Portugal Villa Holidays

Portugal Villa Holidays

Welcome to the Villa Holidays guide to Portugal holiday villas and planning your villa holiday to Portugal.

An Introduction to Portugal

 

Portugal is a beautiful holiday destination and has long been a well-kept secret of discerning British travelers. Popular for its holiday villas, Portugal enjoys year-round sunshine and gorgeous sandy beaches. Bordering Spain to the north and east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, it has avoided the mass tourism which turned the Spanish Costas into a ‘Little Britain’. A villa holiday in Portugal will reveal its historic charm, old fishing villages, old castles and unspoilt coastline.

To the north of the River Tagus the landscape is mountainous, but the more popular south has rolling plains and a drier climate. The highest point on Portugal’s mainland is Serra da Estrela, and the craggy ridges, lakes, forests and beautiful views make this one of Portugal’s most scenic areas.

The main language spoken is Portuguese, although English is widely understood. Portugal is a member of the European Union and has adopted the Euro as its currency. The 10.7 million population includes many retired British pensioners and Spaniards from the medical and business professions who have bought holiday villas in the Algarve.

Portugal is divided into 7 regions including the island of Madeira. The most popular areas for holiday villas on the mainland are the Algarve and the Lisboa regions. What differentiates Portugal from other holiday villa hotspots is that it is easy to escape the crowds. Although the main cities along the Algarve coast are busy, you are only a short drive from quiet walks in the hills or a secluded cove.

The nation’s capital city is Lisbon which has cobblestone streets, huge cathedrals, museums and excellent shopping. The Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower are two of the most well-known landmarks of this UNESCO World Heritage city.

Climate in Portugal

 

In Portugal, villas are popular year-round due to the guaranteed sunny summers and mild winters.

The country has a Mediterranean climate although the mountainous north is cooler and has more rain than the south, with more than 3000mm (118 inches) compared with 600mm (23 inches) annually on the Algarve.

Generally the winter average temperatures are around 8-15C (47-59F) and the summer temperatures average 22-29C (72-84F) with refreshing breezes along the coast.

Most Popular Areas for Villas in Portugal

 

The most popular tourist area, particularly for self catering villas, is the Algarve, along the southern coastline. It offers world class golf courses and magnificent sandy beaches nestled beneath steep, sandstone cliffs. Popular resorts include the areas around Albufeira, Castelo and Pera. The daily markets sell the freshest fish, flowers and locally grown vegetables. Explore the Costa Vincentina National Park, famous for its breathtaking natural beauty. It is a natural habitat for a host of wild flowers, small animals and birds. You can walk, cycle or drive through the Park from your Algarve villa.

Further north is Alentejo. This quieter area has long sandy beaches with little habitation. Inland the vast open plains have large farms. Northwest of Alentejo is Lisbon (Lisboa) and the Tejo valley. Combine a vacation near this historic city with the wonderful beaches of this region. The grape-growing region of the Douro Valley is cooler, particularly in the mountains, with sandy beaches to the north and south of the region. Beautifully scenic, the Serra da Estrela is popular for winter sports in its stunning scenery.

For city breaks in Lisbon or Porto where villas are less readily available you may find an apartment rental a better choice. The new trend towards owner managed holiday rentals being led by companies like HouseTrip.com is well worth a try as an alternative to hotel accommodation which can be expensive and often less then impressive in Portugal’s major cities.

Transport

 

Portugal’s main airports at Lisbon and Faro are served by several airlines including Continental, TAP Portugal and low cost airlines such as Jet2, Monarch and Airborn. Flights take just 3 hours from major UK airports and the short distance and cheap flights have made villas in the Algarve a popular winter retreat with retirees, as well as being a popular family villa holiday destination.

Many people hire a car from the airport to explore the area, but those staying along the Algarve coast will find it easy to use local buses. Many small towns have streets just one donkey wide and are best explored on foot. Lisbon is a busy city which is easy to walk around or use the cheap and efficient trams called ‘electricos’. Funiculars are the best way to get up the cliffs. Visitors can also use taxis which start at around 2.50€ plus 50% if you have heavy luggage.

Festivals and Annual Events

 

Annual festivals are part of traditional life in Portugal. The New Year is always seen in with plenty of street parties, fireworks and fun.

Carnival or Mardi Gras is celebrated in February at the start of Lent. Most towns stage colourful parades and entertainment including samba dancing, bands, music and dancing. Holy Week (Easter) sees many churches festooned with flowers and lights. ‘Passos’ or street side altars are also decorated at this time.

In the Algarve region February 4th is the ‘Feira do Pau Roxo’; July sees the ‘Feira de Artisanos’ with many handicrafts; August is the month for the ‘Feira de Frango’ (Chicken festival) and the ‘Feira de Nossa Senhora da Orada’. The local festival ‘Feira de Nossa Senhora da Guia’ takes place on the last weekend in August. Go along and join in the party spirit and culture of these colourful events.

The Summer Festivities of Lisbon are focused on Santo Antonio, Lisbon’s patron saint’s Day which is June 12th. A procession winds its way around the streets and there is plenty of singing and dancing. Many other areas of Portugal celebrate their own summer festivals in June.

The village of Pera is known for its sand sculpture festival in May, when you may want to visit. The sixty or more professionally finished sculptures are true works of art to be enjoyed and marveled at.

Things to do in Portugal

 

Golf

With such glorious weather and stunning scenery, the Algarve is a popular place for golfers. There will be plenty of golf courses close to your Algarve villa and the weather is generally perfect.

Beaches

The fine golden sands of the beaches make Portugal an ideal choice for a beach holiday. Whether you want to walk along the water’s edge, sunbathe, read or surf, there is a beach for you within easy reach of your holiday villa. Most busy beaches have a range of water sports equipment for hire including jet skis, parasailing, boating and windsurfing.

Walking and Hiking

Portugal lends itself to walking, hiking and cycling, especially inland from the coast. Flower-filled meadows, old churches, Roman bridges and scenic countryside are pleasures just waiting to be discovered.

 

Enjoy the Historic Architecture

There are many ancient cities all over Portugal, such as the walled city of Faro. Once a trading port, Faro has both Arab and Roman ruins. Silves, marked by its imposing red sandstone castle, has an interesting history dating back to the time of the Crusades. Albufeira also attracts many visitors to its historic sights. Named as ‘the castle in the sea’ by the Moors in the 8th century, it was a fortified stronghold many centuries ago.

 

Swim with the Dolphins

Zoomarine, is a water and theme park in the Algarve which offers guests the chance to swim with dolphins.

See the Algarve from the Air

Sightseeing flights are relatively inexpensive here and offer a great bird’s eye view of the area in a light plane with up to 3 passengers.

 

Shopping

Most towns and villages have local markets selling fresh local produce, flowers and freshly caught fish. You can also get local souvenirs including pottery and handmade jewellery at large markets.

 

Nightlife

After dark many small towns come to life with great nightlife. There are many lively bars and excellent restaurants which offer delicious local seafood. Clubs, discos and bars are available for those who want to party until dawn.

 

Museums

Many of the larger towns such as Porto and Lisbon have excellent museums and art galleries for those who enjoy a cultural day out.

Useful Tips when Visiting Portugal

 

The main language spoken is Portuguese although English is widely spoken. If you do not speak any Portuguese, do not be tempted to use Spanish – it is deemed most offensive.

  • Tipping is common for good service in restaurants and taxis at 15-20%.
  • Visitors can also use taxis which start at around 2.50€ plus 50% if you have heavy luggage. Tips should be added at about 20%.
  • Be aware that most shops are closed on Saturday afternoon and Sundays.
  • Chemists are able to give medical advice and supply many medications without a doctor’s prescription, so try there first.
  • Popular souvenirs include port wine, pottery, embroidery and paintings.

Food and Drink

 

Delicious Portuguese cuisine centres on steamed shellfish, grilled sardines and Caldeirada, or fish stew. It is a typical Mediterranean style cuisine with plenty of garlic, olive oil and spices. A common soup is  Caldo Verde with potato, shredded cabbage, and chunks of local sausage. Typical desserts are rice pudding sprinkled with cinnamon, caramel custard or a variety of cheeses.

 

Wines are the local drink rather than cocktails or spirits, although all are available in local bars along with cheap local beer. Port wine is the fortified wine which Portugal is famous for.

 

Typical Costs in Portugal

 

Generally everything in Portugal costs less than in the UK. An espresso coffee or “bica”, costs around €0.70 in a local café. A galão (cup of coffee with milk) may cost around €1,20 and a cup of tea between €1 and €1.50.  A glass of natural orange juice costs around €2,50 and a beer or Coca-Cola will be €1.50. A cheese or ham sandwich costs from €1.50 to €2.50 and a slice of toast or cake will be under €2.

A full meal will be around €8 to €11 per person in a snack bar, €13 to €20 in a restaurant and around €30 to €50 in a first-class restaurant or Fado house.

Taxi fares starts at €2.50, a metro ticket starts at €0.95 and you will pay around €1.45 for a bus ride. Hostels cost around €25 per night and a mid-priced hotel room will be around €90.