There’s a freedom in Portugal that infiltrates your senses and gives you tingles. Strolling from Unesco world heritage sites, challenging hiking trails, some of Europe’s finest beaches, medieval houses, Roman temples, through Moorish alleys, Portugal has it all bathed in year-round sunshine. What is the best way to see the underbelly of a country when abroad? We asked passionate traveller and entrepreneur Scott Eddy to give us his travelling style: “The thing I love to do most when living or traveling to a country like this is to 'get lost.' Just go out there, start walking, and get lost. You will find so many amazing things out there. And the beauty of Portugal is second to none.”
That may be why Portugal was recently voted number one in the USA Today’s ‘Best European Country’ readers choice award, as well as making the ABTA Destinations to Watch 2014 as a top destination for Britons to visit. You can uncover some of your options on Visit Portugal’s website which breaks down the country into regions, activities on what to do, and useful links to what you may be looking for. Click on ‘What to Do – Romance’ and you can search for the event or occasion you want to create great memories with: “A ride in a horse-drawn carriage, a dinner by candlelight, a sunset over the sea, all provide fond memories. Even if it’s just for a few days, the mild climate, the diverse landscape and the romantic atmosphere will ensure unforgettable moments in Portugal.” Yes please, I’ll take a generous handful of those days.
As a woman I’m always thinking about safety when travelling abroad especially when adventuring alone, and found out from Scott Eddy that Lisbon has “just placed #4 out of the top 5 safest cities to travel in Europe for solo women travellers.” The article he’s referencing is written by Leyla Giray, whose Twitter profile says she’s a Solo Travel | Journalist | Author | Internationalist | Foodie | Serial Expat | HuffPo Travel Blogger | Advocate for women's rights. This intrepid traveller and ‘serial expat’ (my favourite descriptor) wrote in an article on her blog: “The Portuguese are more serious than other southern Europeans, but laid back enough to be comfortable companions. If you want southern Europe without the catcalls and whistles, head for this westernmost part of the continent.”
So what else should you do to stay safe when travelling to Portugal? The ABTA Destinations to Watch 2014 reports that crime rates are low, but you should watch out for pickpocketing and bag snatching in cars and holiday accommodation. Keep sight of your belongings at all times and beware of thieves using distraction techniques. Of course, get travel insurance that covers the activities you are planning, and don’t forget your EHIC card to be entitled to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. If gambling is something you do on holiday, it is only legal in establishments properly licenced by the government, like official casinos.
If I’ve convinced you that Portugal is the place to go this summer and you want to make an easy list of things-not-to-miss, look to Rough Guides for a list accompanied by stunning full screen visuals to raise your anticipation. For something in hard copy you can pick up the Condé Nast Traveller ‘Summer Special Issue’ August 2014, which features Portugal’s Secret Retreats. On their website Condé Nast remind us not to forget about to indulge our sense of taste in Portugal, specifically in Comporta, a village on the west coast about an hour’s drive from Lisbon: “Sandy fields bulge with organic courgettes and broccoli and pumpkins as sweet as pudding. In high summer, makeshift stalls pepper the side of the road, piled with watermelons, artichokes, tomatoes that taste of sunshine. Knobbly lemons the size of grapefruit hang heavy from the trees. The ground pours forth flowers and vegetables and fruit. It's hard to think of anywhere else so fertile, so abundant. Here is a rustic, fuss-free way of life.” Yum.