around the region. And delightful towns like Braganca, one of Portugal’s prettiest, and the enchanting fortified town Miranda make exploring this intriguing wine region unforgettable. 

The city of Setubal, Portugal
The city of Setubal, Portugal | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Setúbal Wine Region

The Setúbal wine region is an oddity. This diminutive region, overshadowed by the Alentejo wine region, champions fortified Muscat wines.  

There are just two DOC denominations, Palmela and Setúbal. Setúbal wines share characteristics with port and include the renowned Moscatel de Setúbal. Wines from Palmela are typically still reds made with the Castelão Frances grape. 

Languid beaches, Mediterranean climate, nature reserves, and the crucial Sado river add to the natural character of Setúbal. Delightful Palmela, overlooked by the impressive castle, Castelo de Palmela, layers a cultural and historical cherry on top. 

Accessible by day trips from Lisbon or the bustling port city Setúbal, there is much to explore in one of Portugal’s atypical wine regions. 

Black rocks frame the Pico Wine Region in Portugal
Black rocks frame the Pico Wine Region in Portugal | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Wines of The Azores

With the mainland covered, we need to jump offshore to uncover the final wine regions in Portugal. 

One thousand miles away from Portugal are the nine volcanic islands of the Azores. Graciosa, Biscoitos, and Pico each have an IPR, or indication of regulated provenance. Solving the challenge of making and preserving wine on sub-tropical islands, the local stuff is almost exclusively fortified.

Most Azorean wine comes from Pico, sometimes called the ‘Island of Wine’. Its incomparable landscape and dedication to local agricultural techniques have earned UNESCO recognition.

As you might expect from unspoilt mid-Atlantic islands, there are numerous reasons to visit. Snow-capped volcanic peaks overlook lush, verdant islands that put the Azores firmly on the tourist map. 

Where to stay in Pico Wine Region? Book a private home rental at this beautiful Adega amongst the Pico vineyards

Get a taste of the action: Pico Island Wine Tour

Wine Region in Madeira at Quinta da Saraiva
Vines at Quinta da Saraiva in Madeira / Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Madeira Wine Region  

We kickstarted our tour of Portugal’s wine regions with the country’s most famous wine export, port. We fittingly end with its second most famous, Madeira wine. Both are fortified wines. 

Madeira could not be further removed from the Douro Valley. A sub-tropical archipelago closer to the African coastline than Portugal, fortified wine has been made there since sailors set off for the New World.

An alternative approach to viticulture also sees the unfashionable native grape Negra Mole dominate island production. Although winemakers on the island also make space for table wines and a local speciality, sparkling espumante

The regional capital, Funchal, is a handy camp for exploring the quintas and natural parks that Madeira is known for. Popular with cruise companies and yacht owners, this laidback city packs in the charms of a sun-drenched European island without the usual tourist trappings.  

Is remote Madeira the first-choice destination for oenophiles? Probably not, but with a stunning backdrop and intriguing wine industry, it will always appeal to curious wine buffs, nature-lovers, and adventure-seekers. 

Where to stay in Madeira? Check out our favourite stay in Madeira, Quinta da Saraiva

Get a taste of the action: Full day Madeira wine tasting tour

The Algarve is arguably one of Europe’s ultimate golf destinations, with countless courses to choose from. Mark Hirst, the founder of Getaway Golfer, shares a lesser-known side of the Algarve’s ever-expanding golf scene.

Whenever I mention a golf trip to the Algarve, I’m greeted with the usual predictable destinations: Vilamoura, Albufeira, and, if we’re feeling particularly flush, Quinta do Lago. Whilst all of the above are superb options, Tavira is one place that rarely gets a mention, and it perplexes me. 

There are 39 golf courses in the Algarve, with Tavira and the surrounding area hosting six of them. One of these courses is often voted as the best in all of Portugal. What’s more, golf in Tavira is often cheaper, less densely populated and offers some superb boutique hotel options if you know where to look. Let me guide you through where to play and stay in Tavira for an unforgettable golf trip.

The beautiful town of Tavira
The beautiful town of Tavira as seen from its castle ruins / Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Where to Play Golf in Tavira

There are six golf courses within 30 minutes of Tavira. Several offer green fees for under €60 depending on the time of year. Below you can find my thoughts on each golf course, including green fee information and my favourite holes.

Quinta da Ria

Green Fess From €79

Quinta da Ria golf course is set within the Ria Formosa National Park, just a 15-minute drive due east of Tavira. I love both courses situated on this resort for their tranquillity. You won’t find any large resorts and villas imposing themselves or restricting your views, meaning you’re simply free to enjoy nature at its best. My particular favourite is the 17th hole, which plays alongside a large lake to the right of the green. Anything left is your friend. 

Green fees start at €85 in the low season, rising to €120 in the high season, but tee off after 14:30 in May, and you can fit a full round of golf for €79.

Quinta de Cima / Credit: Supplied
Quinta de Cima / Credit: Supplied

Quinta de Cima

Green Fees From €79

Quinta de Cima is the second course at the Robinson Club Quinta da Ria Resort. There’s less water to be found here (which usually means I lose fewer golf balls). Equally as stunning, you’ll experience nature at its finest. My standout hole is probably the 16th, a very getable par-5 with a lake guarding wayward shots to the right of the green. 

Green fees are the same here as at Quinta da Ria, so my preference is to opt for a 14:30 tee time at the end of May for €79, which is excellent value for any golf course in the Algarve. Website


Green fees from €61

Benamor is one of the easier golf courses in Tavira, particularly perfect for higher handicappers and groups. I love the views you get of the Serra do Caldeirão mountains to the north of the course. My personal favourite is the par-4 sixth. The elevated tee provides spectacular views, and with a downhill fairway that adds a few extra yards to your drive, you can come away feeling like you can hit it 30 yards further than you actually can. 

Green fees start at €61 in the low season, rising to €86 in the high season. A twilight rate is available for those teeing off after 13:04, but this is only available in the low season. Website

13th and 14th Hole at Monte Rei / Credit: Supplied
13th and 14th Hole at Monte Rei / Credit: Supplied

Monte Rei

Green Fees From: €170

If you’re familiar with playing golf in the Algarve, you’ll have undoubtedly heard of Monte Rei. View any top 10 lists of the best golf courses in the Algarve, and you’ll near-certainly see Monte Rei occupying the number one spot. This Jack Nicklaus signature course is expertly maintained with slick greens and stunning views; it’s a true golfing challenge and has everything your golf heart could desire. It also requires a hefty bank balance to play it – a four-ball at Monte Rei will set the group back a cool €880. 

That said, Monte Rei is special and somewhere you should play at least once if you can afford to. My favourite hole is the 13th, a stunning par-4 that plays down a large canyon onto a green that has an (almost distracting) lake as a backdrop. 

Green fees start at €170 in the low season (15th November – 28th February), rising to €220 in the high season. Twilight green fees are available all year round when teeing off after 15:00 and cost €170. Website.

Castro Marim

Green Fees From: €51

Travel 25 minutes east along the A22 from Tavira, and you’ll discover Castro Marim Golf Course, a stone’s throw from the Spanish border. Boasting spectacular views of the River Guadiana and the Spanish rolling countryside, Castro Marim offers excellent value golf and unspoiled views. 

There are 27 holes to play broken down into three loops of nine, so it’s possible to return for multiple rounds of golf and enjoy a different experience each time you play. There’s also accommodation onsite with private villas available to rent, so an overnight stay with a couple of rounds is an excellent option. 

My pick of the holes to play here is the sixth hole on the Atlantic course. A tricky par-4 hole with a large lake guarding the left side of the fairway as you tee off. Keep it right for a decent approach shot onto the green. 

Green fees at Castro Marim represent excellent value. In the low season (between 21st May to 16th September), it costs just €65, rising to €85 in the high season (26th February to 15th April and 17th September to 31st October). Twilight green fees are available when teeing off after 15:00 and cost €51 in the low season and €65 in the high season. Website.

Quinta do Vale
Quinta do Vale / Credit: Supplied

Quinta do Vale

Green Fees From €58

Just a few minutes further east from Castro Marim Golf Course in Quinta do Vale. Designed by none other than Seve Ballesteros, Quinta do Vale is a tough course suited to more experienced golfers. It’s yet another example of a golf course near Tavira that’s devoid of overbearing development, leaving you free to enjoy the scenery and tranquil surroundings. 

My pick of the holes has to be the 18th. It’s a short 350-yard par-4 that offers stunning views of the River Guadiana and the surrounding countryside. It’s the perfect way to finish your round of golf and may well leave you wanting to return for more. 

Green fees at Quinta do Vale start at €58 in the low season (16th November to 28th February and 16th May to 15th September), rising to €72 in the high season (1st March to 15th May and 16th September to 31st October). No twilight rates are available. Website.

Robinson Club Quinta da Ria / Credit: Supplied, Robinson Club
Robinson Club Quinta da Ria / Credit: Supplied, Robinson Club

Where to Stay When Playing Golf in Tavira

Tavira offers a surprising number of hotels that are suitable for golfers. There’s a wide range of accommodation options, from luxurious boutique hotels to all-inclusive resorts. Here are a few of my personal favourite places to stay when visiting Tavira. 

Robinson Club Quinta da Ria

Great For: Families and Large Groups | 🔗 Check prices

Robinson Club Quinta da Ria is one of the best value all-inclusive golf hotels in the Algarve. It is set in the resort that also features both Quinta da Ria and Quinta de Cima Golf Courses and is perfect for families and large groups of golfers looking for a hassle-free holiday.

Prices range here are higher in the peak season, with some great mid-range offseason deals – both are excellent value given this includes all food and drink. If you’re thinking of playing either of the aforementioned golf courses, Robinson Club represents the most convenient option. 🔗 Make a booking

Praia Verde Boutique Hotel (Octant)

Great For: Couples, Boutique Stay, Foodies | 🔗 Check prices

If you’re looking for a boutique experience in Tavira, I can’t recommend Praia Verde highly enough. Just a stone’s throw from Praia Verde beach, you can spend the day relaxing with the waves lapping at your toes and a cold drink in hand. 

Foodies will love this place too. The hotel restaurant, led by Chef David Domingues, focuses on wood-fired cuisine, using ingredients sourced from the hotel’s vegetable garden and local produce. Some of the dishes that Domingues creates will last in your mind forever. 🔗 Make a booking

Ozadi Tavira

Great For: Budget-Conscious, Families | 🔗 Check prices

Ozadi Tavira underwent a complete refurbishment in 2014, with particular care taken to maintain its 1970’s charm. You’ll find 77 rooms at Ozadi, all tastefully appointed with modern amenities. 

There are two superb restaurants on-site, the Orangea Bistro and the OZADI Terrace, both of which offer a relaxing atmosphere and a wide range of culinary options.

I’ve found that you can get an excellent nightly rate here, especially if you choose to book outside of the peak summer season – it’s really an excellent value-for-money option. 🔗 Make a booking

Vistas Rui Silvestre Restaurant at Monte Rei / Credit: Vistas Rui Silvestre
Vistas Rui Silvestre Restaurant at Monte Rei / Credit: Vistas Rui Silvestre

Monte Rei Golf & Country Club

Great For: Luxury, Golf, Michelin Dining 🔗 Check prices

If you’re planning on playing Monte Rei, then why not combine it with a stay at the country club as well? There’s a wide range of accommodation options available at Monte Rei, from one and two-bedroom apartments to luxurious five-bedroom detached villas complete with private pools. 

Michelin Starred dining is also an option during your stay. Vistas Rui Silvestre is located on the resort and offers some of the finest dishes in all of Portugal, all whilst showcasing local produce and an excellent Portuguese wine list.

For a more relaxed setting, guests can also dine at the grill, which offers high-quality dishes that are perfect for a light lunch or evening meal. 🔗 Make a booking

The views when landing at Faro Airport, just 40 minutes from Tavira
Ria Formosa views while landing at Faro Airport, just 40km east of Tavira / Credit: Daniel James Clarke

How to Get to Tavira

From Faro

Tavira is 40 km east of Faro airport and takes approximately 30 minutes to get to via car. Travel east down the A22 and take the exit at junction 16. Car hire and airport transfer services are abundantly available at Faro, and Hoppa, an airport transfer from Faro to Tavira costs around €26 per person based on two people sharing. 

There is also a direct train that runs from Faro to Tavira (a bus connects with the airport), which costs around €6 one way, taking just 50 minutes.

From Seville

Seville Airport in Spain is 186 km east of Tavira, and it’s a mere two hours to reach by car. If you’re thinking of touring the southern regions of Spain and Portugal during your trip, Seville is worth considering.

Again, there are plenty of car hire and airport transfer options from Seville, and a Hoppa transfer costs around €140 per person based on two people sharing, or long-distance buses provide a more affordable alternative. However, you may just need to pay an additional fee for any additional luggage such as clubs.

Green fees and costs were correct at the time of publication (June 2023). As always, G2P suggests confirming current prices direct with the clubhouse.

Portugal joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1965, although later, in 1972, the country left the organisation before officially re-joining in 1974. Portugal was also a member of the Executive Committee from 2007 to 2009 and has been deeply involved with UNESCO ever since, with different contributions from the country’s government and artists.

Seventeen landmarks constitute Portugal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all of which have a major historical significance to the country and the world. From archaeological sites and rich natural venues to the beautiful uniqueness of the country’s architecture.

These outstanding UNESCO Portugal sites will have you travelling through time by giving you insights into over 900 years of history and culture, enriching your eyes and mind with the beauty of each of these locations. You’ll certainly want to book a flight back as soon as you leave Portugal, as the country is known for its fantastic receptiveness to tourists – plus, it will be a struggle to visit all seventeen in one trip!

Another bonus is nearly all of these sites also have guides (printed, audio, or tours) available ready to tell you everything you need to know about these amazing places, buildings and monuments. Usually, the guides are in several different languages and answer any questions that you might have about the site’s surroundings or traditions.

The UNESCO listed University of Coimbra
The UNESCO-listed University of Coimbra | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia

The University of Coimbra is one of the oldest currently working universities in the world. It is situated on top of the hill overlooking the city of Coimbra, in a privileged place in town, surrounded by centuries of history that now are mixed with services, residencies, green spaces where you can relax, restaurants and a lot of cultural attractions. 

You can expect to be greeted by uniformed students and maybe even an opportunity to hear the amazing music played by the tuna. This is an academic orchestra that covers songs from the best Portuguese artists throughout time or transforms poetry by the most significant Portuguese writers into songs in a beautiful mix of different instruments and unique acapella interpretations.

Inside, the tour will take you through some of the ancient faculties, with the library a particular gem not to be missed! When you visit Coimbra, don’t miss out on the chance for a stroll down “Rua de Sofia” and appreciate the details still clear from de Renaissance artistic style. 

Where to stay in Coimbra? For a truly unforgettable stay, this opulent and grand hotel with rooms seemingly carved into the rock is something very special!

Looking for a tour? Sign on to a free walking tour of Coimbra to get to know the city, or buy your tickets to enter the university from the ticket office.

Monastery of Alcobaça

Located in the North of Lisbon and founded in the 12th century by King Alfonso I, The Monastery of Santa Maria d’Alcobaça is deeply connected to the proclamation of Portugal as an independent kingdom in 1139. 

This monument is a masterpiece of Cistercian Gothic art, something you will notice from the beauty of the architectural style, the materials and the attention to detail used in its construction. It’s common you will find different kinds of exhibitions here, from art expositions to musical and performative art events or educational lectures, assuring your visit to this place will always enrich your spirit.

Gastronomy is also a must-try in this region with their traditional “Doces Conventuais” (traditional sweets) and the tasty “Licor de Ginja” (a cherry liquor)  that will be even better if served in a small chocolate cup.

Where to stay in Alcobaça? Just outside of the city, this spa hotel with unique architecture really captures the surrounding nature.

Looking for a tour? To combine Alcobaça, Tomar and Batalha in a day, consider this private tour from Lisbon as it’s hard to combine public transport between the three in one day due to bus times.

Douro Wine Region
Take a cruise through the Douro Wine Region | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Alto Douro Wine Region

You have probably already tried the famous Portuguese sweet wine known as port (Vinho do Porto), popular around the world for its quality and usually drank as a digestive or an aperitif. Wine has been produced in the Alto Douro region for at least 2000 years, and the viticulture tradition has marked its position in Portugal’s culture and economy. 

The landholders of the area, together with the Government, have constantly been working on the evolution of the production while always respecting the purity of the natural ingredients – essential for great results. 

The outstanding beauty of this area makes it just the perfect landscape for a relaxing wine-tasting day while learning about its history and process. Here, in the middle of beautiful natural venues, you can breathe fresh air while sipping a great wine that will awaken all your senses – there is a reason it’s one of the most celebrated Portugal wine regions.

Where to stay in Douro? Quinta Da Estrada Winery Douro Valley.

Looking for a day trip from Porto? Consider this tour with a cruise, wine tasting and lunch.

Colourful and ancient palaces in the UNESCO listed Sintra
Colourful and ancient palaces in the UNESCO-listed Sintra | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Cultural Landscape of Sintra  

Sintra became the first centre of European Romantic architecture in the 19th century. This city’s unique mixture of parks and gardens surrounding its beautiful buildings, castles and palaces (for example, the National Palace of Pena, on top of the city) make it a magical experience for every visitor. 

Enveloped by the beautiful “Serra de Sintra” microclimate, the combination of pure nature with beautiful and artistic architecture makes the walk around this UNESCO Portugal Site feel like a living fairy tale. Keep in mind to ask the city guides about the popular stories and legends surrounding the town’s history throughout the times, too! Best explored on foot or by tuk-tuk, it’s less than an hour from Lisbon by train, making it a perfect day trip, although you’ll likely need a couple of days at least to really explore. If you are short on time, pre-booking your tickets might make sense on peak days.

When in Sintra, don’t forget to try the unforgettable “Queijadinhas de Sintra”, a traditional cake from the area which will make this visit even more memorable – if that’s possible!

Where to stay in Sintra? This rustic 19th-century Quinta fits in with the historical stories of a Sintra stay.

Looking for a tour? Even though Sintra is easy to do from Lisbon by yourself, if you are short on time (and also want to visit the coast), then this day tour will be appreciated.

Step back in time in the UNESCO listed old town of Guimarães
Step back in time in the UNESCO-listed old town of Guimarães | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Historic Centre of Guimarães

In this beautiful city, one of Portugal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, according to the history, was born. The historic part of Guimarães is set inside the small medieval town surrounded and protected by a castle built with big rocks and wood. It’s one of Portugal’s main points of memory of the country’s history, mixing with harmony the traditional with the modern times of these days. 

Guimarães represents a great example of how Portugal searches for evolution without ever renouncing its roots and makes an effort to respect the traditions and historical marks of the country. Did you know, for example, it was the first capital of Portugal in the 12th century?

Enjoy the walk through the city and appreciate the warmness of the locals you encounter; you’ll also often find outside art displays or other cultural elements in addition to the historic architecture. 

Where to stay in Guimarães? Stay in this 12th-century convent to really appreciate the city’s history.

Looking for a tour? Combine Guimarães and Braga on this day tour from Porto.

Mafra Palace, one of Portugals's UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Mafra Palace, one of Portugals’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Royal Building of Mafra Palace

This fantastic building was built in 1711 by the then king, D. João V, and illustrates the power and large reach of the Portuguese imperium. 

Built with inspiration from the Italian baroque artistic and architectural style, it includes a convent that belonged to the Franciscan religion, a library with 36,000 volumes, and palaces for the King and the Queen.  The amazing garden will make you travel back to the monarchy period as soon as you step foot in this UNESCO Portugal Site.

Amazingly, Mafra Palace has over 1200 different rooms, more than 4700 doors and windows, 156 beautiful stairways and 29 lobbies – although you won’t be allowed to visit them all, the ticket is well worth it. 

Inside you will also have the chance to see different jewellery collections, art pieces such as tapestries, paintings, sculptures or furniture in a great state of conservation that will make you feel like you just visited the Kings. The library, which still uses bats at night to keep the books free of bugs, is a highlight!

Where to stay in Mafra? A little outside the city centre, this historic village has been converted into dreamy accommodation.

Looking for a tour? Take a private tour of the royal palaces around Lisbon, including Mafra, to maximise your time.

Climb the UNESCO staircase of Bom Jesus in Braga
Climb the UNESCO staircase of Bom Jesus in Braga | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga

This landscape, located in Mount Espinho, overlooking the city of Braga, was founded in Roman times and has excellent views, overlooking the ocean itself sometimes. It’s a sanctuary of devotion and peregrination for the residents of the area and for visitors from around the world, promoted by the Catholic Church. The complex includes a series of chapels that remind us of the Passion of Christ with several details, such as fountains, sculptures and surrounding gardens. The incredible stairway that leads to the church is hard to describe, and while impressive from the bottom, the walk to the top will likely leave you short of breath!

Whether you are a devote or not, the picturesque landscape of this site will leave you fascinated and bring you a sensation of peace and harmony. You’ll certainly be fascinated by the ornamental elements and stonework present in the granite walls of the monument. One of the absolute must-visit Portugal UNESCO World Heritage sites!

Where to stay in Braga? Skip the city centre hotel and stay in this gorgeous panoramic hotel in the hills of Bom Jesus.

Looking for a tour? Book a free walking tour of Braga to learn more about the city beyond Bom Jesus.

The magnificent ceiling painting in Portugal's UNESCO listed Tomar cathedral
The magnificent ceiling painting in Portugal’s UNESCO-listed Tomar cathedral | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Convent of Christ in Tomar 

This building joined the list of Portugal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1983. Built upon a Roman cult place, it represents 700 years of Portugal’s history and extraordinary moments of Occidental’s history. 

The monument has so many different architectural styles present that it is somewhat of a guide to the country’s art history, showing the evolution of a country that adventured through seas and continents, bringing influences to be pictured in the stones of these walls. Gothic, renaissance, mannerism and baroque are some of the styles you will manage to observe while visiting this site. You will also be able to have an idea of how the cavaliers and monks lived back in the day.

The city of Tomar will make you feel welcome and surrounded by culture, and you will even find bars and restaurants inspired by the different art styles present in the convent.

Where to stay in Tomar? Stay in this cute 18th-century family-run hotel.

Looking for a tour? Take the ‘Knights Templar’ day tour from Lisbon to visit castles and convents in Constância and Tomar.

The UNESCO heritage city of Porto
The UNESCO heritage city of Porto | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Historic Centre of Porto (including Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar)

Porto is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the country, so it’s not surprising that it’s listed as a UNESCO Portugal site. Although, as is already a pattern in this country, even the most modern cities will conserve their marks of history and culture. The Historic Centre of Porto is surrounded by the Douro River and has a lot of beautiful monuments and history present that take us back to eras gone by, such as Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassic.

When visiting, take the chance to try the traditional “Francesinha”, a dish that entered the list of the world’s best sandwiches. And don’t forget to finish it with a port wine by the river for dessert.

Where to stay in Porto? Stay in this gorgeous boutique palace hotel.

Looking for a tour? Sign up for a free walking tour of Porto to learn the city’s history.

Belem Tower sitting on the River Tejo
Belem Tower sitting on the River Tejo | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Jerónimos Monastery and Tower of Belém in Lisbon

When visiting Lisbon, visiting these monuments is almost mandatory, which are an integral part of Portugal’s UNESCO sites. Situated by the banks of the River Tejo, the Tower of Belém was built strategically to defend the city in case of attack, and its architecture is prepared to resist the fire from the enemies. 

The Monastery of the Hieronymites is a symbol of some of the most important moments of the country’s history, maintaining to this day its remarkable features like the cloister from the 1500s and the dining hall of the Monks and its magnificent library. 

Where to stay in Belem? Stay in this stylish hotel moments from the monastery.

Looking for a tour? Sign up for a free walking tour of Belem to learn more about this beautiful neighbourhood.

Monastery of Batalha

Also known as the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, this monument took almost 200 years to build (from 1386 to 1563, approximately) and was thought and edified by the King D. João I of Portuga.

It was constructed l to show appreciation to the Holy Mary after winning Aljubarrota’s battle against Castilian enemies as proof of his gratefulness and devotion. It’s remarkable to the country’s history as it represents its moment of independence and emancipation. 

You’ll be taken in by its gothic architecture while visiting the different rooms, which take you back in time and allow you to have an idea of the routines and activities of the monks and priests living in the convent.

Apart from being a museum, it is also another monastery considered one of the National Pantheons. 

Where to stay in Batalha? Stay in this trendy and chic boutique hotel with a pool and views of the Monastery.

Looking for a tour? Combine Batalha with Fatima and Obidos on this day tour from Lisbon.

Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde  

These prehistoric art sites were one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, taking us back to the palaeolithic time. The illustrations on the rocks allow us to have exceptional insight into the social, economic and spiritual life of our prehistorical ancestors in a truthful communication with our past, showing us also the signs of the artistic development of the human being. 

Since 2010, an extension of the Côa Valley in Siega Verde, Spain, was found to contain much more artwork and information, becoming the only one of these UNESCO Portugal sites sharing territory with Spain. This brings the chance to visit the two amazing countries together while allowing our ancestors to tell us their stories through their art.

The historic UNESCO Heritage Centre of Evora
The historical UNESCO Heritage Centre of Evora | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Historic Centre of Évora

Being located at the confluence of three important Portuguese rivers – The Tejo, Sado and Guadiana –, Évora was always of high value to Portugal’s commercial routes since its early days. This gave the city relevant importance to the country’s social and political activities throughout all the different civilisations passing through the country. You will be able to see the presence of Roman and Islamic influence.

The greatness of the buildings joins the magnificent views and cosmopolitan city centre of the beautiful Portuguese area of Alentejo, known for its receptivity and tenderness to visitors. You will be able to relax while hearing the music of street artists and feel the youth’s presence due to the city students. Don’t miss monuments such as Diana’s Temple or the Cathedral of Sé.

Where to stay in Evora? The beautiful L’AND Vineyard Resort is just outside the city.

Looking for a tour? Discover the nearby wine history on this four-hour wine-tasting tour from Evora.

Black rocks frame the Pico Wine Region in Portugal
Black rocks frame the Pico Wine Region in Portugal | Credit: Daniel James Clarke

The Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture

The Portuguese  Islands are also present on the list of UNESCO Portugal Sites. The Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture occupies an area of 987 hectares on the second biggest island in the cluster of nine Azores Islands.

Here you will find an extremely rich geological beauty due to being a volcanic area with a considerable diversity of fauna and flora, much of which is rare protected species.

What makes this area such a unique vision is the labour of the wine workers throughout time to be able to form their plantations and vineyards across hard black rocks. Using these basaltic rocks to protect their cultivations from the wind and sea, they took advantage and made the best benefit out of their soil. Enjoying a wine tasting in this magnificent landscape is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Where to stay in Pico Wine Region? Book a private home rental at this beautiful Adega amongst the Pico vineyards.

Looking for a tour? Pico Island Wine Tour.

Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores  

The city of Angra do Heroísmo, located on Terceira Island (another of the Azores archipelago), distinguishes itself due to the geographic and atmospheric features that made it a great point of exchange developed from the 16th century. Thus, it became a mandatory route of call for boats from Mina, India or Brazil. 

The city has been built and structured based on Renaissance design and has several available monuments to visit, such as white-washed and grey-stone churches or palaces. Given the number of people and cultures mixing in this essential point of commercialisation, it conserves a legacy of historical decoration noticeable in the architecture, sculptures, tiles and porcelain.

Where to stay in Angra? Stay in a historic fort, now a beautiful Pousada hotel.

Looking for a tour? Enjoy this guided walking tour of the city.

Wine Region in Madeira at Quinta da Saraiva
Vines at Quinta da Saraiva in Madeira / Credit: Daniel James Clarke

Laurisilva of Madeira

This 100-per cent natural site is considered a relic thanks to its mystical beauty. It occupies 150,000 hectares which represents some 20 percent of Madeira Island. Its humid and subtropical features are the home of many fauna and flora, boasting a lot of native tree species. Thus, the UNESCO designation is important as it’s very important to protect this important part of the environment. 

The best way to know this magnificent forest is to “get lost” in its amazing trails and feel the peace and relaxation of the green views while breathing the freshest air of the ancient trees around you.

When planning your trip, keep in mind there are always activities available such as hiring a guide and having an educational show that will help you understand the natural benefits this amazing location brings to us. 

Where to stay in Madeira? Check out our favourite stay in Madeira, Quinta da Saraiva.

‘All bows lead to Benagil’ I joke each summer, as an army of tourists descends daily on the most famous sea cave of the Algarve. Boats from all directions, often captained by local fishermen who have traded Sardines in for more lucrative selfie sailings, jostle for prime position to enter the Pinterest-poster child of the coastline.

Truly, it’s a magnificent rock formation. Gaping windows open to the ocean, and golden beams send a tunnel of light through the sinkhole high above. Long gone, however, are the moments of silence and solitude you once found here. Luckily, listening to the tone of lapping waves buffeting off limestone is still very much possible; you just need to know where to look.

Inês Nunes, a local marine biologist, is someone that holds all those answers. As more and more boats shuttle back and forth, changes to the coastline have become noticeable. Seeking a more eco-conscious way to share the splendour of these rugged rock formations, Inês teamed up with local guide Pedro Oliveira and created Zip&Trip.

It’s certainly no secret to the locals that there are hundreds of isolated beaches, blowholes, and indeed caves to explore in the Algarve, and you don’t need a boat to venture to them – simply a sense of adventure.

Inside of a sea-cave in Alvor

Inside of a sea cave in Alvor

Wet suits were zipped and snorkels tightened as our group clambered along the arid cliffs of Alvor, a municipality slightly further west than Benagil.

‘There’s only the noise of the ocean and us‘ Pedro grinned up ahead, as we snaked our way down to a deserted beach. We were a small group, unsurprisingly all locals. Out in the deep blue, the tourist boats herded in the opposite direction.

Diving into the crystal-clear waters of the shallows, the wet suit hugged my body in a warm embrace. Spring sun glistened off the water and bounced onto the rust and apricot-hued limestone. The grin on my face was already perfectly shaped for the snorkel.

Seconds later, we were emerging into our first cave.

Inside a sea-cave near Alvor

Inside a sea cave near Alvor

Pedro hadn’t been exaggerating. It was just us, silently taking in the staggering height of the cave ceiling. Moments before it had looked simply like a cliff-face, but a deep breath and dunk later, her secrets had been revealed.

We clambered out of the water, all making a bee-line for the perfectly circular spot-light illuminating the sand. Bathing in the warm rays, our suits dried quickly as we took a moment to appreciate the grandeur of nature’s work. For the next two hours, we swam and slithered, climbed and crawled our way into countless coves and caves.

From more towering vertical tunnels to archways and over-hanging rocks framing sand that hadn’t seen a footprint in days, the coastline delivered on all its promises. It’s a rare thing to see somewhere you’ve walked passed hundreds of times in a new light, but from an almost underwater vantage point, I was reminded just how special our coastline is.

Underwater life on the Alvor coast

Underwater life on the Alvor coast

Inês would occasionally stop us, pointing out local fish or a fleeting sea horse, and by the time we emerged to the final beach, it was a surprise to see rows of towels and tanning bodies awaiting. Though, to be fair, many faces seemed as surprised to see seven suit clad bodies rising from the waters.

We peeled off our wetsuits as Pedro peeled the rind of local cheese, and we settled into the soft sand to feast on watermelon and cherries. Gazing out at the seemingly never-ending ocean I was already wondering how many more of these ‘secret spots’ I’d have the joy of exploring in times to come.

Make it happen:

Zip&Trip run various tours around Ferragudo and Alvor, which can be booked via their website

Portugal is a country renowned for its rich culture and artistic heritage, from the ceramics of the north to the ornate lacework on the island of Madeira. Join us to take an introductory dive into the crafts and culture of Northern Portugal with artist and local expert Luísa Barbosa.

In Portugal’s northern Minho region, the colours are stronger, the costumes are more detailed, and the people celebrate life by performing The Vira, a local whirling dance accompanied by singing. The Folklore here screams diversity and beauty as boys and girls transmit their stories, love and values of generations.

It is with these expressions, their practices and craftsmanship that the North of Portugal is defined as an undeniable community full of authenticity and creativity. Here are five regional practices which will add another cultural layer to any trip through this region.

Lenço dos Namorados, Vila Verde

It is not just in the modern world that we feel the need to express our emotions and feelings for those we love.

Throughout history, whether using digital media or through other releases of more uncomfortable words since the beginnings of Humanity, many traditions have been born from through intrinsic eagerness of ours.

Lenço of lovers is an example of this expression. Initially made with black and red thread on white fabric, the women of the locale people resignified the function of scarves that were originally present in their clothing and other decorative adornments in everyday life.

Young women of marriageable age began to see the scarf as a way of “flirting” with their loved ones. Statement phrases with recurrent spelling errors and childish handwriting were presented with botanical symbols in a naive style; if the boy used the scarf on his body, a relationship would spring up.

A form of expression of affection, love and a lot of Saudade* for those who spent long hours with the thread and needle. These colourful scarves are the extension of our feeling – a representation of the passionate souls of Northern Portugal.

*Saudade is a Portuguese expression of the feeling caused by the absence of something/someone (physical or not) because we can miss a friendship or a relationship that ended, for example, with loneliness, nostalgia, or a black hole in the heart. 

 L: Barcelos R: Embroidery is a Minho tradition / Canva
L: Barcelos R: Embroidery is a Minho tradition / Canva

Figurado, Barcelos

We all know the Galo de Barcelos, but what about devils, big-headed musicians, goats and whistling birds? These are some of the ambiguous figures that the popular art of Figurado offers us.

With festive themes and representations of everyday activities, these primarily small creatures express the craftsman’s experiences and his surroundings through saturated primary colours, thus attracting the attention of any eye.

The sacred and the profane come together in an invigorating way. With this solid religious influence and popular tradition, the people of North Portugal are seen and self-recognised in each figure.

Genuine souls with both strong and delicate hands, these craftsmen make Barcelos the ideal place to dive into the knowledge and work of Minho ceramics. On a  visit to one of the region’s 89 parishes, you’ll certainly encounter some of these works.

R: Northern Portugal town L: The country's cock symbol / Canva
L: Ponte de Lima R: Galo de Barcelos, / Canva

Jugo or Canga, Ponte de Lima

Everyday objects constantly have their function resignified with the passing of generations. The jugos or cangas are wooden structures where two protrusions support the head of two oxen.

This instrument was essential in the care of the land and the domestication of cattle, and it is in this submission that the very term of the word was created – “jugo” means obedience and dominion.

Merely functional, it later becomes a decorative piece when the artisans decide to include the carving, thus becoming the most sublime feature of the whole work. With a chisel, the craftsman subtracts light splinters from the wood, emphasising symbols that represent the daily experiences of the time. Crosses, the sun, the moon and monstrances are the most common representations because the farmers believed that good harvests would come with their presence.

Nowadays, Jugos decorate the walls of Portuguese houses where their history, detail and rustic content stand out. If you are looking for an original souvenir, then this is a good choice – wouldn’t it be more interesting to have a hand-carved wood piece in your home than just another fridge magnet?

L: Viana do Castelo R: Example of / Canva
L: Viana do Castelo R: Example of Filigree / Canva

Filigree (Heart of Viana), Viana do Castelo

A delicate artistic jewellery item rich in heavenly detail, this work has been taking place on earth for over three centuries. Passed from generation to generation through family connections, it carries stories, legacies and values ​​that only a jewel can hold.

At the request of Queen Maria I, this relic was created out of gratitude for the birth of her son. With the heart of Jesus as a tribute, the small upper crown symbolises the flames characterised by the religious aspect. However, over the years, the Heart of Viana has been increasingly understood for its more profane and romantic meaning.

Nowadays, this tradition continues to adorn Minho costumes, where several kilos of gold hang around the necks of Portuguese women, but it is also present in jewellery and contemporary art.

Gold threads and heat manipulated in curves and counter-curves are necessary elements to create this emblematic, sublime and timeless piece. It carries history, values ​​and hidden symbols of that time most connected with Nature – from generation to generation – to become a symbol of affection, union and love.

Black Pottery of Bisalhães

And what about black ceramics where neither the clay is black nor are the pieces painted black? Yes, these incredible compositions exist and are made in the small town of Bisalhães in the North of Portugal.

A tradition over 300 years old, it is currently practised by only five people (three of them over 75 years old), which makes this ancient practice an urgent safeguard. In 2016 it was declared an Intangible Heritage of Humanity in Portugal by UNESCO, which has helped this artisanal technique to survive longer due to support and visibility.

And what about the Bisalhães technique for itself?

First, the dry clay is manually crushed with a wooden hammer on a stone base, where it is then carefully sieved until obtaining a homogeneous powder. The final result is already in the craftsman’s mind at the beginning of the process because depending on whether he wants to make “Louça churra” or “Louça fina” (utilitarian pottery or decorative pottery) the clay will have to be kneaded in different ways and using different tools. 

After structuring the shape and adding all the final details, the piece is finally ready to be baked, and this is where the magic of generations happens.

A hole in the ground is dug, the pieces are placed organically, and then everything is covered with dark earth and tree leaves. The smoke created is the secret to these spectacular pieces turning black after the objects are carefully removed from the hole, and old fabrics are used to shake off all the dust.

This is a village that is worth knowing about. If you’re lucky, perhaps your visit will coincide with the cooking day of these authentic black bowls and pots.

Clay figures are the strongest artistic expression in the city of Barcelos, but it is, in fact, the Galo de Barcelos Rooster that stands out among the others. Here, local artist Luísa Barbosa shares the story behind this symbol you’ll spot throughout the country.

A legendary object based on a great Miracle story, it all started in Medieval times. 

There was a crime, and the situation shook all the city’s dwellers because the criminal could not be found. One day, a pilgrim passing through Barcelos was considered a suspect because no one believed that he was heading to Santiago de Compostela on a religious promise. Despite his oaths of innocence, the man was found guilty, and his sentence was to be hanged.

Knowing his verdict, he requested to be taken to the judge to speak one last time. They took the man to the magistrate’s house, who was at a banquet that night.

Asserting his innocence again, the pilgrim pointed to the Roast Rooster that was on the table and said, “It is as certain that I am innocent as this Rooster will crow again at the moment when I will be hanged”.

Besides this disbelief with such nonsense, those present did not eat the Rooster because this situation created a lot of laughter and comments, and who knows if the animal may come back to life.

Such was the incredulity the Rooster got up and began to crow. The judge quickly goes to the gallows to change his verdict, and the pilgrim is saved.

Galo de Barcelos
Galo de Barcelos / Canva

Nowadays, in Praça dos Condes de Barcelos near the emblematic castle, there is a monument with reference to this legend, with a tribute to Santiago and the Virgin Mary.

An easily understood legend that inspired a craftsman in the village of Galegos Santa Maria, the first rooster was created, and easily everyone identified with him. A symbol of simplicity and honesty for those whose faith always guides life.

The Rooster was quickly exposed at the Thursday fair, an event with more than 600 years where all kinds of things are found, from handicrafts, clothes and products from the countryside. Thousands of people easily visit this great and open stage, and from year to year, the Rooster grows in importance in the tourist sector.

Thus, its popularity grew from city to city, reaching various corners of the world and quickly becoming a Portuguese symbol. Any good Portuguese takes their Rooster from Barcelos in their suitcase, either to remember their homeland or simply to give as a gift to those around the world which warm our hearts.

Learn more: Discover the Black Pottery of Bisalhães with our introduction to the crafts and culture of Northern Portugal

In south-central Portugal, to the right of show-stealing Lisbon and above the summertime fun of the Algarve, the underrated and understated Alentejo region packs a punch.

Technically two regions, Alto and Baixo translating to higher and lower, The Alentejo is awash with Roman and Moorish history, designated dark sky star-gazing reserves and countless grapes hanging from vines ready to be turned into one of Portugal’s greatest exports, and my favourite refreshment, wine. This is, of course, one of the most celebrated wine regions in Portugal.

The visitor count might not be as high here as other parts of the country, but that is very much its charm. Cruising along a near-empty motorway for a weekend escape, the rolling green countryside of vineyards with the odd castle provided a refreshing vacation from the bustle of the city.

The resort I picked for this weekend had to stand out, be quirky and ultimately a real gem of a place. I got scouring’s range of properties in Portugal, from hotels made of another Portuguese staple, cork, to restored palaces, the options were surprisingly endless.

L’AND Resort

I finally settled on L’AND Resort, situated just an hour from Lisbon in Montemor-O-Novo. Complete with a hot air balloon, Michelin star restaurant, retractable skylights for star-gazing and wine-production that happenesd inside the resort, I knew I had found my soulmate in hotel form.

Pulling up to the L’AND vineyard resort, the first thing you notice is how un-noticeable the resort is. The leading lines of the white buildings which centre around a lake sink into the green vines and trees that surround them. Not only is the stylish design aesthetically pleasing, but the integration with nature also makes the resort feel much smaller than it is. From the balconies, you can’t see other peoples accommodation, and this added to the sense of privacy and escape that the location of the vineyard offers.

Star Gazing in Alentejo

I’ll jump to my favourite bit about the resort and region as a whole, the star-gazing. Although Montemor-O-Novo doesn’t technically fall into the official Dark Sky Reserve, a dedicated area in Alentejo, the night skies were nothing short of incredible.

The resort with limited light pollution and far enough away from the town is nearly dark at night, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy mother natures nighttime show.

If you book a sky-view suite, then a remote-controlled ceiling pulls back to reveal the twinkly stars straight above your bed for some duvet style sky viewing. In the summer months, the actual glass is also removed from the roof which allows for a better view. To be honest, this was one of the things that disappointed me with the hotel; it’s not made clear when booking that the glass is there for part of the year, and at a premium price, this is something they should make known at booking.

Another option is your outside private plunge pool, which is enclosed on your balcony and more of a deep-bath. You can run the hot-tap and soak away to the magical view above.

Or your balcony, or the hotel rooftop, or by the lake (my favourite), or next to the vines… wherever you go, as long as there are no clouds expect amazing star-lit skies..

Vineyards in Alentejo

Red, white, rose and sparkling; they are all on production and offer in Alentejo with L’AND resort seasonally producing all the still wines in small batches. You could traipse off to explore multiple vineyards, or simply settle into wandering the vines that literally start outside your front door here.

L’AND offers various ways to sample both their wines and other wines from the region. With a glass of wine at check-in, a free wine and cheese pairing at 4 pm and other complimentary wine tasting options depending on the day, you’ll be off to a good start.

More in-depth wine tasting with professional notes can also be arranged, from just their own through to the whole regions. And if you head to the restaurant, the pairing flights can’t be missed.

Fine Dining in Alentejo

The food scene in Portugal is usually highlighted by Piri Piri Chicken and Egg custard tarts (Pastel de Nata) abroad, but the bar is continually being raised by some very talented chefs here and Miguel Laffan is one of those.

His Michelin Star restaurant at L’AND resort offers two menus, seasonal at €75 and the chefs menu at €105. Feeling like five courses would suffice, I went for the seasonal menu which included fresh oysters, deconstructed Portuguese style Bouillabaisse and a tender cut of Pork before two perfect desserts. The focus is on local produce, with the aim to source everything within 50km of the resort and the quality of the dishes was excellent. The matching wines and information that came with them were well worth the extra cash investment.

Miguel himself was in the dining room, running plates and chatting with the guests which was nice to see. Breakfast, a mix of buffet and a la carte the next morning was also of high quality.

L’AND Resort
L’AND Resort

L’AND resort review

With both a heated indoor and natural temperature outdoor pool between the 22 suites, there is plenty of place for R&R. The outside pool was empty of water on my visit, even in May, and this was another annoyance when paying for a premium hotel having a big empty hole in the lawn. The sauna looks out across the pool and vineyards, and the spa looked pretty fancy, although I didn’t have time to make use of it. The resort can also arrange a hot air balloon ride for you direct from the hotel to see Alentejo from above, prices are from €625 per trip as they don’t offer group flights.

Overall I loved the resort but wish I had seen it at it’s best, with the fully retractable windows and the pool open. It’s a pricey place to stay but even if you don’t book in, do try to get a reservation at the restaurant as it was genuinely excellent. You can see more of L’AND here.

But what else is there to discover nearby?

The Alentejo region of Portugal is vast, but here are a few highlights you could easily visit from the resort.

Montemor O-Novo

The small city of Montemor-O-Novo is a quick five-minute drive from the resort and can be seen in the background from the main dining room.

The cities main feature is the ruins of the Roman castle which sits atop the hill and although the walls have fallen in many places, inside you’ll find a convent and church in pretty good condition. The views are also excellent and stretch well beyond the city from the viewing point.

Montemor-O-Novo is pretty compact and can be easily walked in a couple of hours between the squares and churches down below. I wanted to visit the Escoural Cave, complete with prehistoric art but discovered you need to call ahead to arrange access.


Évora is the capital of Alto Alentejo and the principal city of the region, by car it should take around an hours drive from Montemor-O-Novo.

The historic centre is surrounded by towering stone walls and viaducts, and I loved the afternoon exploring here.

Start off in the Royal Palace gardens where peacocks casually stroll past the buildings before ducking outside to the Chapel of Bon, also known as the bone church as many skeletons decorate the building following a mass exhumation in years gone by.

Évora Cathedral is a large Gothic construction dating back to the 12th century and the nominal entrance fee which includes inside the church, the courtyard and the fantastic views across the city from the roof-top is a must do

Just along from the Cathedral is the Roman Temple of Évora which stands in excellent condition and would look more in place in Italy than a rural Portuguese city. The history of Portugal is often glossed over in favour of its beaches, but the more I explore the country, the more in awe I become of its fascinating collection of historic architecture.

The main square is a great stop to grab a bite to eat, listen to local musicians and people watch before strolling through narrow side streets of cobbles and whitewashed homes.


Another one hour drive brings you to Beja, the capital of Baixa Alentejo, and smaller than it’s counterpart Evora.

When I arrived, they were hosting ‘The Festival of Tiles’ which I’m assuming isn’t a year-round event, but traditional Portuguese tiles were permanently adorning many of the buildings throughout the city.

In Beja be sure not to miss out on the traditional market around the castle if you arrive on a Saturday morning. The 13th-century castle also boasts panoramic views from its tower.

The main square, a small affair, is shadowed by the Igreja de Misericórdia church which started its life as a meat market and the domed porch at the front often has local artwork on show. There are a few churches and galleries in the city, but you’ll need less time to get under the skin of Beja as you do in Évora. From Beja, you could continue your road-trip on to the Algarve’s coastline in under two hours and check out all my favourite Algarve hidden gems!

The Algarve is famed for its beautiful beaches, and world-renowned golf courses, but there are plenty of hidden gems in the Algarve to discover too.

While the big resorts of Albufeira and Lagos are well known, here we will guide you through twenty different spots that perhaps you haven’t heard of and will give you some new ideas to explore in the Algarve.


Silves provides the perfect mix of history, culture and cuisine. Once the capital of the Arab kingdom here in the Algarve, it’s well preserved red castle, perched above the colourful streets and squares below, is still the largest in the region. Surrounded by green hills and orange trees, Silves town has an impressive local market, an ancient Mosque (converted to a church) which boasts both Gothic and Baroque features and plenty of traditional coffee shops lining its small cobbled streets. It feels a world away from the bar filled roads at the beach resorts and its best explored during August when The Silves Medival Festival takes place.

Silves Castle

The walls of Silves Castle


Moorish history comes alive in Tavira where the Maria do Castelo church is home to knights tombs, and the medieval castle has panoramic views of this small city. The river running through is an extension of the nearby nature park and flamingos can be found dancing through the salt flats in season. The cobbled streets and long stretches of sandy beaches nearby make this an excellent base for exploring the Algarve, and thanks to the more traditional vibe here, it provides a more authentic Portuguese experience.

The beautiful town of Tavira

The beautiful town of Tavira


A short drive from Loulé is the small village of Alte which offers a great insight into a slower-paced and local way of life. If you head away from the coastal resorts then traditional Portuguese dishes, with traditional Portuguese prices, are a welcome rest-bite from the samey and sometimes expensive tourist menus that ply the main drags of the region. The nearby waterfall, although small and now sometimes lacking in water, is a pleasant hike outside the harsh heat of the summer months.


Just outside of Faro is Estoi, a small parish which houses Roman ruins in Milreu but also one of my favourite restored buildings in the region. The Pousada de Faro, once in disrepair, has now been renovated inside with the grounds the following suit as part of a luxury hotel renovation project which is bringing many historic buildings back to life in Portugal. You don’t have to be a guest to explore the main rooms and grounds of this 18th-century palace although a chilled glass of wine on the veranda comes with a slice of grandeur you’ll struggle to find elsewhere in the Algarve. If you want to experience the Turkish baths and boutique luxury, you’ll need to book a room.

The grand Estoi palace hotel

The grand Estoi palace hotel


The colourful streets of Loulé, with a central location, is another excellent base in the Algarve for those not wanting to stay at a beach resort. As with much of Portugal, the biggest joy comes from aimlessly wandering the stone alleys while grabbing coffees and pastries at suitable intervals. The reason I love Loulé so much is, as of yet, tourism hasn’t completely pushed out the traditional way of life, and many of the residents are locals. The town-centre has some great shops, a castle and a vast local market, and in general, it’s a chance to see the Algarve not washed out by visitors. If you are around at the end of June or early July be sure to check out the Festival Med when a whole host of musical, cultural and art-based events take over the town.

Castle of Paderne walking trail

This ruined church and fortressed walls from the 16th century isn’t much to look at anymore, but the stroll passed the nearby mill with little turtles in the river is a pleasant break from the beach if you have a car. Take the two-hour trail past the medieval bridge to get a little insight into the long history along the south of Portugal.

Praia da Marinha

The beach itself is one of the most famous in Portugal and with its striking appearance you can see why, but my favourite part of coming here is the clifftop walk above it. Multi-coloured rocks litter the walking trail to epic viewpoints, and Instagram lovers are now starting to flock to take the heart-shaped photo of the rocks). It’s a great spot to park up the car and eat a picnic lunch looking out on the Atlantic.

Marinha coastal caves at sunset

The coast and caves around Benagil at sunset

Benagil Caves

Without a doubt one of the most famed photo opportunities of the Algarve, the Benagil caves can be accessed by boat from various stops along the coast, although Praia de Benagil is the closest. You can swim from this beach into the caves although it’s not advised with the currents and tragically there was a death nearby in recent years as a boat collided with a swimmer so, please don’t. Inside the cave, you’ll be wowed by the sunlight from the hole in the roof illuminating the lapping waves inside.


Although the population of this small fishing village is minuscule, it has become an increasingly popular tourist spot to sample ‘authentic Portugal’. How authentic it is now is questionable, but step away from the main square to visit the ornate interior of the church before lounging on the beach with a small castle (now, I believe, a private home) above. From here boats cross the river to the favourite tourist spot of Praia da Rocha where beach club, No Solo Agua, is an excellent sun-downer spot before hitting up the late-night parties.

The castle above Ferragudo beach

The castle above Ferragudo beach


If you are visiting in the summer months, then some of the local springs here may have dried up, but if respite is your thing, then the ancient health resorts in Caldas de Monchique is a great place to check-in. Surrounded by dense trees and huge rocks, this elevated part of the Algarve is entirely different to the coast and is a good spot to stop if you are planning to drive to the Alentejo region next. Make sure to bring your re-refillable water bottles to take water straight from the springs here.

Carvoeiro board walk & hiking

This little village, with a small but perfectly cliff-flanked beach has become the poster-child for the Algarve of late. Walk up the hill to the left of the beach where a little church marks the starting point of the Carvoeiro Board Walk, a wooden path hugging the cliffs. Climb down into Algar Seco for rock pools and craggy formations or just to take a glass of wine at Boneca bar buried in the rock.

For those who don’t mind hiking on, continue to Vale Covo, a closed but stunning beach by the Tivoli hotel and finish up by the red lighthouse where you can turn inland to a handful of restaurants. The Sky-Bar at the newly renovated Tivoli also makes for a mean sunset spot in summer.

Fontes, Estombar

This municipal park is a popular spot for us locals to escape the beach and enjoy a picnic lunch surrounded by nature. The 12+ picnic tables quickly get busy on a sunny day, and the six BBQs are available to use, just bring your own coal and cooking tools.

The old-water wheel, an amphitheatre and millers house are the main ‘sights’, but the park plays host to various wildlife and birds with flamingos being a welcome addition during the season. Estombar is small, but it does have a train station which can make it more accessible to those without a car.

The nature of Estombar Fontes

The nature of Estombar Fontes


Lagoa has grown hugely in the past 30 years and has become a relatively well-known wine region in Portugal (read: vineyard tasting/drinking is compulsory). It’s located just outside Carvoeiro and Ferragudo and again, like Loulé provides a much more local town feel. Small restaurants on side alleys, such as A Tasquinha in town or A Paleta on the road to Carvoeiro offer great value menus. Quinta dos Santos, a recently opened craft beer and winery spot offer the chance to hit up a cellar door or grab some tapas and the converted Cooperative, now home to the ‘Lady in Red Gallery ‘serves up both wine and culture. You’ll also find my favourite water park in the Algarve, Slide and Splash, nearby.

If you are around in early July then the night-time, candlelit market is a really beautiful time to visit and see the streets all lit by natural flames.

Praia da Senhora da Rocha, Porches

Located near Porches, I love the views from the rock jutting out between the two beaches on either side. The white-washed church perched on the edge is one of my favourite places to chill with a good book and feel like I’m on the end of the world. The beach to the right is more of a pain to get down on, but it’s usually quieter than the one on the left. It’s a perfect setting for couples photoshoots, for those looking to enjoy romantic experiences in the Algarve.

Senhora de Rocha

Senhora da Rocha

Cape St Vincent / Sagres

The most westerly point of mainland Europe I believe is Cabo da Roca near Lisbon, although this is often given the designation and comes close. The lighthouse and dramatic cliffs here are a good stopping point on a road-trip to the lesser explored West coast of the Algarve.

Ria Formosa

A well-deserved member of the ‘7 Natural Wonders of Portugal’ this nature park formed from a mix of sand-bars, inlets and lagoons is rife with wildlife, quiet beaches and beautiful views. If you have a daytime flight, keep an eye out as it looks incredible when viewed from above. Boats tours from Faro will take you on day trips out to some of the harder to reach parts, and you can even spend the night on a houseboat here, my top pick for unique accommodation in the Algarve.

Beautiful white sand islands seen from above

The beautiful islands along the Faro coastline


The Algarve’s west coast is awash with surfing spots, empty beaches, small villages and farming valleys. In Aljezur, the ruins of a 10th-century Moorish castle tells the history of the region; if you haven’t noticed yet, a lot of places around the Algarve begin with Al, which highlights the history and roots of the Arabic period on the Iberian Peninsula. There are some truly incredible beaches along the coast, sand-dunes, great hikes and big waves aplenty. So few tourists venture to this part of the Algarve, and given how short driving routes around are thanks to the new (toll charged) motorways, it’s a crime.

Rota Vicentina, West Coast Trails

For those who like to walk, rather than resort hop, the Rota Vicentina is a vast walking trail network which crosses between the Algarve and the connecting region of the Alentejo. The Fisherman’s Trail hugs the shoreline and the views are breathtaking; an alternative inland route provides a tour of the more arid looking hills of Portugal.

In fact, we have a whole week in April dedicated to the nature of the region and the website has lots of information on how to enjoy the hidden gems of the Algarve in various outside ways.

The windswept Algarve west coast

The windswept Algarve west coast

Fonte Benemola and Querenca

This makes for a good combo on a morning or afternoon. The pretty easy walking trail through the national park, Fonte Benemola, takes a couple of hours and takes you through the greenery, running streams, and old olive presses and watermills.
Nearby, the small village of Querenca upon a hill is a beautifully spotless white-washed land with a strong commitment to culture and literacy through its cultural centre. The little square with two restaurants and a church is the ideal spot for a bit to eat or to try the local almond cake, after a walk through the park.

Bonus: Skydiving & SevenAir

If adventure is more your thing, then the aerodrome outside of Portimao offers up Skydiving with some incredible birds-eye views onto the Algarve coast. It’s also home to SevenAir, a small Portuguese airline that none of my friends around here seems to have heard about.

For relatively good value fares, SevenAir aircraft run regular flights to Cascais, near Lisbon, and some of the more prominent cities in the far north which also have connecting routes to Madiera. Not only does this provide a convenient alternative than going back to Faro to connect through Lisbon but the small planes, which make multiple stops on route to the north offer fantastic views of the country from the windows.

The best part about the Algarve is its compact size, so it makes for the ideal road-trip to hit up many spots in a relatively short period. Whether you want a different vibe or merely a different beach every-day, there is so much more going on here than your typical brochure lead holidays would have you believe.

This post was first published on, and has kindly been shared with Guide2Portugal.