With sparkling beaches, dramatic landscapes, friendly people and history dating back 20,000 years, Spain and Portugal create a very rich experience for your vacation. They also offer great value with accommodation, meals and wine amongst the most reasonable in Europe. Read on for a selection of experiences not to be missed in the countries of Iberia.
- Sun and sand attract visitors to the coasts of Spain and Portugal for fly and flop vacations. You’ll find great value at hotels and resorts and some wonderful local cuisine to enjoy. There’s also lots of cultural and historical interest for exploring on more active days.
- Whether you want a long stretch of sand or an intimate cove beach, you can find it here. Excellent beaches are found along Portugal’s Algarve coast and the Mediterranean beaches of Spain’s Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and Costa Brava.
Art and Architecture
- These stylish countries are a treasure trove for lovers of art, architecture and design – so much so we’ve devoted a couple of articles to the topic. See Barcelona: Centre of Art and Architecture and Gallery Hopping in Spain and Portugal for more.
- This is golfing heaven! The combination of a sunny climate, blue skies and outstanding facilities combine to make Spain and Portugal an ideal golf destination for your winter vacation. You’ll find high class golf courses designed by well known architects, many with exceptional seaside locations. Check out the Costa Azul near Lisbon, the sunny Algarve region of Portugal and the Costa del Sol in Spain for the best greens.
Food & Wine
- There’s much to enjoy in Iberia when it comes to food and wine. Food is Mediterranean style with wide use of olive oil and fresh ingredients. A variety of delicious dishes catch visitors attention, like Pescaito (small fried fish), the traditional rice and seafood Paella, Andalucian gazpacho and in Portugal, roast suckling pig, stuffed squid Lisbon-style and cod casserole.
- There are more than a dozen wine regions to discover! The variety of vintages includes sparkling Cava wines near Barcelona, Jerez Sherry in southern Spain and, of course, Port wine in the Portugal’s Douro region.
Must See and Do: Spain
- Top attractions in Spain include:
- The Alhambra Palace, Grenada
- The architecture of Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona
- The Prado Museum, Madrid
- Seville’s ancient Cathedral, the largest in Spain
- The white villages of Andalucia
- Stroll the lively Ramblas, Barcelona’s main thoroughfare, from the Columbus monument at the harbour to Plaça de Catalunya, the city centre. You’ll come across artists, musicians and entertainers along the way as well as historic buildings, some great coffee shops, restaurants and trendy shops.
- Take in a dramatic Flamenco show with lunch or dinner. Combining singers, dancers, guitarists and colourful costumes, the art of Flamenco is the soul of Spain and is found today in various styles throughout the country.
- Immerse yourself in the culture by taking a language class, a Flamenco dance or guitar lesson or a winery tour and tasting.
- Perhaps attend a bull fight, still an important part of life in Spain where matadors are regarded by many as heroes. It’s worth paying extra for a seat in the shade and taking a cushion as the seats are hard. While bullrings are found throughout the country, the anti bullfighting campaign has gathered momentum in recent years. Barcelona declared itself an anti bullfighting city in 2004.
Must See and Do: Portugal
Joe Batista, one of our network partners, has the inside scoop on Portugal as he was born in Lisbon. We asked Joe for his recommendations on what to see and do in his beautiful country:
- St. George’s Castle, Lisbon, is an imposing citadel captured from the Moors in 1147. From the defensive walls visitors have a magnificent view of the city and the Tagus River flowing to the Atlantic Ocean.
- Sintra is about a one-hour drive from Lisbon. (Train service is available from downtown Lisbon.) This historic city with its luxurious, green mountain is the former residence of kings and nobility. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site it is a must see for its palaces and historical residences, especially the Palace of Pena.
- Évora is the finest example of a city of the golden age of Portugal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. About a two and a half hour drive south of Lisbon, here you’ll find The City Museum, The Temple of Diana (built by the Romans), The Capela dos Ossos (Bones Chapel) and the Cathedral. Sit outside in one of the many cafés at the Geraldo Square, sipping a glass of the local wine while watching the city go by.
- Óbidos which can be traced to 308 BC by the Celtics, is today a well preserved walled town with small houses painted in immaculate white, blue lapis and gold, the royal colors of the past. The local Pousada (historical inn) is an excellent choice for a delightful meal.
- Serra do Gerês in Northern Portugal is one of the best preserved mountains of Europe with spectacular scenery, fresh pure air, streams of pure water, and rare flora amongst the rich greenery.
Best reasons to visit
- Value – The cost of living between Spain and Portugal is still considered one of the best buys for North Americans with prices on average about 10 to 15% less. This is very much visible in the cost of accommodation from Deluxe to Tourist, especially in the small towns.
- People – The Portuguese people are seen by many visitors as the most friendly and welcoming in Europe.
- Geography – Portugal features enchanting and contrasting landscapes within a short distance. You can easily travel from the mountains, to the beaches, cities and flat lands in a couple of hours, making Portugal an ideal place for a unique and memorable vacation.
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