Cheat the weather gods and head to Portugal for a summer vacation any time of year; whether the Algarve Coast, cool Lisbon, the beautiful Douro Valley wine region, or one of the charming islands, this small country is sure to surprise and to enchant. Beach hotels on the Algarve provide all you need for an escape into the sea and sun. A romantic hotel in Lisbon sets you up for days of scenic strolls, and nights at local Fado joints. A spot in Porto or the Douro Valley ensures you’ll be eating and drinking well and with a view. Luxury hotels on Madeira, the “island of eternal spring, ” know what's important when it comes to fun in the sun.
The Algarve is what you think about when you think about a beach holiday: long stretches of white sand, charming bars and cafes right on the water, and lux hotels in all shapes and sizes. Portugal’s southern coast is comprised of craggy rock formations that form windows and doors into the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean and Atlantic where they meet. The charming coastal city of Lagos occupies a place between rolling hills, a bustling port, and a fascinating nautical history spanning back to the Age of Discovery. Sagres, the so-called “End of the World, ” lies at the southernmost tip of Europe and is home to 1632 Fortaleza de Beliche fortress. The hotels in Lagos and Sagres are all about the ambience: chic beach resorts with a traditional flair. For a classically beautiful and beach-oriented stay, head to Albufeira or Almancil, where the food is fine, the vibe is more laidback, and the cocktails are always flowing. Try an adults only hotel or even a honeymoon hotel for a special escape into sun-stained paradise.
Portugal’s capital city is home to almost a fifth of the population and so much more: a city of viewpoints, Lisbon has only good angles. This coastal city has come forward in the past years with a happening nightlife, a vibrant contemporary art and music scene, and some of the country’s best seafood—don’t leave without sampling Bacalhau cod and a big plate of Sardinhas. At the meeting point of old and new, find Fado joints lining the Bairro Alto district, a trendy food scene in the hip Corpo Santo neighborhood, and hotels that successfully blend tradition and class. Spend days walking up steep streets only to reward yourself with another glass of port or vinho verde, or skip the walk and take one of the many funiculars that run up and down the city’s seven hills. For a family-friendly trip, check out the lavish resorts tucked just outside of the city on the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The westernmost point of Europe, the park is framed by vast cliffs that drop 100 meters into the sea and topped by the beautiful National Palace of Pena.
Portugal’s charming and colorful port city, Porto, is situated in the north, near the Spanish border, and is widely known and loved for its beautiful collection of bridges and impressive role in wine production. The UNESCO-listed city center is surrounded by medieval walls and Romanesque architecture, while the riverside area is filled with authentic bars and a bustling energy. At the mouth of the Douro Valley, Porto is where you’ll find fine dining, romantic sunsets, and cultural enrichment in the form of classical music and a myriad art galleries. Heading into the Douro Valley, Portugal’s wine country, prepare to be amazed by unparalleled natural landscapes: watch as the vast Douro River cuts through the gentle slopes of hundred-year-old vineyards and past ancient villages. The Douro Valley is best explored slowly, by boat or scenic train, on foot or on a lovely bike ride with the ones you love. Deep in the valley, you’ll find inspiring hotels with fine in-house cuisine, sprawling spa centers, and opportunity for tours of the onsite wine cellars or long strolls through attached vineyards and gardens.
Portugal’s Islands, namely Madeira, Terceira, and Graciosa are where you can experience all the perks of the Algarve, in addition to a suite of special landscapes and traditions. Madeira experiences some of the best year-round weather and is home to a regional cuisine unlike anywhere else; try a tuna steak with fried maze or a sumptuous wine and garlic pork. This emerald green, mountainous island is also primed for hiking, with paths for all skill levels. Terceira is part of the Azores Islands, a fairly untrod territory, and exists at the meeting point of gorgeous volcanic scenery and well-developed and maintained historic architecture—so much so that the historic center of the capital city has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure to check out the forts of São Sebastião and São João Baptista during your visit for a showcase of military architecture with a history of over 400 years. Another volcanic island, Graciosa is made up of cliffy shorelines and golden beaches, dotted with cute beach bars serving up regional food and drink. One of the last places in Europe with no asphalt roads, a hotel on Graciosa promises a truly relaxing stay sans distractions.
When to go: The weather in Portugal is exceptionally pleasant all year round, except for the rainy season in November and December. Though even during this time, the Algarve and the islands maintain their wonderful climate.