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.
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.