Portugal was one of the colonial era’s central powers. From its shores came the first European to reach India by sea. The Portuguese also conquered much of South America. Today, Portugal is no longer colonizing, but its cities reveal the nation’s former glory. Tour its famous port towns and explore its picturesque Atlantic islands.
Lisbon, Portugal's capital, shows off the country’s riches from the height of its colonial empire. Tour its Belém port district. From here, world-famous explorers like Vasco da Gama set sail centuries ago. Da Gama’s body is buried in the lengthy 16th-century Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) and his statue stands atop the grand Rua Augusta Arch. Lisbon also displays Portugal’s own history as a country colonized by other empires. Explore the hilltop fortress of the sixth-century Castelo de São Jorge, which features traces of Roman, Visigoth and Moorish peoples.
While Lisbon is a city built on imports, the large city of Porto thrives due to one of the country’s best-known exports: port, the sweet dessert wine. Explore the wine country surrounding the city, where terraced vineyards blanket the hills along valleys of the winding Douro River. Porto’s hillside cityscape features both Baroque and modern architectural masterworks amid colorful townhouses.
One attraction that sets Portugal apart from its European neighbors is the Azores archipelago far from its shores but within its Atlantic borders. Fly to this collection of nine volcanic islands for some of the best outdoor adventures in Portugal. Towering over the archipelago is the country’s highest peak, Mount Pico. Climb to the top for excellent views over the Azores’ central islands. The main island of São Miguel features volcanic hot springs, a picturesque crater lake at its center and one of Europe’s few tea plantations.
Begin your stay in Portugal by flying into an international airport outside Lisbon or one near Ponta Delgada on São Miguel. Untamed volcanic wilderness and former imperial riches await.