Welcome Back to our New Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! After every trip to a new destination, Jamie gives us her perspective as both a traveler, and a travel advisor, through a quick but comprehensive list of what to do or not do at each vacation location!
Since, as many of you who follow along on Social Media know, Jamie recently returned from her whirlwind trip to the island of Madeira and a few cities on mainland Portugal, today’s blog will be all about her time in Portugal!
So Let’s Go to Portugal! But First…
Table of Contents
Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Portugal
Top Favorites and Jamie’s “Must-Do” Experiences
Take a Guided Tour
If you’ve never taken a Guided Tour, your hesitation to do so is understandable. Many people assume Guided Tours are just lectures about things you can quickly look up on Google yourself, BUT they’re NOT like that at all! Maybe that’s how some of them used to be, but most Tour Companies (your Love of the Magic Travel Advisor will know which ones) have overhauled their approach to keep up with the times, so that now, Tour Guides are some of the most passionate people you will come across, bringing locations to life in ways a Google search never could.
Not only do the Tour Guides throughout Portugal (and so many other places all over the world) give you the history of different cities and landmarks, but they weave storytelling into the history so that you can truly appreciate and understand what you are seeing. Taking a Guided Tour can add so much value and depth to your travel experience.
Be Adventurous with Food
One of the best ways to really experience the culture of any location is to try the traditional local cuisine, and sometimes that requires being a bit more adventurous than you normally would with your food choices. In Portugal, specifically, it’s important to NOT be fooled by the names of certain dishes. For example, you might see “lizards” on the menu and think to yourself, “There’s no way I’m eating lizard!” BUT, what the Portuguese menu is referring to are actually Pork Lizards, or a bacon-type meat that is even more flavorful that the bacon Americans love so much!
Trust Jamie, Portuguese Port Lizards are a definite Must-Try! As are many other delicacies that you might shy away from without a sense of adventure around food!
Definitely Venture Outside the Cities
While Big Cities always offer the incredible cultural assets of great restaurants, museums, historical architecture and the like, it’s often by venturing outside the Big Cities that you discover the everyday lifestyle of a different country. In Portugal, while there are incredible sights to see in Lisbon, Jamie found that exploring outside the city was just as exciting and interesting as the Big City. On her trip to Evora, just outside Lisbon, Jamie found herself in an gorgeous old town surrounded by ancient walls and a soaring aqueduct.
And beyond, extending out into the countryside were vineyards for miles and miles, lines of cork trees waiting to be harvested, and a recent man-made lake with a bit of controversy to it! All of these sights and experiences would have been missed by just staying in the city. By getting off the beaten path to explore more, you’re often rewarded with a glimpse into what a country is known for, and with an understanding of the people who are the true pulse and heart of a country.
Take a Cork and Pottery Making Tour
If you didn’t catch it just above, there was mention of lines of cork trees to be harvested, because, yes, cork does come from trees! Did you know that? I don’t know many people who would have! But by taking a specialized tour, such as the Cork and Pottery Tour Jamie took, you’ll get to learn such interesting things that you probably never even thought about before! It’s these kinds of unique-to-a-specific-place experiences that really stick with you, and that give you great stories to tell once you’re home!
Top Tips that Jamie Learned Along the Way
Bring an Extra Bag or Suitcase
Speaking of Jamie’s Cork and Pottery Tour, Portugal is famous for its exquisite pottery that is just too beautiful to leave behind. While you may be able to find some places that will ship pieces straight home for you, some of the really small businesses may not have that capability, but may have some of the best treasures. It’s absolutely worth it to plan ahead by bringing an extra bag, a folding duffle, or at least leave room in the suitcase you do bring for the pieces of art you will inevitably find and want to take home with you!
Portugal is full of art, whichever way you look, including down! That’s right, even the sidewalks in Portugal are a sight to behold, as they are tiled with leftover marble from the Portuguese marble quarries. The mosaic patterns and designs that line the sidewalks are famous works of art that are, of course, accessible to everyone since they exist out in the open for all to enjoy!
Stomp the Grapes in September
As any wine connoisseur will tell you, Portugal is famous for its superb wine, including the picturesque vineyards and storied wineries where the wines are made. Although you can (and should!) go for wine tastings and visit the vineyards whatever time of year you visit, if you happen to be there in September, don’t miss the Stomping of the Grapes! That’s right, some of the wineries will let you help with the wine-making process by, literally, getting your feet dirty as you stomp the grapes just like Lucy did in that famous I Love Lucy episode! And as always, if this is something you really want to do, your Love of the Magic Travel Advisor can help you plan your trip around this famous experience!
Visit the Christmas Markets in December
Another event to consider planning your trip around is the Christmas Market Season! While most people think of Christmas Markets in places like Germany, Austria, and France, there are actually Christmas Markets all over the world, including Portugal! For the entire month of December (and even in the late weeks of November), city and town squares become packed with Holiday Stalls selling handmade gifts, jewelry and treats all crafted by local artisans. There are even ice rinks and cottages where you can visit Santa! Your December visit to Portugal will be absolutely magical and full of cheer!
Top “Must-Don’t”s, or Things Jamie Would Do Differently
Don’t Skip the Islands and Beaches
Jamie’s visit to the Island of Madeira almost got its own “Do”s and “Don’t”s List because there was so much there to see and do! The Madeira Region is actually comprised of four islands, each distinct in its own way, but all known for their golden sand beaches, luxurious accommodations, and excellent wine. And if you’re looking for a more adventurous and rugged set of islands, Portugal has another Island Region, the Azores, which offers a cooler climate and more off-the-beaten-path experiences. Whichever Islands you prefer, visiting at least one of Portugal’s Islands is something you should experience during your Portuguese travels!
Don’t Worry About a Language Barrier
Some people who want to travel internationally stick to countries where English is the official language, especially if they don’t speak a second language, and therefore worry about getting around and communicating. But so much is missed by that kind of limitation! Yes, there are some countries that are more difficult to get around if you only speak English, but Portugal isn’t one of them! The people are so welcoming and willing to work to communicate with you, even if it means a fun game of charades to figure each other out! Plus, many people in Portugal speak English anyway, so besides in some of the more remote towns, you probably won’t even have an issue, so don’t let the Language Barrier stop you!
Don’t Stay in American-Brand Hotels
While it may be tempting to hear a familiar name known for its quality accommodations in the United States, you should consider trying out a smaller and more eclectic place to stay that has more history and culture to offer than a brand-name you recognize. Not that there’s anything wrong with some of the American-Brand Hotels, but it’s a bit like traveling across the world and walking into a Starbucks instead of the small, local coffee shop where the barista knows the name of every regular customer as they enter. If you’re traveling to experience new things, don’t just make that about the city or town you’re in, but also about the establishments you choose to support while you’re there! And don’t worry, your Love of the Magic Travel Advisor can help you find just the right places for you!
Don’t Just Stay in the City
Although it was mentioned earlier, it bears repeating that only visiting the popular destinations in the Big Cities will rob you of experiencing everything else a country has to offer in its smaller towns and sprawling countryside. While there is always so much to see and do in the Big Cities that you shouldn’t miss, there are also experiences that can only be had outside of cities that you shouldn’t miss either. In Portugal, those experiences are in rolling vineyards, on sunny beaches, and tucked away in ancient-walled towns. And of course, your Love of the Magic Travel Advisor can help you plan any day trips or excursions you want outside of the Big Cities!
Ready to Plan?
Now that you have all of Jamie’s recommendations for the best Vacation in Portugal and its Island Regions, are you ready to plan your next Portuguese Vacation? Contact your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor today or email hello@LOTMV.com
Looking for more of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s?
So far, we have:
A new list comes out the Friday after Jamie returns from her latest trip!
And don’t forget to check out our Inspiring Itineraries as well, featuring a Perfect Plan for your next vacation, and highlighting a new destination each month!
Contact your favorite Love of the Magic Travel Advisor or email hello@LOTMV.com to start planning today!