Exploring Portugal, The Azores and Madeira


Situated in the extreme southwest of Europe, Portugal is just a few hours from any other European capital, attracting worldwide visitors. It has the oldest borders in Europe, with an exceptional range of different landscapes, lots of leisure activities and a unique cultural heritage. Its superb cuisine, fine wines and hospitable people offer a tourist paradise of the highest quality. It’s a land of fairytale castles and sandy beaches in abundance plus a history stretching back thousands of years.

Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and largest city. Appreciated for its charm and exquisite architecture, Lisbon exudes an inviting warmth that most European capitals have outgrown.

The narrow streets of Lisbon’s centuries-old Alfama quarter lead up to the city’s most famous landmark, the Castle of San Jorge. From there, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of Lisbon and the River Tagus. 

Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, every year attracting thousands of tourists eager to discover the ancient downtown and the colorfully painted houses on the riverside. Its delicious wines and port wine cellars are a big attraction. A river cruise through the Douro Valley is a great way to experience Portugal.

The Portuguese climate varies from one region to another. It offers mild winters, especially in the Algarve, where it is mild and sunny year-round. 

The Algarve’s sunny shores provide perfect escapes for those seeking the nightlife of flashy, energetic Lagos and for those desiring a secluded stay in rambling Sagres. Portugal’s most southerly region offers historical attractions, golf, beaches, the thermal springs at Caldas de Monchique and miles of limestone caves and grottoes, cliffs and bays along its rugged coastline. 

There are many more jewels in Portugal’s tourism crown, but it’s the warm and welcoming Portuguese themselves who have helped establish their country as one of Europe’s most appealing destinations. 

The volcanic archipelago of the Azores is one of Portugal’s best kept secrets. Like a fragment of Europe adrift in the Atlantic, its nine islands are spread across 645 kilometers midway between Portugal and the USA. 

The largest island in the Azores is Sao Miguel, its regional capital, most notable for its crater lakes and Furnas, a popular spa resort famous for its steam vents, hot springs, boiling mud and other types of geothermal activity.

With a spectacular landscape and temperate year-round climate, Santa Maria was the first island to be discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1427, while the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island is another highlight. 

Long, thin and mountainous, the island of Sao Jorge is best known for its cheeses and other rich daily products. Rising to 2,350 meters, Pico Island boasts Portugal’s highest peak and is the region’s main whale-watching center, while Faial Island is an international meeting point for yachts and other mid-Atlantic seafaring vessels.

Out west and at the very edge of Europe, Flores and Corvo are two remote Atlantic outposts near each other that few people have yet visited. 

The Azores is a geometric center of the world with more natural attractions to see. Linked with three continents, this long-lost archipelago owed its name in former days to the great birds that once hovered above it.

Rising like a green miracle from the Atlantic, some 1,000 kilometers southwest of Lisbon, the subtropical island of Madeira has been an upmarket holiday destination since the 19th century. Famous for its rich, fruity wine of the same name, the island is blessed with a spectacular volcanic landscape and lush subtropical climate.

Madeira’s capital, Funchal, is an enchanting city set on a glittering bay against a backdrop of soaring green mountains. In addition to the harbor and surrounding historic quarter, must-see attractions include the wine cellars and nearby botanical gardens.

Although Portugal is not an island country, it does possess numerous islands located in the North Atlantic region. The Azores, alongside Madeira and continental Portugal, form the Republic of Portugal.

Contact your local travel advisor for more information and ways to visit this beautiful destination either by land or a river cruise. 

About Nancy B. Alligood, CTC 23 Articles
Nancy B. Alligood, CTC is general manager/owner of Warwick Travel Service, Inc.and can be reached at 757-599-3011 or at n_alligood@warwicktravel.com.

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