Five great reasons to visit Portugal

A small village by the Atlantic

Portugal, even with all its beauty, is strangely a less noisy tourist destination. I might be wrong about this, but I say this based more on my perception about the travel coordinates of people around me. Summer is a great time to visit Europe, and come summer, my Facebook newsfeed is replete with travel updates of people visiting Paris, Switzerland, Greece, and Amsterdam. However, I never really see anyone who visited Portugal. When I came back from my solo backpacking trip to Portugal recently, most people asked me why I chose Portugal of all destinations. Both these reasons made me think that Portugal is perhaps not a very common tourist destination for Indians. However, I had an amazing time during my trip, and I will share some good reasons why I would love to visit Portugal again.

1. Breathtaking beauty

This was my main reason of visiting Portugal. The sheer beauty of it is amazing. Of the very little time I spent in Portugal, I experienced a little bit of everything. It is like eating a fancy buffet, where you get to taste everything you have wanted to eat. Coastal Portugal has some of the most amazing sights of the Atlantic Ocean. The little fishing villages, the churches, the bell towers, and the winding streets were a welcome relief from the predictable big cities and the monotonous freeways of America. There is history written all over Portugal. There is a great balance of city beauty coupled with rustic country beauty. There are beautiful churches, castles and palaces. The view of the bay from Lisbon is amazing. If you can endure the heat, the weather is awesome. Portugal is easily one of the most beautiful countries I have visited.

Travel tip: The westernmost point of continental Europe is located in Portugal, and is must see.

The westernmost tip of continental Europe

2. Inexpensive

Portugal is one of the most inexpensive places I have visited. As a student, I travel on a shoestring budget, live in hostels, get my way around a place on foot, prefer fruits and sandwiches to dining in fancy restaurants, and try to keep my fringe costs low. I could afford a nice hostel, eat whatever I wanted to, and travel around at very reasonable prices. I once bought two days worth of fruit supplies for three euro. I even hailed a cab when I had to get back to my hostel due to high fever. I took trains to commute to different cities. None of those made dents in my pocket.

Travel tip: Buying a one day or multiple day city pass really helps you to get around and see the places of interest.

Lisboa

3. Excellent public transportation
The public transportation in Portugal is impressive. The Oriente train station in Lisbon is one of the most beautiful railway stations I have seen. Within-city commute is extremely planned and easy to figure out. The bus and metro services in Lisbon is great. I had a train taking me to Sintra at 4:30 in the morning, and it was right on time. The trains are clean, comfortable, and reliable. I needed to change my train timings and get an earlier train on my return trip, and the people at the railway station were more than happy to get me an earlier reservation. The yellow trams that take you around the city cover most of the touristy places. If you buy a one-day or multiple-day pass, you can take the bus, tram, or metro, and commute becomes so much easier.
Travel tip: Ride the tram number 28 in Lisbon.

Bridges and Riverfront

4. Peaceful, baggage-free travel

The best thing about my Portugal experience was, I could just take a map and venture out on my way, finding my way independently. Unless you are really in the wrong place at the wrong time, I would not feel unsafe. I was a single woman backpacking on my own and not once did I feel uncomfortable. The metro and trains ply until late hours and the touristy places are crowded. In comparison, Italy had felt somewhat unsafe to me. Most people will understand functional English in Portugal unlike Sicily where I got around using sign language most of the time. Portugal is not Switzerland, New York, or Paris, which makes it all the more endearing. You can safely skip the crowd that visits places for the hype it has created in the past. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or Yash Chopra movies might have made Switzerland a popular destination, and the same goes for Paris or New York City (Kal Ho Na Ho), but I would give anything to skip the crowd in Niagara Falls, the long queues to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or the mélange of international crowd in Pisa. Portugal feels more unexplored and “local” to me than most other places I have visited.

Travel tip: Do not miss the elevators, lifts, and funiculars that take you up and give you a panoramic view of the city.

The city of Porto

5. A photographer’s haven

If you are even remotely interested in photography, Portugal will never disappoint you. I went crazy clicking thousands of pictures. Portugal is vibrant, colorful, cosmopolitan, and yet rustic in a beautiful way. The banks of the Douro river in Porto is lined with colorful flags and quaint houses with balconies. You would see colorful clothes drying off in the sun, and winding streets with old houses lining the cityscape. You will love the orange-tiled rooftop houses, and the bright contrast it makes with the blueness of the oceans. You would love the bridges of Porto, the trams of Lisboa, the palaces of Sintra, and the small colorful fisherman villages by the Atlantic.

Travel tip: The city of Porto in Portugal is a photographer’s delight, especially the part of the city by the riverfront, or the view of the city from the numerous bridges.

The trams of Lisbon

If you were considering a trip to Portugal and would like some more convincing, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to continue to blabber about how great an experience my Portugal trip was.

36 Comments

  • Awesome photography…………………with excellent description……………………….

  • ashok sharma says:

    beautiful snaps

  • Vibha says:

    Wow DC! I am convinced! :)
    I have seen Portugal in TV shows and now I can see why some people from the UK would want to move permanently to Portugal.

    Lovely pictures as usual. Hope to see more accounts of Europe soon. :)

  • Sanskriti Bhalse says:

    Devsmita
    Your post was very nice the photographs were very nice, that last picture of bus is nice.

  • Devasmita says:

    Shivraj, thank you !

    ashok, thank you !

    Vibha, yes, it is a great place to visit, and if I had job opportunities, moving to Portugal wouldn’t be that bad either :)

    Sanskriti, thank you ! And those are the trams of Lisbon.

  • ram dhall says:

    Thanks for introducing us to the awesome beauty of Portugal with your brilliant write up.

    You have put Portugal on my travel radar.

  • Devasmita says:

    ram, thank you. Portugal will not disappoint you, I promise.

  • Kolor says:

    Lovely pics. They say all photos are biased by the perspective of the person behind the camera. Clearly its a great bias. :)

  • Devasmita says:

    Kolor, I like your concept of bias here :) Perhaps that explains why some typically touristy places popular with others haven’t impressed me much :)

  • Lisbon says:

    It’s in fact a mystery why Portugal doesn’t get more Indian tourists, considering it’s one of the Western countries with the biggest historical and cultural links to India. Lisbon’s mayor is of Goan descent which is just one reminder among many in the city of Vasco da Gama’s epic voyage.
    Your photos capture the country well, and you’re absolutely right about it being a photographer’s haven. In Lisbon’s Alfama quarter alone you’ll find hundreds of photos in every corner!

  • Devasmita says:

    Lisbon, I will absolutely agree with you. The Portuguese-Indian history was one of the factors that lured me to visit Portugal. Given its history, I was interested to see if there are cultural traits I can identify. The orange-tiled rooftops was one such similarity. However, the absence of Indian tourists, as compared to the other popular destinations surprised me.

  • Classy pics and very beautiful place superb………………………

    veru good narration too………………………

    Keep Travelling and posting…………………….

  • Classy pics and very beautiful place superb………………………

    Pics of villages and towns are too good…………………….

    veru good narration too………………………

    Keep Travelling and posting…………………….

  • Devasmita says:

    Vishal, thanks :)

  • Virag Sharma says:

    Nice writeup , pics say is must visit place :-)
    Beautiful pics

  • Devasmita says:

    Virag, thanks :)

  • Nandan says:

    It never occurred to me untill Lisbon’s comment and your response, about the huge Portugal connection India has. It could very well have been a Portugal empire if certain things have moved different way.

    This post has got 141 likes (and counting) which is just TOO many :-). I am hoping that this ghumakkar post of yours is gonna inspire a lot of folks to visit Portugal.

    Hope everything is fine with you and wishing you good luck.

  • venkatt says:

    Superb pictures. Portugal looks like a real find for both discerning travellers and regular tourists.

  • Devasmita says:

    Nandan, thanks :) I am overwhelmed by the phenomenal response to this post. 147 likes is a record by all means, surpassing anything I have seen my writings get. In fact I was in class yesterday when I excitedly waited for the 100th :) I have been doing good, and as always, traveling and writing keeps me happy.

    venkatt, thanks :) Portugal is definitely a gem of a find if you are in Europe and do not care about where you go :)

  • Sara says:

    Hello there :)

    I’m portuguese and i absolutely loved your report! :)

    Cheap, really? wow, some years ago Lisboa was considered + expensive than Madrid.. well, glad its more acessible now

    About indian tourists, yeah i dont find many but there are some living here too. Specially in the summer Lisbon is surrounded by tourists, specialling english and american ones. It seems USA likes Portugal (haha)

    A lot of english people lives here, in the countryside because of relax, its not stressful and its beautiful. As for me, although i love it, im a lisboet so id miss my city <3

    There's a thing that always intrigues me – why some german people wants to live here with such a crisis. they say because we're nice, and the people i talk with is usually nice, even some people with bad character helps others/tourists.. Hmm, were people nice to you? ^^

  • Devasmita says:

    Sara, people were extremely nice to me in Portugal. I found food cheap compared to the other European countries I have visited. Of course I have never been to Spain. I would love to go back to Portugal any summer (or winter). Is it very cold in winter there?

    • Sara says:

      hmm it depends. With this global effect thing, it will surely rain here. Until last week it was really hot here, it seemed summer! yesterday started to rain a little but now its okay again.

      In Lisbon is not that cold at winter but if you go to the North its totally cold. If you go to north, try to go to Serra da Estrela to see the snow. Lisbon is a little warmer so you dont have any snow. Its extremely rare. In 60 years, there were only two times Lisbon had snow – 1954 and 2006.

      Comparing to countries as Germany where the winter seems really cool here its softer but still cold so go get some coats. Of course it depends on people, i mean, since in UK it rains a lot english people come here in autumn wearing t-shirts in the cold!

      But yeah overall is cold, around 13/16 degrees maximum and 6/10 minimum.

  • Tiago Varela says:

    Hi

    I was brought to your post by VisitPortugal (Turismo de Portugal) the official web resource for tourism and travel in Portugal. They posted your post on Facebook. =)

    I’m Portuguese and a Lisboeta (born/raise/live in Lisbon), even though my entire family is from the North of Portugal. I have to say i enjoy reading so nice comments from you about my country and city. Indeed Portugal is the biggest kept secret in Europe. Maybe because we’re a peripheral country or because Portugal lost it’s international importance for so long, specially in the start of the XX century. We are a very small country, but people that visit us will be astonish to find that even the stones in the road have something to tell. Such a huge history for such a small place … and the diversity is also one of a kind. You have the amazing beaches in Algarve region (south) and the green views and castles found in center and north of Portugal. Very glad you enjoyed it.

    It amazes me that some Indians don’t even know the strong connection Portugal has with India, like i read in some comments … In Portugal India is one of the most spoken countries in our schools, we learn about the maritime rout to India and the Portuguese ex-colonies, the “fight” with Indian government for those lands, the trade with India and the portuguese-indian “blood” mixes and marriages . For many western people India is only what they see in flashy Bollywood films and in Hollywood films like Moulin Rouge, but to us Portuguese we do have a deeper connection with that country.

    Very glad that travelling is one of your passions and keep spreading your beautiful views on the world.

    Kisses
    Tiago Varela

    • Devasmita says:

      Dear Tiago,

      Such a heart warming comment, thank you so much :) I have a lot to thank Portugal about, those were the best 4 days of my vacation. I visited Lisboa, Porto, and Sintra, and each place was warm and beautiful in its own way. The best thing about it were the people, so nice and caring and affectionate, from the people who gave me direction when I was lost, to the lady at the pharmacy store who gave me medicines when I was running high fever, and told me how I should take care of myself. My cab driver in Sintra waited a full 15 minutes without the meter running so that I could take some pictures. I have so many more wonderful stories to share about your country. I would be lucky if I can visit you all someday soon :)

      Warmest regards.

  • Shubhra says:

    Devasmita,
    Great introduction to Portugal. I visited Macau recently which has been a Portugese colony until very recently (1999) and is now under Chinese administration . After reading that you visited places called Lisboa and Sintra I now know from where the famous Casino Lisboa and the Hotel Sintra (where we stayed) derive their names from !
    The cobbled streets and the architecture of many buildings along with the names like Largo Do Senado and Sao Paulo give a small glimpse into Portugal and when you look at the people ..they are all native chinese. It’s so interesting how the mark of the Portugese culture is left on a far away place..which gives Macau such a distinctive European look even though it is now China!

    • Devasmita says:

      This is so interesting Shubhra. This is how strong cross-cultural influences get, spreading wide and far. Personally, it is surprising to me that more people do not make the Indo-Portuguese connection. Take us to Macau sometime through Ghumakkar :)

  • Nandan says:

    This post is at 384 Likes. :-) :-)

    DC – Should I link all the Portugal stories as a series ?

    • Devasmita says:

      Nandan, yes please, that would be awesome :) I had never imagined 384 Likes when I wrote this post. I was tired of sitting through a difficult coding class and wrote it in haste to take a much needed break :)

  • I recently visited Portugal, and found it amazingly beautiful. I was in Lisbon and Alentejo. I absolutely love Evora. If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be Evora.

    I grew up in the western part of the US, and so Alentejo seemed peaceful, and homelike to me.

  • Dubliner says:

    Devasmita,

    Those are amazing pictures. I must say that in Ireland I have met some Indian people holding Portuguese Passports (proudly) and I kind of wondered why. I guess the comments here have been enlightening.

    I love Portugal and in a selfish way I am glad it’s still an underrated country. It has been able to keep its soul and I just can’t get enough of the genuine Portuguese welcoming.

    I specially like the North & Minho in May/June and September. I was very fortunate to live and work in Porto for 2 years and ever since I’ve bee trying to find a job there again. From there I visited Viana, Caminha, Valenca, and Galicia. There’ s a very Celt feeling on both sides of the border and northern Portugal is culturally very connected to Galicia, even in the language.

    Down south I visited Obidos, Alcobaca, Batalha and Nazare and a spent a weekend in Coimbra and 5 days in Lisbon & Sintra. I can also recommend all of these places.

    Unfortunately I never got to see Evora and Alentejo. But I flew to Faro for 15,00 return ticket with Ryanair and nothing can beat that. Off peak Algarve is gorgeous but more expensive than the rest of the country.

  • Umesh says:

    hi.. I am Umesh (India),
    I am in Porto from last one and half month.
    As my observation the people of Portugal is very friendly.
    I really love the behavior of Portugal people specially Porto people ….

  • Nandan Jha says:

    We are re-publishing this story as part of our ‘Featured Author’ celebration. This is DC’s pick. We would be also publishing her first story at Ghumakkar later this month.

    @ DC – The social-sharing counters are reset because of URL change. We are still able to preserve the ‘Search Traffic’. http://www.ghumakkar.com/2011/10/16/five-great-reasons-to-visit-portugal redirects to the new URL. But social-counters got reset. Technically facebook should reconcile older data with newer URL, lets see.

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Devasmita,

    Amazing post and amazing country – I just wonder how Vasco could leave such a pretty country!?

    I declare the three post combo on Portugal the Post of the Year!

  • Reema says:

    wonderful photographs and great post.

  • Devasmita,
    Thanks a lot for sharing this travel experience with us. The information you have have provided is valuable for the guys who are traveling first time. Keep traveling and keep writing.

  • DJ says:

    Great write up. Wifey has just started planning a trip to Portugal in July and honestly I was unsure if it will be any good. You have given me a lot to think about. Will definitely get in touch once we start making final plans

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