Here’s Why We Don’t Want You to Know How Great Portugal isJune 22, 2020 | By Nafeesah Allen
The old adage “secrets, secrets are no fun,” is complete rubbish when the secret is one of our favorite hideaways, Portugal. The country is loads of fun, low on tourists, and absolutely unforgettable. But, places like “Tuga” are great precisely because they aren’t very well-known. Here are 5 reasons we absolutely love Portugal, but don’t want you to go and ruin it!
1. A mix of many cultures
Portugal sits at the crossroads of many maritime networks, which unfortunately allowed it to play a large roll in the slave trade and colonialism around the world. Its current diverse local cultures reflect that long legacy. Architecturally, sites like The Castle of the Moors date back to the 8th century and are preserved as examples of Arab- and Afro-Portuguese ties.
Many other multi-ethnic communities keep cities and towns vibrant. For example, Portugal has over 5 million Brazilians, close to 2 million French, and 1.5 million American dual-nationals. There are countless Portuguese citizens with Indian and African (Cape Verde, Angola, and Mozambican most notably) ancestry and their neighborhoods are quietly making a cultural comeback. Cova da Moura (20 minutes outside of Lisbon) is known for Cape Verdean music, like morna, funana, and batuque. These examples of Afro-European fusions are found throughout the country.
2. The Algarve district
Portugal has over 500 miles of coastline and you can cherry-pick your favorite beach among the many. Our favorites are situated in the Algarve district, a small but mighty region known for its beautiful architecture and stellar wine. The city of Lagos (which means “Lakes”) is known for its delicious food and impeccable sunsets.
The even lesser-known town of Tavira has only 26,000 inhabitants on both sides of the Gilão river, which splits the town in two. A picturesque seven-arched Roman bridge and a ferry connect Tavira island with the beach-side town and castle. You can’t miss this region.
3. Hidden music and cultural festivals
If you went onto Music Festival Wizards, you’d see only a few options for Portugal. That’s because in Portugal most music festivals aren’t exactly musical festivals – they are immersive cultural, gastronomical, and religious celebrations. And, they are not designed to attract tourists.
For example, Lisbon’s Santo Antonio Festival kicks off the summer season, and events spread over the entire month of June. Costume and cooking competitions between the oldest neighborhoods in town bring out the best in local food and fashion. After one night of fun, you might discover that you have fallen in love with hometown faves like grilled sardines and fado music!
4. Inexpensive and accessible
Portugal has become a popular retirement spot because the country is both livable and affordable. It is easy to get around Lisbon for around 40€ for a monthly pass for all public transportation in the city. This includes ferries, trams, metros, and buses. Railways throughout the country are also conveniently priced and well-located. EUrail Portugal has options for 3-8 travel days within a month, for as low as $103 per month. Great prices and fantastic customer service spell impeccable value for travelers.
5. Nothing will get lost in translation
Last, don’t be intimidated by the local language. There are lots of English speakers in Portugal. English is mandatory from grades 3 to 9, so people speak English and they speak it very well. At tourist venues, everyone will be fluent. And even in small towns, you might be shocked by the number of English-speaking retirees, study-abroad students, and dual citizens you’ll meet.
While learning daily greetings, like “Bom Dia” (Good morning), and expressions of gratitude, like “Obrigado/a” (Thank you), will help build rapport, all you need are good vibes and high spirits to enjoy the very best that Portugal has to offer. But, shhh… don’t tell anyone!