Stunning beaches with golden sand, picture-perfect villages, luxury Claus Porto soap, beautifully tin-glazed painted ceramic tilework (known as azulejos), decorative ceramic roosters, port wine, and the world-famous professional footballer Cristiano Ronaldo are just some of the things that spring to mind when thinking of Portugal. As the world's largest producer of cork, you will find a multitude of cork items while venturing in this endearing country - cork shoes, bags, wallets - even cork postcards to send back home.
It's undeniable, Spain and Portugal offers countless ways to draw you in, and you can experience them all with Insight.
Lisbon's Belem Quarter is historically significant, with numerous key landmarks located here, by the Tagus River. Once the noteworthy residence of Portugal's elite, Belem is where you can see the Monument to the Discoveries - a striking tribute to the almighty Henry the Navigator, with limestone sculptures and a pretty mosaic compass and world map, representing journeys taken by noteworthy explorers. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Belem Tower was once relied on by sailors as the marker for safely reaching home shores and can now be enjoyed as an architectural masterpiece. This five-storey tower overlooks Jeronimo's Monastery - an intricately detailed complex, including maritime motifs and gargoyles among its impressive stonework. Venturing beyond Lisbon, the capital city Evora is a close second when it comes to national monuments. In Merida, the Roman Theatre is still used today, with acoustics that are so effective, the softest whisper can be heard by spectators of live performances. In Madrid, the Pado Museum - one the world's greatest art galleries - displays works by Goya, Raphael and Bosch, among its extensive collection. On Luxury Gold's Spain & Portugal in Style - 14-day trip, these are just some of the iconic sights you can look forward to.
As a seafaring nation with many Mediterranean influences, good hearty seafood plays a dominant role in Portugal's authentic cuisine. Cod is the most frequently used fish and can be cooked and served in multiple ways - over 365 ways the locals will tell you - with bacalhau (dried, salted cod) arguably being the most important national dish. Pork is the meat of choice, and features in unexpected places, including some desserts. Like cod, it is prepared and cooked in many different ways, from fine, dry-cured hams to roasted suckling pig. Pork is also a common ingredient in Portuga's extensive variety of sausages (enchidos) but not the only meat used; chicken, duck, veal, rabbit and even bacalhau can be found in some sausages. Another well-known dish is cosido, a delicious meat and vegetables stew based on pork meat.
Soups and stews also have a firm place in Portuguese dining. The rustic soup caldo verde (literally meaning green broth) is a treasured dish, simply comprised of just potato, onion, olive oil, kale and chouriço (chorizo pork sausage). Bread and wine form a base staple that can be expected to accompany most main meals. The Portuguese artistically express their zesty passion for life by using fiery spices and strong flavours in their cooking, with piri piri being a popular choice. Dessert-lovers will have a wonderful time sampling Portuguese sweet treats in the form of hundreds of different kinds of pastries, egg custard tarts, and desserts made with nuts, cinnamon and citrus flavours. Thought is even given to snacks (petiscos) in this beautiful country; enjoying these tasty nibbles is a cultural practice that numerous taverns offer as a speciality.
Portugal boasts an impressive local beverage selection. Most famous for its Port Wine, originating centuries ago when sailors combined wine with brandy to ensure its longevity at sea, this sweet-tasting dessert wine is a big hit with locals and visitors alike. Vinho Verde or Green Wine is a refreshing sparkling wine that needs to be served ice cold for the best experience. It isn't actually coloured green as its name suggests; it comes in the standard red, white or rosé varieties but green denotes it being a young wine. If liqueurs are you preferred tipple, the Ginjinha or Ginja is likely to be something you'll enjoy. This infusion of ginja berries (sour cherries), sugar and alcohol can be drank from a shot glass lined with fruit in the bottom, or from a chocolate shot glass that can be eaten after drinking the liqueur. For a soft drink in the sunshine, try Portuguese lemonade - a tangy concoction of peri peri, pepper, lemons, honey, minced cilantro and seltzer water.
Depending on your location within Portugal, you will experience a spectacular array of landscapes, with everything from the inviting golden beaches along its coastline, to the rural grass plains of Alentejo, together with cornfields, and cork oak and pine forests. Nine volcanic islands make up The Azores - each one lush with green vegetation and offering its own unique wonders. The second largest is the island of Pico, featuring the glorious Volcano of Pico. Meanwhile, in the capital city of Lisbon, rolling hills, regal castles and strikingly beautiful cathedrals are all part of the view.
Wolves, red foxes, weasels, polecats, martens, badgers, mongooses, wild boars, deer, geckoes, salamanders, terrapins, chameleons, snakes and a variety of bat breeds can all be found in Portugal. In terms of aquatic life, the warm waters of the Algarve create an attractive environment for sea turtles, dolphins, porpoises and different types of whales, including minke whales and long-finned pilot whales. Woodpeckers, geese, owls, cuckoos, sparrowhawks, kites, kestrels, eagles, herons and egrets are just some of the birds you might come across on your travels.