"And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been." — Rainer Maria Rilke
One of my clients traveled through Portugal during the holidays with their children, taking in Porto, Lisbon, Sintra and other sights along the way. Portugal is one of my favorite countries, and while I've explored a large part of the mainland, I've yet to hike a caldera in the Azores (pictured above) or walk through the gardens of Madeira. They're also top contenders to join my 2024 "what am I waiting for?!" list. Portugal has something for everyone: incredible food and wine, unique architecture, legendary history, and some of the friendliest people you'll meet. And if you're also into hiking, golfing, or surfing (or just watching surfers), here's a great guide to experience Portugal these ways too!
Excerpt below from 2/1/2023 Virtuoso article produced with Visit Portugal can found here.
Trek through cork forests and cactus-covered hillsides, book an island tee time, or ride Atlantic waves on your next Iberian getaway. Portugal’s geographic diversity punches above its weight for a country roughly the size of Maine. More than 1,000 miles of Atlantic coastline front the mainland’s craggy terrain, hilly cities, and calm, cruise-able rivers. Two volcano-formed archipelagoes – the four-island Madeira and nine-island Azores – range from São Miguel and Porto Santo’s lush landscapes to Pico Island’s black lava rocks. A mild climate year-round, with daytime temperatures usually in the 60s and 70s, keeps conditions favorable for enjoying some of the country’s best outdoor activities: hiking, golfing, and surfing.
An Unexpected Highlight: Hiking in Portugal
Compared to Lisbon’s wine bars or the southern Algarve coast’s laid-back, sun-soaked beaches, Portugal’s hiking landscape remains largely under the radar for most travelers. The country’s 2,336 miles of island strolls, cliffside walks, and mountain trails offer glimpses of some of its most intriguing cultural landmarks, from trails alongside Madeira’s Levadas – the fifteenth-century stone hydraulic systems that carried water to the island’s farms – to a three-mile, rocky trek to Sintra’s Moorish Castle, on the outskirts of Lisbon.
In the Braga district, the northeastern Geira Romana trail is among Portugal’s shortest, easiest, and most historic hikes: A three-mile portion of the ancient Roman road winds through the Mata da Albergaria forest inside Peneda-Gerês National Park. Towering oak trees shade paths still marked with inscribed stone slabs – the original ancient Roman mileposts. On the other end of the difficulty spectrum, the nearly 200-mile Via Algarviana stretches from Cabo de São Vicente on the country’s southwestern tip all the way east to the Spanish border. Along the way, hikers pass through cork forests and citrus groves and summit 2,500-foot Picota Mountain, offering views over cactus-cloaked hills and a nearly 600-year-old stone convent in the town of Monchique. Prefer to get your steps in on the way to the beach? A two-hour hike through Arrábida Natural Park (roughly an hour’s drive south of Lisbon) leads from the trailhead in Aldeia Nova da Azóia to Inferno Beach’s secluded white sands and rocky Mijona Cove.
Find Your Fairway: The Algarve, Porto, or The Azores
Unlike its hiking scene, Portugal's more than 90 golf courses, are world renowned, including novice-friendly greens near Lisbon and Robert Trent Jones Sr-designed links with year-round tee times in Madeira. The 44 courses in Portugal’s Algarve region bolster its reputation as a premier golf destination – Arnold Palmer helped design the 18-hole Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, where the Portugal Masters is held each October. However, the roots of Portuguese golf lie farther north in Espinho, 30 minutes south of Porto, at the 18-hole Oporto Golf Club – mainland Europe's second-oldest course. Travelers can toast a great day on the links with a top-notch Port wine back in Porto at two preferred spots: a table at the Michelin-starred Le Monument restaurant in the 76-room Maison Albar Hotels Le Monumental Palace, or in one of the plush velvet chairs at the library bar inside the 113-room InterContinental Porto - Palácio das Cardosas.
For something more unexpected, ship your clubs to the Azores, situated 900 miles west of the mainland in the middle of the Atlantic, where two of the archipelago’s islands cater to golfers. On lively Terceira Island, hydrangeas and azaleas add pops of the island’s signature purple alongside the 18-hole Terceira Golf Course. Over on endlessly lush São Miguel, the 18-hole Furnas Golf Course is all about finesse – its greens might look gentle, but their undulating curves represent a hidden test of technical putting ability. Reward sore muscles with a soak in natural mineral springs at Parque Terra Nostra, ten minutes away.
Surf’s Up: Beginners and Pros Welcome
Prime surfing abounds all year around the Iberian Peninsula, where glassy conditions and solid breaks line almost every mile of Portugal’s coastline. The waters off Nazare Beach, around 90 minutes north of Lisbon, produce some of the biggest waves you can imagine – occasionally reaching over 85 feet. If you’re not seeking to tackle a wall of water, the rest of the coast remains gentler.
Seaside Ericeira, about 40 minutes north of Lisbon, became Europe’s first World Surfing Reserve in 2011 for its five miles of surfable coastline with unbelievable break variety. Powdery sand and gentle waves at southern Foz do Lizandro Beach are great for beginners, while the right-hand point breaks at northern Coxos Beach come fast and are better suited to more experienced riders. The World Surf League Championships take place at Peniche, roughly an hour north of Ericeira, where surfers can top off a day at the beach with some bouillabaisse or charcoal-grilled sardines.
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