Under a deceptively Mediterranean appearance, while it has no opening to the Mare Nostrum, Portugal has forged the confluence of the land and the ocean, between rocky acres scratched by the peasants’ plow and the Atlantic swell challenging the sailors. The first fed the country, the second extended the echo of his will far beyond, building an empire that reigned a time in the four corners of the globe.
In this world of two worlds, the nation has developed a particular identity, very different from that of the Spanish neighbor – what has been called the “singular Portuguese specificity”. The architecture keeps a particular imprint with knotted ropes of the Manueline style.
But if the ghosts of the past and the myth of Portugal sovereign of the seas still haunt (a bit) the national imagination, the Lusitanians know, from now on, that they live in a small country (a sixth of France). Strongly braving the prevailing winds of history, at the forefront of Europe, Portugal is today deploying its arsenal of preserved beauties as few territories keep in their bunkers.
The endearing Lisbon, the royal Sintra, the wild Alentejo, the radiant seaside Algarve, the studious Coimbra, Porto so good alive … The catalog expands with each look and the heartthrobs in front of the vastness of the beaches (sometimes deserted) and the simple and friendly happiness of a meal of grilled sardines in a shaded alley.
So, head to Portugal, between rich cultural heritage and sweet ocean sun!
Last confetti of Europe posed on the blue of the Atlantic before America, the nine islands of the Azores remain, still, unknown. Located at 2:15 of the plane from Lisbon, this archipelago, which stretches for about 600 km from east to west, has remained away from mass tourism, offering the visitor preserved landscapes, as well as a flora and a fauna – including cetaceans – of great variety.
The Azores have everything paradise for hikers and nature lovers. From São Miguel to Flores, via Terceira and Pico, these volcanic islands compete in beauty, each playing their part.
No coconut palms or golden beaches in these latitudes, but land modeled by the telluric force of volcanoes. In the Azores, the black of the basalt contrasts with the deep blue of the ocean, the intense green of the pastures coexists with the multicolored flakes of the flower beds.
On each island, the traveler can observe spectacular geological phenomena due to the volcanic origin of the archipelago. Crater lakes, fajãs nestled at the foot of imposing cliffs, strange fumaroles, black sand beaches, natural pools, mysterious lagoons, bubbling waterfalls or lunar calderas …
The Azores can not, however, be reduced to a catalog of sublime postcards. Because history has also left its mark on these islands halfway between old Europe and the New World. The Baroque palaces and churches of Angra do Heroismo, whose architectural heritage is classified at UNESCO, testify to the golden age that has seen Portugal rule the world.
Forged by insularity and remoteness, the Azorean culture has survived the centuries, preserving its authenticity, its traditions, its colorful folk festivals and its astonishing variety of gastronomy. Beyond the anticyclone that made them famous, it i, therefore,e a whole universe that awaits you in the Azores. We leave you the pleasure of exploring it …
Camped on the right bank of the Tagus Estuary, Lisbon is above all a site of incomparable beauty, sometimes confusing, but which has managed to pass through time.
If there is a capital that blows its visitors, it is indeed Lisbon, that eternal works continue to undermine before doing him the greatest good, to the parody of Francisco. In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese writer described the saudade, feeling of nostalgia supposed to invade all Lisbon at the sight of the Tagus, this “sea of straw” with golden reflections, carrying dreams of travel for a whole people.
A nostalgia that is not what it was, rest assured! Lisbon is not sad (except in winter, perhaps, because the humidity-laden cold here is penetrating), she does not live every moment that passes in the memory of her glorious hours. Do not be fooled by these images showing the Lisbon night as a perpetual celebration unfolding under the stars, on the banks of the Tagus River, on the old docks or in the Bairro Alto: the pain of life has not simply generated a fury to live; here, both coexist.
The artisans of Lisbon’s old neighborhoods are serenely mixed with trendy or designer boutiques, and restaurants selling cod in dozens of different ways are lined up next to trendy bars. Not to mention the pastelerias (hmmm! Pastéis!) Or the many museums, collections of unsuspected wealth.
The Atlantic Garden, the Island of Flowers or the Pearl of the Atlantic. So many evocative and colorful names to sum up the beautifully preserved qualities of this little floating jewel. Located 600 km from the Moroccan coast and nearly 1,000 km south-west of Lisbon, Madeira is discovered by the tourist candidate for a good natural cure.
Her virginity and beauty, she owes them to her late discovery. As incredible as it sounds today, the birth certificate of Madeira dates back only to the 15th century. An island covered with a forest so thick, so dense, that it took several years of repeated fires to finally allow men to settle permanently. Then Zarco arrived. The Portuguese explorer approaches the island of Porto Santo in 1919 to finally anchor off the main island, Madeira, in 1920, and begin colonization 5 years later.
Today, the wealth of the island of Madeira is Mother Nature. Inconceivable to leave the island without having worn his soles on the dozens of hiking trails along the coast, attack the highest peaks or follow levadas, irrigation channels characteristic of the island.
Nature lovers who sulk the physical effort will offer a breath of fresh air in the lush gardens. If you have the marine foot, head west to tickle the waves of the best surf spots on the island. Or, put on your fins to discover an aquatic and colorful fauna and flora. You can also dabble in the natural pools.
From seabed to volcanic peaks, in Madeira nature takes up all the space and the traveler has only to slip into the scenery. The last tip: climb one of the many cable cars to get high and give you a wide-angle memory of this garden in the heart of the ocean.
Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is at the center of a sprawling agglomeration. The city center of Porto can be easily explored on foot, even on an antique 1920’s tram … or a 21st-century metro.
Built on steep banks at the mouth of the Douro, Porto is composed of a high part, a kind of undulating plateau with mounds covered with churches, then the city slips suddenly over the cobbled streets towards the Douro River.
The geographical site, the red tiles of the roofs, from which emerge the massive outlines of the cathedral, the old mansions tight against each other bear the mark of a prestigious past.
It all started here. Maritime epics have opened it to the world, Brazil’s gold has enriched it, and the famous Port wines are still famous today. Porto was rich, then impoverished. And now since the 2000s, the muses are looking again at the sleeping beauty.
The historic Ribeira district, once dilapidated, has been classified by UNESCO. Under the effect of a new urban wind, Porto is changing. She slowly regains the splendor of her past splendor. Old emblazoned houses emerging from their decrepitude, splendid facades adorned with azulejos, baroque churches, yellow streetcars and old stalls, trendy restaurants, trendy bars, boutiques and design hotels!
Visitors can also enjoy Art Nouveau and neoclassical buildings.
On the other side of the Douro, Vila Nova de Gaia holds the cellars of the great names of the divine nectar. To be tasted … in moderation, of course. Do not look for the vines, they are harmoniously arranged to constitute the enchanting landscapes of the high Douro valley, a hundred kilometers further east: a hinterland to discover from Porto by boat, train or car.