Located at the western fringes of Southern Europe, Portugal is all too often overshadowed by its Iberian big brother: Spain. And while it's convenient and fun to combine a vacation to Portugal with Spain, Gibraltar or Morocco, we're here to tell you that this small coastal country (approximately the same size as Indiana) merits a large chunk of your precious vacation time – all on its own!
Rather isolated, the land that makes up Portugal is a long, slender strip that sits just under Spain's northwestern province of Galicia and runs south along the Iberian Peninsula's Atlantic coastline. The contrast between Portugal's northern half and its southern half is unmistakable. Northern Portugal is home to striking, mountainous landscapes and beautiful river valleys; this is where many of Portugal's best wine regions are located. On the other hand, the southern half of the country is defined by its plains, gentle hills, limestone caves and magnificent beaches.
Despite being small, there is so much to see in Portugal that it's almost impossible to include it all on one trip. Most visitors tend to focus on Lisbon, the Costa del Sol beaches, and the many historic towns that lie between Lisbon and Coimbra like Sintra, Obidos, Nazare, Alcobaca, Batalha, Tomar and Fatima. If you want to venture further north, you'll need to add a few more days to visit Porto and Portugal's scenic wine country. Visitors wanting to explore the southern, picturesque Algarve region often hire a car from Lisbon and spend their entire vacation exploring the Algarve's Roman ruins, fishing towns, historic Moorish fortresses and postcard-perfect,
If however, you are looking for a Portugal-Spain vacation combo, consider pairing Portugal's northern city of Porto and the nearby Alto Douro wine region (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with either the beautiful Spanish region of Galicia or with the historic Castilian cities of Salamanca and Valladolid. The Portuguese capital city of Lisbon is well connected to Barcelona and Madrid by plane. However, to combine Lisbon or the Algarve region with the Spanish region of Andalusia (to cities like Cadiz or Seville), bus travel or a rental car might prove most convenient.
Largest cities: Lisbon, Porto