Portugal is located at the southwestern tip of Europe. It's the "face" of Europe in the same way that Italy is Europe's "boot". Staring out into the Atlantic Ocean, it was from here that the explorers sailed around the world, discovering new lands.
More recently, Portugal has become synonymous with bucket-and-spade Algarve vacations. In addition to its beautiful beaches, Portugal has a rich cultural heritage, bounteous natural attractions such as reserves, parks, an untamed Atlantic coast, gorgeous islands (the Azores, Madeira), and a friendly and welcoming people. All are excellent reasons for booking cheap airline tickets to Portugal. Once you get there, you'll be entranced by the easygoing Portuguese way of life.
An added bonus is that Portugal is, still, a comparatively inexpensive European destination. Lisbon, its capital, is set across seven hills and bordered by the River Tagus. Apart from its charming neighbourhoods and its fado singing clubs, bars and restaurants, one of the best things is using its public transportation. Funiculars and an elevator connect the lower and upper parts of the city.
Summers in Portugal can reach 29 C and are hot and dry. It’s quite nice on the coast though, where the eastern sea breezes cool the summer air. The northwest parts of the country get heavy rains from the end of November through the beginning of March.
When to fly to Portugal
Even in wintertime, the Algarve enjoys balmy temperatures. The average temperature is 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit). Summer temperatures hover about the mid-20s (70s F), soaring to 30 degrees (86F) in July and August. Madeira and the Azores have mild temperatures all year. Temperatures range between 19 degrees (66F) (winter) and 24 degrees (75F) (summer). In the north of Portugal, summer temperatures are in the mid-20s (70s F); winters are rainy and cool.
Portugal is a four-season destination and it's difficult to select a bad time to book cheap flights to Portugal, Madeira and the Azores. Winters in the north of the country are colder and rainier. The Serra da Estrela mountains get some snowfall. There is a small ski resort at the summit - the Vodafone Ski Resort.
Getting around Portugal
Once you've landed on cheap flights to Portugal, domestic flights are served by TAP Air Portugal. The national airline flies between Faro, Lisbon, Porto, the Azores and Madeira. On the Azores, there are airports in Ponta Delgada, Santa Maria and Angra. There are inter-island flights and ferries too.
The bus network is good and inexpensive and links Portugal's biggest towns and cities. The Alfa Pendular train runs from Braga (to the north of Porto) to Lisbon and on to Faro. Intercity and regional trains offer a good network throughout the country.
Lisbon has an underground metro system. Using one of Lisbon's old elevadores (funicular railways) is a tourist must-do.
Auto Jardim, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Nationa/Alamo, Rentauto and Sixt are some of the car rental companies that can be found at the major airports.
Taxis are also relatively inexpensive.
Portugal insider information
- Prince Henry the Navigator's fortress is in Sagres. It was at this most southwesterly point in Europe that the prince worked on his dream to explore the unknown lands beyond Portugal. Beyond the fortress, the land drops sharply; 46 metres into the briny, stormy Atlantic. Next stop, America.
- Alentejo, the south-central region of Portugal, is a great base for exploring Neolithic and Roman sites. Its name translates to "Across the Tagus" or "Beyond the Tagus". Some of the must-sees in this region include the Moorish castle of Alcácer do Sal; Beja, an ancient Roman town, and later, Muslim cultural centre, with Gothic and Renaissance buildings too; and Castelo de Vide, a pretty spa town, often referred to as the Sintra of the Alentejo.
- Sintra, a district in Lisbon, is a Unesco World Heritage Site for its 19th-century Romantic architecture. It is a very popular tourist attraction. The Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, and Palácio Nacional de Sintra, the 15th/16th-century summer residence of the kings of Portugal are all must-sees. The Sintra Mountain Range, one of the largest parks in the Lisbon area, (Serra de Sintra) is also a popular attraction.
- Naturtejo is a relatively newly designated Unesco Geopark in central Portugal, near the border with Spain. It covers 4617 km sq. There is a trekking network with more than 260km of trails, boat trips and geokayaking in the Tagus and Zezere rivers and minibus tours. It is renowned for its fossils and the village of Monsanto is a must- visit.
- The Azores, some 1,500km off the coast of Portugal in the North Atlantic Ocean, is one of the best places in the world to see whales. Nature enthusiasts can go whale-watching in the Azores, with some boats staffing experienced marine biologists. Pico is the closest base to the whales' feeding grounds. In April/May and September/October the migrating Blue, Fin, Sei, Minke and Humpback whales can be seen.
- Madeira is a popular spot for tourists. Each year thousands of travellers take cheap flights to Portugal - and then on to Madeira - for the island's climate, cuisine and slow pace. The island is a particular favourite of British tourists.