Portugal

8 Reasons Why Americans Should Visit Portugal Now

Miradouro das Portas do Sol
Miradouro das Portas do Sol

Portugal has been the subject of many travel articles recently, asserting that it is too often overlooked as a vacation destination and espousing its many amazing qualities from its beaches to affordability. Travel and Leisure declared Portugal “The Destination of the Year” for 2016 and the Huffington Post stated its “The Country Everybody Will be Visiting in 2017.”

It is not just the beauty of the country that is driving the interest, but also the low cost, amazing weather and food and accessibility. Here is why you should visit Portugal now.

1. Cheap Airfare

View of Almada from the plane
Flying into Lisbon

Flights to Lisbon from the US are some of the cheapest flights you can buy to Europe, starting at $600 roundtrip. There are direct flights from several East coast cities to Lisbon – NYC, Boston, Washington, DC and Miami. The flights are 7-8 hours, not much longer than a flight to California. Check Google flights for the best fares.

Furthermore, TAP Portugal is offering free extended layovers for other European destinations. So if you have plans to travel to another country, you can squeeze in a trip to Lisbon as well and get two destinations for the price of one.

2. Affordability

Portugal is well known for its low cost of living, which offers a major benefit to tourists.  A casual lunch will run €7-10 per person and a casual dinner will cost under €30 per person. Even better, a nice dinner complete with drinks, dessert and coffee will run around €40-50 per person, about the price of a normal dinner in NYC.  Accommodations are more expensive in summer – in the cities and popular beach towns, the cost of hotels will be similar to the US. But the rest of the year and in less popular areas, hotels, quartos and Air BnB apartments can start at under €40 total! Transportation within Portugal is also quite cheaper than in the US. A first class train ride from Lisbon to the Algarve region is €30 per person.

3. Exchange Rates

The Euro-USD exchange rate is a great reason to travel to Europe in general right now.  At the current exchange rate of €1 to $1.12, it is close to a 5 year low.  I like to think of Portugal as double savings opportunity – favorable exchange rates + low prices = great opportunity to vacation for less.

Beaches in Algarve
Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

4. The Beaches

Portugal, especially the Algarve region, has hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches. With smooth sand, rugged rock formations and endless coves, there is so much to explore. There are many beautiful beaches within an hour of Lisbon. As mentioned above, many of the Algarve beaches are just a 4 hour train ride from Lisbon, and tickets cost under €30.

5. The Weather

The beautiful temperate weather year-round is a compelling reason to visit Portugal. In Lisbon, the weather averages 40-50s in winter and the 70s in summer.  The Algarve region has weather in the 50s in winter and mid-70s in summer.  In Porto in the north, the weather can hit the low 30s in winter but averages 40s in winter and 70s in summer. Plus the moderate weather makes packing light much easier!

Seafood
Seafood stew at Porta Santa Maria

6. The Food

Portugal has amazing food, especially seafood. It is usually fresh, well prepared, and a lot of variety is offered. I recommend trying the Portuguese specialty, bacalhau (cod), but also clams, shrimp, prawns and lobster.  Other musts are: pastel de nata (custard tart served with cinnamon), ginjinha (a liqueur made from ginja berries), and Port wine, which of course comes from Porto.

7. English Speakers

Language barriers can definitely present difficulties when traveling. Plus, it can be intimidating to try to speak a language with which you are not familiar. Fortunately, many Portuguese speak English. Not only is English taught in high schools, movie theaters show movies predominantly in English, so English speakers abound. Of course, you should never expect that someone speak your language, but you can ask in Portuguese (with a smile) “Fala Ingles?”

8. The History

Portugal is chock full of remnants of the past – megalithic rock formations, Roman temples,  Moorish castles and an infinite number of  palaces. There are a ton of sights to visit in relation to the Age of Discoveries, including the place at which sailors launched their explorations (Sagres) and what was formerly thought to be the end of the world (Cabo de São Vicente). Portugal has much more to offer than the natural beauty of the land.

If you have been to Portugal, what was your favorite part?

If you have not been to Portugal, you should consider a vacation here! And if you come, please let me know.

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