Must-see travel destination: PORTUGAL

by Mihaela DULGHERU • 08 Mar 2017

For those who still want to enjoy the sun, although the calendar shows us winter has settled in, Portugal is the perfect destination. Even in December, the pleasant temperatures the city make it the ideal place for the holiday you desire.

What do we know about Portugal? 

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country on the Iberian Peninsula that is bordered south and west by the Atlantic Ocean and east and north by Spain. The territory of modern Portugal has been continuously settled, invaded and fought over since prehistoric times. The Pre-Celts, Celts, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and the Romans were followed by the invasions of the Visigothic and Suebi Germanic people.

Portugal was born as a result of the Christian Reconquista, and in 1139, Alfonso Henriques was proclaimed King of Portugal, thus firmly establishing Portuguese independence.
Portugal is a developed country with the high-income advanced economy and a high living standard according to 2014 Global Report (Europe 2014) and Deloitte Social Progress 2015. It is the 5th most peaceful country in the world and a founding member of NATO.

The Origin of Portugal's name  Portus Cale (Latinised version for «Port of Cale») was an ancient town and port in current-day northern Portugal, in the area of today s Grande Porto. The name of the town eventually influenced the name of the subsequent country of Portugal.

The capital of Portugal 

Lisbon is the largest city and the capital of Portugal. The historic city is full of stories to tell, the cuisine is dedicated to creating over a thousand ways to cook their beloved bacalhau (salted cod), and where you 'll find hotels and restaurants to suit every taste, budget and requirement. Lisbon is famous for its hospitality and the family-like way it welcomes visitors.

First itinerary destinations: SINTRA - CASCAIS - ESTORIL 

On the way to Sintra, we would recommend visiting The Palace of Queluz. It is a Portuguese 18th-century palace located at Queluz, in the Lisbon District.

The National Palace of Queluz and its historical gardens are one of the most remarkable examples of the harmonious link between landscape and palatial architecture in Portugal. They illustrate the evolution of the Court's tastes in the 18th and 19th centuries, a period that was marked by the baroque, rococo and neoclassicism. Built in 1747 at the orders of the future King Pedro III, the consort of Queen Maria I, the Palace of Queluz was initially conceived as a summer residence, becoming the royal family s preferred place for their leisure and entertainment. They lived there permanently from 1794 until their departure for Brasil in 1807, as a result of the French invasions.

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SINTRA and its mystical hills dotted with fairytale palaces and extravagant villas have bewitched visitors for centuries. The Romans made it a place of cult moon worshiping and named it «Cynthia» after the goddess of the moon. They were followed by the Moors who also fell in love with the lush vegetation and built a hilltop castle, a palace, and several fountains around the town. Later it became the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and attracted some wealthy aristocrats who built huge mansions and villas.

Famous British poet and traveller Lord Byron stopped by in the 18th century, writing that the town «is perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe» and calling it a «glorious Eden» in his epic poem «Childe Harold s Pilgrimage». His fellow countryman Robert Southey followed him and saw it as «the most blessed spot on the whole inhabitable globe». Others made it their private retreat, such as William Beckford (one of 18th century England s wealthiest men), who lived in the 
splendid Monserrat Palace, later bought by Francis Cook.
It is indeed an extraordinary place with a surreal mixture of history and fantasy, protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

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The most famous building in Sintra is Pena Palace, built in the 1840s; it is one of Europe s most lucky mansions, often compared to Neuschwanstein and the other mock-medieval castles of Ludwig of Bavaria in Germany.The extravagant interior decorated in late Victorian and Edwardian furnishing, rich ornaments, paintings and priceless porcelain preserved just as the royal family left them. Other highlights include the spacious ballroom, the marvellous «Arab Room», and an impressive 16th-century chapel altarpiece (part of an original convent founded to celebrate the first sight of Vasco da Gama s returning fleet).

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Another remarkable building is the fantasy «Palace of the Millions», part of the Regaleira Estate. Built at the close of the 19th century in Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance styles, it sprouts turrets and towers. It's surrounded by a garden filled with mythological and esoteric symbols - statues of gods, mysterious wells, ponds and grottoes. The highlight is an almost supernatural tunnel staircase that symbolises death leading into a «Garden of Eden», signifying «rebirth» or the entrance to Heaven.

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CASCAIS is a coastal town and municipality in Portugal, 30 km west of Lisbon. It is a cosmopolitan suburb of the Portuguese capital and one of the richest cities in Portugal.
The former fishing village gained fame as a resort for Portugal s Royal Family in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Nowadays, it is a favourite vacation spot for both Portuguese and foreign tourists. It is located in the Estoril Coast ( named after Estoril, a town in the municipality, in the Greater Lisbon subregion).
Cascais is surrounded by lovely beaches as the Guincho Beach (Praia do Guincho) to the west, and the Sintra Mountain to the north. Some of its shorelines are cliffy, attracting tourists for its seascape and other natural sights such as the Boca do Inferno (Hell's Mouth). It is also a golf destination, with over ten golf courses nearby. Surfing, sailing, windsurfing and kite-surfing are also popular in the region around Cascais, due to favourable weather, wind and sea conditions. In 2007, Cascais was the official host of the ISAF World Championship in Sailing for Dinghies and Racing Yachts.  

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ESTORIL is a stylish Portuguese beach resort that is located on the beautiful coastline west to Lisbon.
Estoril has long welcomed international visitors. During World War II it acquired a glamorous reputation when Portugal s neutrality and mild either attracted the rich and the famous, German and English spies, and European royals and aristocrats such as King Umberto II of Italy, Carol II of Romania, the Count of Paris and Spain s Don Juan. Hollywood actor Orson Wells stayed at the town's legendary Hotel Palacio at the time, and reportedly «stunned» by the number of kings at the hotel during his stay.

The city has since lost much of its status, but remains certain faded grandeur and is still popular cosmopolitan playground with Europe s largest casino, tennis courts, some of     Europe s finest golf courses, an automobile race track that has held Formula One Grand Prix races, and an attractive sandy beach.
The picturesque beach of Tamariz has some bars and restaurants, and a castle overlooking it that was owned by the royal family of Monaco.
Behind is the casino surrounded by attractive gardens with tall palm trees. Known to give out the biggest weekly prizes in Europe, it also presents top international shows. It was also the inspiration for Ian Fleming s James Bond and «Casino Royale».

The Hotel Palacio facing it appeared in one of James Bond's first films «On Her Majesty s Secret Service» and served as a backdrop for Richard Wilson s novel, «A Small Death in Lisbon». 

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On your way back to Lisbon we would recommend visiting the magnificent Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos). Founded in 1501, is Lisbon s  great monument to the Age of Discovery and an excellent example of Manueline style of architecture.The monastery was founded by King Manuel I in celebration of - and funded by - successful Portuguese voyages around the world.
Jeronimos was once populated by monks of the Order of Jerome, whose spiritual job for four centuries was to comfort sailors and pray for the king's soul. When the order was dissolved in 1833, the monastery was used as a school and orphanage until about 1940.

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If you are planning to visit Portugal s so-called «Golden Triangle» (Sintra, Estoril and Cascais) we think you won't be sorry.
We wish you good luck in finding the best destination for your next holiday, and we hope you can give us a feedback if you chose to visit Portugal.






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