One of the more popular tourist destinations for Brits, there is no doubt that Portugal is a much-loved place for a holiday judging by the thousands that head there every year.
However, those that have never enjoyed a visit to the sunny country, may have heard one or two popular misconceptions about it. This feature aims to set the record straight and encourage more people to discover the alternative side to a country that has so much to offer…
The Portuguese LOVE their food. Seafood, steaks, cheeses, delicious pastries and cakes – these are just a few of many specialities. Fresh food markets are plentiful and many a village festa is based on a ‘foody’ theme. No other nation can do so many wonderful and varied things with the humble cod.
Then there’s the wine too! Whilst you may be hard-pushed to find a bottle of Portuguese wine in your local Waitrose, you will be simply amazed by the quality and variety of wines (and fortified wines) on offer in Portugal.
MYTH 2: The sea’s freezing.
There is indeed a cool ocean current that comes down the coast. Granted, it’s not the Mediterranean – it’s much more interesting than that! Portugal does stunning beaches very well but if you want to stay in the water for a good surf/body-board session then a wetsuit is advisable especially further north. The water is still a lot warmer than the sea in Cornwall, however, with temperatures averaging 22 degrees centigrade in the summer months!
MYTH 3: There’s nothing to do apart from beach and golf.
It’s hard to deny the beaches are fabulous and this is indeed one of the biggest draws to Portugal; not least because the weather’s so reliable. But at every resort the Alternative Portugal team have visited, there’s a wealth of activities to try: surfing; SUP; sea kayaks; dolphin-spotting boat trips; mountain biking; coast path hiking; horse-riding on the beach; diving and snorkelling. If you’re more of a culture vulture, historic towns, cobbled streets, ramparts, palaces and castles are all here to be explored. This is a country which values its traditions and heritage – it’s refreshing to see the passion with which the Portuguese celebrate their culture.
MYTH 4: It’s not sophisticated.
The reality is that Portugal is less developed than some other European countries in its most rural areas. But it’s not ‘scruffy’. Alternative Portugal prefer to use adjectives such as charming, authentic, real – it’s just a very unassuming place and all the better for it. Aside from the opportunity to wine and dine exceedingly well (and inexpensively), you can shop in boutiques and rub shoulders with affluent locals in contemporary bars and restaurants. Let’s face it, Lisbon is arguably the hippest city in Europe right now.
MYTH 5: The Algarve is nothing but golf courses and ex-pats.
There is a stereotypical view of the Algarve, but you only have to travel a short distance from Faro airport to discover a coastline which is more authentically Portuguese, an alternative Algarve does exist! Escape the crowds and head to the South West coast for a more wholesome experience. Explore the natural beauty of the Costa Vicentina where you’ll find unspoiled beaches around Sagres, delightful fishing villages such as Salema and ‘all-rounder’ resorts like Lagos with genuine history as well as great beaches.