Portugal

Strangely enough, whilst we feature Portugal as a destination, only one of our holidays actually touches ground on the mainland. We feel that mainland Portugal is pretty well covered these days. The Algarve has long been a haunt for holidaymakers but nowadays, the Lisbon and Alentejo Coasts have become pretty accessible too.

Instead, we’ve focused our attention on seeing less visited parts of this captivating country and, when we do feature established holiday spots such as Madeira, we like to think that we’ve taken a different approach to holidays there.
 
Portugal is situated on the Iberian Peninsula where the climate is generally cooler than in other parts of southern Europe. This is especially the case along the Atlantic Coast where it’s not just the beaches that attract visitors but a previously unheralded and burgeoning gastronomic and cultural reputation. 
 
In the late 15th and 16th century, as a result of the pioneering age of discovery, Portugal expanded its influence and established the world's first global empire. Spreading throughout the world in vast numbers of territories which are now part of 53 different sovereign states, including regions in Africa, Asia and America this incredible empire has left a legacy of 250 million speakers worldwide. In Portugal, it has had an influence on everything, from culture to language to cuisine.
 
On our small ship cruise, you can start or end in one of Europe’s most beautiful coastlines, before exploring some of the countries iconic towns and cities.
 
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A Landscape of Heritage and Beauty

Portugal's location on the southernmost point of Europe includes the Madeira and Azores archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean and the country offers a plentiful array of geographical features and regions of heritage. Along Alentejo’s Atlantic Coast, the landscape reflects a simple way of life, dotted with cork oaks and olives trees as well as knots of small whitewashed houses.

The landscapes of the coastal regions where we feature our small ship cruise are hilly and rugged, with small sheltered coves between the dramatic cliff backdrops. 

The climate is defined as a Mediterranean one with hot dry summers and mostly mild winters, with the temperatures influenced by the country's latitude and proximity to the sea. This, in combination with the 10-12 hours of daily sunshine in the summer months, attracts millions of visitors each year.

Our small ship cruise runs from May to October. It seems rather obvious to say so but sun and heat worshippers should be looking to travel in the high summer months of July and August but it’s worth remembering that even coastal cities like Lisbon will be pretty warm at that time. The “shoulder” months of May, June, September and October are all very enticing. Warm but nowhere near oppressive, it’s an absolute pleasure in early and late summer to watch the mainland slip by from the comfort of the good ship M/Y Harmony G.

 

Way beyond the golf courses

Our small-ship cruise either start or ends in Portimão, in Portugal’s Western Algarve region. It might be well-known for its golf courses but there is more to this region than 18 holes.

The Algarve is home to some of Europe’s cleanest and most picturesque beaches, as well as having a prominent cultural and historical heritage. Portimão is the biggest town in Western Algarve and so has a great deal to offer visitors.

Stroll the cobbled streets of the old town, browse and buy at the eclectic flea markets, taste and dine at one of the fabulous cafés or restaurants, and wander down to marvel at the Manuel Bivar garden.

To ensure that you have some time to explore before/after your cruise, we have included one night in a hotel here. Based in Praia de Rocha, Portimão’s coastal resort town, the huge beach is practically at your doorstep, or you can enjoy the hotel’s swimming pool.

From Portimão, there’ll be an optional guided excursion to Silves, another one of coastal Algarve’s gems which is only a twenty-minute drive away. This delightful town is regarded as something of a throwback to a time when the region was relatively undiscovered by tourists. The red-bricked castle dominates the town’s skyline and the views from atop the hill are worth any effort involved in getting there. 

After you have visited Portimão, you’ll sail eastwards, entering Spanish waters. The voyage continues to Malaga stopping to visit Seville, Jerez de la Frontera (try the sherry!), Cadiz, Gibraltar, Puerto Banús, Ronda and Granada’s finest vestige of the Moorish occupation, the magnificent and splendid Alhambra.

It’s worth mentioning here that this small ship cruise sails both ways between Málaga and Portimão. You can spend extra time in Portimão at the end of your trip if you start the journey in Málaga.


Image Credits: Variety Cruises

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