Paper Barcelos cockerels and Viana hearts from Portugal's Minho region, Ruas Floridas, Redondo 2013

The places I most want to visit in Portugal this year result in something of an A list. Not just because of the initials of the regions I’ve chosen but because of a couple of special events that only come around every few years.

The Azores

Last year, I made it to one of Portugal’s island groups, Madeira. It’s absolutely stunning and I’d love to return but this year I’ve got my heart set on visiting the Azores, the other set of islands that come under Portugal’s umbrella. Each island seems to have something different to offer so I had trouble deciding which ones to visit!

After a lot of deliberating, and based mainly on photos of scenery, I’ve narrowed the selection down to São Miguel, (which is the one to pick if you only have a few days as it has the most things to see and do and is the easiest island to get to) Flores, Corvo and São Jorge. There are regular ferries between the islands closest to São Jorge so I can always do a bit more island hopping if necessary.

Lago das Sete Cidades, São Miguel, Azores
Lago das Sete Cidades, São Miguel, Azores. Photo credit: Mário Diogo/Flickr

The Alentejo

I adore the wide open plains of the Alentejo and have already visited several of its towns and cities, especially those in the northern part of the region. But the Alentejo is vast so there are still places I’ve never been to, such as Beja, Mértola, Montemor-o-Novo and Arraiolos, which is famous for its beautiful hand-embroidered woollen rugs. I also intend to check out some of the region’s vineyards while I’m there. It would be rude not to.

hills and countryside, Alentejo, Portugal
The wavy hills of the Alentejo

I mentioned last year that I wanted to do some walking on the Alentejo coast. I didn’t make it but hopefully this year, I’ll be able to do some of the Rota Vicentina hiking trail.

2015 sees the return of the biennial Ruas Floridas in Redondo (1st to 9th August) where the streets are decorated with wonderful paper art. I doubt I’ll make it this time around – if I only go to one paper festival this year, it’ll be the Festas do Povo in Campo Maior (22nd to 30th August).

This is like the big sister of Redondo’s colourful celebrations with 100 decorated streets. There is no regular pattern for the Festas do Povo; the last one was in 2011 and before that it was 2004. If I miss this one, who knows how long I’ll have to wait for the next!

A canopy of green and blue tissue paper above a street decorated with paper toadstools and catapillars
Each street in Redondo’s Ruas Floridas had row upon row of colourful streamers cut out of tissue paper. They provided welcome shade, dramatic colour and a wonderful rustling sound as they fluttered in the breeze.

Tomar Tray Festival

Another of Portugal’s less frequent but visually magnificent festivals takes place in Tomar in July this year (4th to 13th). Every four years the Festa das Tabuleiros sees women in traditional costume struggling in the heat to carry trays laden with bread and flowers that are as tall as they are. 

The Algarve

I spent a lot of time in the north of Portugal over the last two years so I think it’s only fair that I balance that with a return trip to the Algarve in the south of the country.

I’d like to spend some time around Alcoutim before making my way towards Tavira and Olhão then Loulé. I’m also keen to explore the area around Faro in more depth, and hopefully catch up with fellow bloggers Alyson and Dave Sheldrake in their beloved Ferragudo before moving west towards Lagos.

Colourful doorways in the historical centre of Faro, Algarve
Colourful buildings in the historical centre of Faro, Algarve

From A to Z: Almoural to Zézere

In a twist on my A to Z of Portugal, I’d also like to explore the area surrounding the River Zézere and River Tagus, which I’ve heard lots of good things about. Highlights here include the massive lake of Castelo do Bode and several river beaches. I want to take the boat to visit the castle at Almoural and visit the pretty riverside village of Constância.

Lisbon and Porto

I always make several trips to both cities and this year is likely to be no exception. There are still places I’ve yet to visit and new things crop up all the time so they are always exciting yet reassuringly familiar trips. I’ll definitely be in Lisbon for the start of BTL, Portugal’s annual tourism fair (25th February to 1st March). Other than that, I’ll be playing it by ear depending on visitors and other influences.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these tips for things to see and do in Lisbon and Porto.

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14 Comments

  1. Hey thank you for this post 🙂 im going to go hitchhiking into portugal for a few weeks, starting in Malaga making my way there. Hopefully we can bump into eachother 🙂

  2. Hi Julie, if you want to meet us in Tavira please contact us: we will be in our house some days in may and the last week of august till the first week of september and you are more than welcome.

    1. Author

      Thank you both. That’s very kind of you. Sadly, my Algarve visit is planned for the end of March so we’ll miss each other.

    2. Hi I am looking for somewhere to rent for me mum son and dogs horses etc , any help would be gratefully received

      1. Author

        Where? How long for?

  3. What a great wish list! I spent a few days at the Festas do Povo in Campo Maior in 2011 and it was really well worth the trip. I was just amazed at the time and creativity that went into the festival! The Festa das Tabuleiros looks really interesting, hoping I can get to it this year. Looking forward to reading about this year’s adventures.

    1. Author

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the Festas do Povo. I’m looking forward to seeing it – I was blown away by the creativity and skill that went in to Ruas Floridas in Redondo so this will be even more impressive.

  4. Excellent tip on Festas das Tabuleiros! We were already planning on going to Tomar, but I was oblivious of the festival. We’ve now re-arranged plans to be there for the celebrations and stay an extra day as well.

    1. Author

      Happy to hear that, Geoff. It should be quite a spectacle.

  5. Sounds like a busy year, Julie 🙂 Many thanks for the link! It seems such a long time since we were in Tomar. We used Constancia as a base and visited Almourel so I’m pretty sure you’ll like it around there.
    We haven’t thought as far as August yet, and it will be seriously hot in the Alentejo then, but those festivals sound good too.
    The Azores is the one that made my ears prick up! I would LOVE to do that one 🙂 🙂 Have fun!

    1. Author

      I’m not 100% sure I’ll be in Portugal in August either but if I am, I want to go. And I remember you saying ages ago how much you liked Constância so I’m looking forward to that. Perhaps not quite as much as the Azores but still…

  6. We can’t wait to welcome you back! xx

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