Portugal is a southern European country on the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. Once a renowned robust nation that commanded the merchant routes to the Orient, Portugal today is a friendly, subdued country with a laid-back hostel vibe. Known for its cobble-stoned streets, castles, vineyards, and primarily for its fantastic coastline, it is a country perfect for exploration.
Portugal's charms come from lackadaisical days spent on the beach, the savory seafood, fine wine, and beautiful sunset over the Atlantic. Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and one of its most historic cities. Situated atop the River Tagus, Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world. Some of the best hostels in Portugal are located here and they are within easy access to some of the best spots this country has to be explored.
The ideal time to visit Portugal is in the spring, where one can have the opportunity to witness the hillsides covered by dazzling flowers and the countryside lit up by almond blossoms. Or early Autumn around October when the weather is pleasant and the summer crowd is sparse.
Accommodations in Portugal are pretty good value. Some hostels are a bit on the basic side, and others geared towards schools and groups, but nearly all are in convenient locations for sightseeing. Some of the newer hostels at in Lisbon, Lousã, and Guimarães are very well designed while many others have wi-fi, cafés, bars, and bike rental as standard. Hostel prices vary according to season, location, and facilities (high season is basically July, August, Easter, Christmas and other public holidays).
Lisbon is the largest city in Portugal and is known for its beguiling back streets, old world shops, Maneuline or Portuguese Gothic cathedrals, colorful neighborhood, echoing traditional fado music, and clubbing scene. The resting place of explorer Vasco da Gama at Jerónimos Monastery is a good starting place to commence your tour of this historic city. Other places to visit are the Moorish castle of São Jorge in the Alfama district, which offers the best views of the city; the Berardo Musuem, which houses the works of Rembrandt, Monet, etc.; The Chapel of St. John the Baptist, the most expensive chapel; or just climb onto one of the vintage trams and get enmeshed in the historicity of Lisbon.
Another main attraction of Portugal is its beaches, and Algarve is its epitome. Lagos with its seafaring heritage is one place to visit as it offers the opportunity to witness most scenic beaches, medieval castles, and the heart-stopping rock formations which are in contrast with the lazuline waters. Also available are sightseeing cruises and dolphin safaris. In eastern Algarve is the town of Tavira, a town's legacy shaped by the Romans and then the Moors. Known for its castles, bridges, and monuments, Tavira is also one of the few islands where camping is permitted or you could just sign up for a sightseeing cruise along the beautiful Ria Formosa.
Snuggled up between the Sintra Mountains is the town of Sintra, popular for its royal heritage. Filled with castles, palaces, villas, and royal retreats, this is a place to envision the Portuguese royal family. The ancient ruins of Castle of the Moors atop the highest hill is a sight to behold along with the exotic and romantic palatial villa, Monserrate Palace.
Another charm of Portugal is its vineyards. And if you are craving a taste of fine wine, there is no other better place than the city of Porto, world famous for its production of fine port wine. The city also features the main tourist attraction of the Ponte Dom Luis, a metallic double-deck arch bridge which connect Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, well known for its port wine cellars. Some of the finest hostels in Portugal are located within easy access to these famed vineyards and wine tasting spots, so you can enjoy the best that this country has to offer, while enjoying comfortable accommodation at reasonable costs.
Handwritten by local expert for Portugal hostels Joy Barboza