We’re never too old to travel. In fact, one of the best things to do as you get older is to travel more. In this post, Celina Tavares shares with us her tips on why one should travel more often. She also shared with us some of the important places she visited on her recent trip to Portugal.
In October, I headed to Portugal for our first vacation, and I was lucky enough to spend the whole month there with my sister, who is a local. During the trip, we saw a diverse array of beautiful places that included the Portuguese coastline, the Algarve, and Lisbon’s city center. From the architecture of the historic town of Évora, to the ancient underground fortresses of the Algarve, and a glimpse of the Alentejo way of life in old-town Lisbon, Portugal has so much to offer.
After living in London for over a year, my husband and I are back in Portugal.
Many tourists are considering a vacation to Europe when the continent reopens, but determining what is accessible, when and where, and what the visiting restrictions are may be difficult.
Celina Tavares, director of Visit Portugal in the United States, answered our questions on what it’s like to visit the country right now and where to go and what to do.
(TP): What is it like to travel in Portugal at the moment?
Celina Tavares (CT): As nations reopen and more individuals get vaccinated, tourism as a whole is beginning to recover. Portugal is welcoming and prepared to receive guests, and we have taken steps to guarantee the safety of our visitors and inhabitants.
Portugal has one of the highest levels of testing in Europe, and our vaccination plan is to inoculate the whole adult population by September. Vaccination in Portugal is going well and according to plan, according to the health authorities. Portugal has a population of 10.2 million people, of whom 5.5 million have received the first vaccination and 3.2 million have been completely immunized.
We are certain that, in light of the above, now is the moment to securely reinstate cross-border travel, while balancing public health precautions with connection and mobility.
TAP Air Portugal has already resumed most of its service to Lisbon, including flights from Newark, Boston, Washington Dulles, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco, as well as flights from Newark to Porto. United Airlines will resume daily service between Newark and Lisbon on July 2nd, while Delta will resume daily service between JFK and Lisbon on August 1st. Boston–Ponta Delgada and Boston–Terceira are also served by Azores Airlines.
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TP: What should visitors know about the nation before visiting?
CT: The tourist offer of Portugal is ready to welcome you back: our environment, landscapes, beaches, monuments, culture, and people are all eager to welcome you back. The majority of businesses, hotels, golf courses, restaurants, stores, monuments, museums, tourist enterprises, and activities have reopened.
The health and safety measures suggested by us and the Portuguese Health Authorities have also been adopted by tourism businesses and attractions.
All passengers must show proof of a negative RT-PCR (nucleic acid amplification or similar NAAT Test) performed within 72 hours of departure or a Rapid Antigen Test performed 48 hours prior to departure (children under the age of 12 are exempt), as well as complete the Passenger Locator Card prior to departure or onboard.
Because restaurants, excursions, events, monuments, museums, and cultural activities have limited capacity, travelers should make reservations in advance.
Everyone above the age of ten is required to wear a face mask. The current Covid measures may change as the epidemic progresses, therefore we recommend that you obtain updated information closer to the time you plan to travel.
TP: Can you tell me about some of the must-see places in Portugal?
CT: Portugal as a nation offers a wide range of landscapes and tourist opportunities. The Portuguese culture, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Wine and Gastronomy, as well as nature and beaches, are just a few of the reasons why it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.
According to what we’ve seen so far, there won’t be a significant shift in US demand for Portugal, though we are seeing an increase in interest in Portugal-only tours that combine the country’s main cities (Lisbon and Porto) with lesser-known areas such as the Azores and Madeira Islands, coastal regions with amazing surf spots, or even other areas such as rural villages.
TP: Are there any hidden treasures that visitors should see?
CT: There are a lot of them, and there’s a lot to do!
Mafra, with its renowned 17th-century Palace-Convent, is about a 40-minute drive from Lisbon and is one of the most iconic little towns and villages to visit. The ancient fishing towns of Azenhas do Mar and Ericeira on the coast provide the ideal reason to sample fresh fish and shellfish meals while surfing.
Sunset in Azenhas do Mar in Sintra, Portugal, near Lisbon. (Image courtesy of PauloZimmermann/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Two of Portugal’s best-kept secrets are found in the center of the country: the Schist villages, which are a hallmark of the area, are all linked by ancient construction methods that use the same rock that gives them their name: Schist. The Historical Settlements are a collection of 12 distinct medieval villages connected by a network of roads.
The Monastery of Batalha, the Monastery of Alcobaca, and the Templar Castle and the Convent of the Knights of Christ are all World Heritage Sites in Batalha, Alcobaca, and Tomar, respectively.
Moliceiro may take you to Aveiro, Portugal’s Art Nouveau river city (traditional boat tours). The beautiful beach of Costa Nova, renowned for its striped fisherman huts and the famous porcelain maker Vista Alegre Factory, is just a 20-minute drive away.
These are a must-see in Alentejo: Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Odemira, and Zambujeira do Mar are traditional fishing towns along Alentejo’s protected coast, renowned for their beautiful beaches, surfing, and water sports.
Near the countryside, in Alter do Cho, King Joo V established the Coudelaria Real, or Royal Stud Farm, in 1748 to help preserve the Lusitanian horse breed.
The stronghold of Elvas and the ancient town of Évora are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The beautiful ancient towns of Castelo de Vide, Marvo, and Mértola lie close to the Spanish border. Most of the vineyards and production locations for some of the finest Portuguese wines are based in the beautiful and historic regions of Portalegre, Borba, Redondo, Vidigueira, Reguengos de Monsaraz, Évora, and Beja.
Porto is approximately a 40-minute drive from both Braga and Guimares. There are also the lesser-known locations of Miranda do Douro and Foz do Coa in the Douro Valley, which acquired worldwide attention following the discovery of a series of Upper Paleolithic rock drawings and sculptures. Small villages like as Viana do Castelo, Braganca, Caminha, Ponte de Lima, and Casa de Mateus in Vila Real are also worth visiting for their traditional architecture, cuisine, and festivals.
Odeceixe, Aljezur, Faro, and Tavira are well-known for their lengthy promenade, sandy beaches, and fishing towns.
The Madeira Islands are a natural wonderland. The flowers’ unique hues shine out against the blue water and emerald green foliage. Two-thirds of the archipelago is protected, and it is home to the world’s biggest Laurisilva forest.
The Azores are a paradise for hikers, with nine islands created by nature, more than 60 hiking routes, and a plethora of marine life to explore. The Azores is a migratory path for over 24 species of cetaceans and home to one of the world’s biggest whale sanctuaries.
Portugal is a sunny country (photo via Collette)
TP: When is the ideal time to visit Portugal for a vacation?
CV: Because Portugal has moderate winters and pleasant summers, it is an ideal vacation all year. Because it is winter, the rainiest months are December, January, and March.
TP: How many visitors are now visiting the country?
CV: Given that Portugal and the rest of the globe just reopened in May/June, we are witnessing a gradual rise in visitors and are anticipating a longer summer season.
We are convinced that, as vaccination rates rise in Portugal and throughout the globe, our tourist industry will be able to resume its recovery from September onwards, returning to its pre-crisis levels.
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