Arco de São Jorge, Madeira

I’ve been busy working on my plans for Portugal travel in 2018 and already have a long list of places to visit. If previous years are anything to go by, I probably won’t make it to all the destinations on my wish list this year but this post may inspire you to add them to your own itinerary.

Here are my suggestions for where to go in Portugal for this year:

Madeira, Europe’s leading island destination

Arco de São Jorge, Madeira
Arco de São Jorge, Madeira

One of the best places to visit in Portugal is Madeira. I fell in love with this volcanic island at first sight and am very much looking forward to returning. This time, I’ll be going with my friend Dori so I’ll have a willing walking partner, unlike Mike!

The Madeira walks I have my eye on for this trip include the Caldeirão Verde walk and possibly the Ribeiro Frio to Portela walk that I had a taster of last time.

As well as a couple of days in the main city of Funchal, or perhaps Machico, we intend to spend most of our time exploring the north of Madeira, probably using São Vicente or Arco de São Jorge as a base. Although I got to see quite a lot of Madeira’s varied scenery on a thrilling sidecar tour, I never made it to the lava pools and small town of Porto Moniz so they are high on my list of things to do in Madeira.

Click on one of these Madeira tours to check availability and book online:

Évora, a worthy addition to a Portugal trip

Roman temple, Evora Portugal
Roman temple, historical Évora

It’s been too long since I visited Évora and I’m keen to return to see what new additions have been added to this attractive walled city. I also intend to visit places I missed first time around, such as the cathedral and Palácio de Dom Manuel.

Update: I have been back to Évora and fallen in love all over again. Find out what to do in Évora, plus where to stay. 

I definitely want to see the circle of megalithic standing stones at the Almendres site and do some walking in the area. I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic cyclist but the Alentejo landscape is fairly flat so I may even get on a bike!

I also have a few wineries around Évora earmarked for a visit, including the arty Quinta do Quetzal and the traditional family run Herdade das Cortiçadas.

If you’re looking for an Évora day trip, this small group tour from Lisbon includes Évora, a winery and the nearby rug-making town of Arraiolos.

Porto, one of the best cities in Portugal

Colourful medieval houses, Porto
Colourful medieval houses, Ribeira, Porto

I visit Porto several times a year and always try to do at least one thing I haven’t done before. This year, I want to climb the Arrábida bridge and spend some more time in Matosinhos, if only to stuff my face with grilled fish.

There are still a couple of port wine cellars that I haven’t tried and I’m keen to go to Ramos Pinto, mostly for the collection of vintage advertising posters.

The streets leading down from Avenida dos Aliados to the Douro River are being transformed with new shops, restaurants and attractions opening up all the time so I’ll be keeping an eye on those as well as checking out the Arts District around Rua Miguel Bombarda.

Find a great place to stay in Porto with the help of my Porto accommodation tips.

See Porto’s highlights at your own pace on my flexible self-guided walking tour.

Arouca and the Paiva Walkway

Paiva riverside boardwalk, Arouca, Portugal
Paiva riverside boardwalk, Arouca, Portugal

The 8 km Paiva boardwalk is stunning enough to have won World Travel Awards in 2016 and 2017.

This year, it’s about to get even more thrilling with a 480 metre-long transparent suspension bridge that will wobble 150 metres above the valley below. I doubt I’ll manage to convince any of my friends to walk across it with me but I’ll give it a go!

There’s more to the Arouca Natural Park than the wooden walkway so I’d like to stay a night or two in Arouca and explore other features, such as the peculiar rocks that ‘give birth’. As I discovered at the BTL travel fair in Lisbon last year, there’s also a great cake shop/tea room in the town centre.

Peneda-Gerês National Park

Tiny fields with stone walls, Peneda Gerês National Park
Tiny fields with stone walls, Peneda Gerês National Park

On the cards for 2018 in terms of walking holidays is a week hiking from village to village in the wilds of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. This will prove quite a challenge for me as I have never been good at climbing hills but the scenery and the chance to learn more about the traditions of remote mountain communities promise to make up for the extra effort involved.

I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the exceedingly picturesque village of Sistelo and its surrounding terraced fields as well as the summer settlements used by local farmers.

Lisbon, the world’s best city break destination!

Lisbon and tram
Lisbon and tram

As with Porto, I visit Lisbon fairly often. My first trip of 2018, unless something else crops up, will be centred around the annual BTL travel fair, always fun for both travel professionals and the public. You never know, I might even make it past the finalist stage in their travel blogging awards this year!

While in the city, I will also be checking out new additions and intend to finally get around to visiting the Palácio dos Fronteiras. The azulejo-filled gardens have been calling to me for years but for some reason, possibly the slightly awkward opening times, I have yet to see them in person.

Wandering around the cobbled streets of Alfama and other Lisbon neighbourhoods is always fun and I’d like to see how Graça looks these days.

I’d also really like to see the colourful and quirky Iberian Mask Festival again. The dates for this year are May 17th to 20th but I need to check the website nearer the time to find out when the main parade will take place. Last year, it was on the Saturday at 4:30 pm. I’m willing to overcome my growing aversion to crowds for this bonkers event.

Need a place to stay in Lisbon? Check out my roundup of the best areas and accommodations in the city centre.

Douro wine region, always appealing

Pinhão and Douro River
Pinhão and Douro River

The increasing popularity of the Douro Valley as one of the top destinations in Portugal means that it’s important for me to continue adding to my knowledge of what’s on offer there.

It’s no hardship to keep returning to such a gloriously beautiful destination for walks, wine tasting and boat trips. All in the name of research, of course!

Walking in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park

Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Portugal
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. Photo credit Robi Weber

Mike and I did a whistle-stop tour of Sintra’s beaches last year, which has only served to whet my appetite for exploring the landscape on foot.

All I need now is time and a walking partner…

Check out what to see in Sintra as well as where to stay or consider using Cascais as a base.

Miranda do Douro and Montesinho Natural Park

Caretos of Podence posing on farm marchinery
Caretos of Podence posing on farm marchinery

I have rather neglected the northeast corner of Portugal, despite venturing up to the village of Podence to see the crazy Caretos and visiting the historical centre of Bragança.

This year, I’d like to spend some time in Miranda do Douro and hopefully do some walking in the International Douro Natural Park. From what I saw on a boat trip through this area, it’s spectacular countryside.

The intriguing village of Rio de Onor straddles the border between Portugal and Spain, which seems a good enough excuse to discover what other delights the Montesinho Natural Park has in store.

Industrial toursim in São João da Madeira

Wool machine, Burel factory, Manteigas, Portugal
Wool machine, Burel factory, Manteigas

I’ve hidden this at the bottom of this post so that Mike won’t see it. While I get excited by natural beauty, he goes gooey-eyed over machinery and factories so I’m planning to surprise him with a visit to the capital of industrial tourism in Portugal, São João da Madeira.

Several of the factories, from pencil-makers to hat and shoe-makers among other industries, have opened their doors to guided tours for the public. There’s also a hat museum and a welcome centre inside a former metal factory and art exhibitions to explore.

Although this is more for Mike than me, I’m curious and bordering on excited about the idea myself.


  1. Hello Julie! See you soon! 😉

    1. Author

      That would be nice 🙂

  2. Oh & I’m really pleased you name checked the Fronteira Palace. I saw a film at the Museu Azulejos last year which peeked my interest, but of course, couldn’t fin where those gorgeous tiles lived! Thank you.

  3. I can highly recommend the standing stones outside Evora. As a non-hippy they really do have a magical presence. Any dog-friendly accommodation recommendations in Arouca? I’d really like to see the Convent, too.

  4. Fab information as always, thank you for your blogs about this wonderful country that we are lucky enough to live in. Please keep them coming x

    1. Author

      I’ll do my best!

  5. Portugal is probably one of the most charming countries in Europe, Julie! These places are so magical and definitely worth exploring. When’s the best time of the year to explore Portugal?

    1. Author

      I particularly like travelling in spring because of the greenery and wildflowers. Plus it’s warm(ish) but not too hot to be outside exploring. March to May. Or Autumn, i.e. September and October. There’s a chance of rain, for sure, but it doesn’t usually last for so long that it ruins your holiday.

  6. So many lovely places to see in Portugal, Julie. I’m happy to say that I’ve seen many of them, but I couldn’t fit the Fronteira Palace in this trip. It’s a definite for next time, and I’d love to get further up north too. Have a great year!

  7. Hope all your travel wishes come true Julie. I visited Porto and Pinhao em September 2017 and loved it.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Sami. It’s gorgeous up there, isn’t it?

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.