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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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