Golden sands, immaculate fairways, traditional towns and rural landscapes – Portugal holidays have the lot. But with so many exciting resorts to choose from in the Algarve, Lisbon Coast area and Madeira, it can be tricky to decide where to stay. That’s where we come in. So, whether you fancy just flights or the whole package in Portugal, follow our roundup of top destinations to pick your favourite.
And to make it that bit easier to settle on the ultimate Portugal holiday, we’ve broken down our top choices into whether they’re for golf fans, sun-seekers or adventurers.
For golf fans
The vibe in Vilamoura is upmarket. Its swanky marina is just the start – set foot on the beach and you’ll soon be surrounded by chic beach clubs and quieter patches of sand. There’s even an ultra-cool Thai restaurant. But Vilamoura’s a renowned choice for an Algarve holiday mostly due to its great golf offering.
Dom Pedro Vilamoura is the place to tee off in this part of Portugal. The hotel lays on a free shuttle that’ll connect you to each of its five esteemed golf courses. While the Dom Pedro Victoria is the most talked about of the quintet, the 18-hole Old Course is known for its impressive layout of pine trees and sculpted fairways. Why not stay a while and make your way around all five? It’d be rude not to…
The classic sun, sea and sand combo is done oh-so well in Carvoeiro. This popular patch is enveloped by rugged cliffs, carpeted in golden sand and lapped by shimmering aquamarine water. If you wander down from the top of the road, don’t miss your chance to snap some incredible photos. It’s then a case of winding down to the ocean.
No matter whether you’re going with the kids, a group of friends or simply your other half, you’ll be able to spread out and enjoy the Algarvian seafront at its finest. The beach is backed by a range of traditional souvenir shops and Portuguese restaurants, so why not cool off and refuel with a light lunchtime bite? There are also convenient showers for washing sandy fingers and toes!
Holidays to the Algarve wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Albufeira. But if you’re looking purely for adventure, this is where you’ll find some.
Exploring the local markets and churches might be enough culture for you, but Albufeira promises more. From indoor go-kart racing to pottering around the 12th-century Paderne Castle, you’ll be able to get your fix of action as well. And just north of Albufeira, in Guia, there’s Zoomarine too. Big kids and actual little ones alike will all find something to enjoy here – we’re talking fun rides, an aquarium, 4D cinema and some tasty themed restaurants.
To top it all off, the Strip is a neon-lit hive of activity, with bars, clubs and laid-back eateries for adults to get stuck into.
For golf fans
Santa Da Serra
All eyes are on the immaculate greens of Santa Da Serra, so make it your brilliant base for a Portugal holiday if you’re keen to practise your swing.
This leafy-green paradise provides the ideal platform for a day or three on the course in Madeira. Get yourself over to Santa Da Serra Golf, hop on a buggy and prepare to be dazzled by all 27 holes. Here in these championship surrounds, you’ll find the scenery almost as dramatic as the tricky bunkers and slopes to conquer. After all, it’s the home of the Madeira Islands Open! And when you’re done, why not reward yourself with a tipple in the clubhouse?
Looking for a blissful break? Head to Calheta, flop down on the beach and drink in the seemingly-endless views of the clear water ahead. While tumbling hills and tucked-away UNESCO sites offer a dreamy backdrop to your seaside lazing, you can choose whether to explore the area or simply kick back and relax.
The main beach in Calheta is manmade, which is a little different to some of the no-frills volcanic coastal areas on the island. It’s said that the biscuit-coloured grains here were imported from Morocco! How’s that for extra-special? Low-key beach bars can be found there too, which makes grabbing a bite on the go nice and handy.
Fabulous Funchal is Madeira’s cool-as-it-comes capital. It’s cultural and beautiful in equal measure and it’s hotly-tipped as a top choice for sampling the island’s iconic wine, moseying around museums and dining on sumptuous seafood.
Better yet, its flourishing botanical gardens are whimsically wonderful. The patches of vibrant flowers, plants and trees will wow you, so remember to pack your camera. To up the ante, how about going dolphin and whale-watching, swimming in the lido or hopping in the Monte cable car to see the sights from a height? Quirkier still, Funchal offers toboggan rides down a hill!
Lisbon Coast holidays
For culture vultures
Prepare to have your socks knocked off. Lisbon, Portugal’s showstopping capital, is one of the country’s greatest treasures. Holidays here will open your eyes to an Aladdin’s cave of history and more outstanding food than you can dream of.
Lisbon’s big hitters include dramatic Castelo de São Jorge and jaw-dropping Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. But one not to miss off your list is Alfama. This atmospheric district oozes traditional Portuguese character, with narrow lanes lined with colourful tile-clad houses and a vintage yellow train trundling up the hillside. Explore by day, then spend your evenings in neighbouring Bairro Alto, grazing on salted cod and sampling delicious local wine in dinky bars.
Just down the coast from Portugal’s capital, pretty Cascais has long been a favourite for beach bums – it even has the royal seal of approval, with King Luis making it his royal residence during 1870!
Follow in regal footsteps and experience this bustling resort’s sweeping bays and charming old town. Praia da Conceição is Cascais’ flagship sunbathing spot, while Praia do Guincho is a little further to reach but worth the journey for the brilliant surf. When the sun sets on another beautiful day, Cascais really comes alive. Amble through the twisting lanes of the historic centre and find your favourite watering hole.
This dreamy place among Portugal’s dramatic mountains is as magical as they come. Sintra is wildly different to any other part of the country – in the best possible way. Whimsical spires and turrets pierce the skyline, surrounded by dense forest, so you’ll feel as though you’re part of a fairytale.
Sintra’s pair of palaces – Palácio Nacional de Sintra and Palácio Nacional da Pena – are total must visits. As is spellbinding Quinta da Regaleira with its spiralling six-storey well. The lush countryside this resort is set in also makes for wonderful days of hiking and adventures among the great outdoors.
Posted: 25th Apr 2020.