Portugal

Written by  Barbara Radcliffe and Stillman Rogers

Europe-Portugal
Whether it’s freezing winters or sizzling summers clients want to escape, Portugal has an answer. One is its southern coast, the sunny Algarve, a long-time favorite for European snowbirds. The other is a mid-Atlantic archipelago, closer to your US clients and almost undiscovered by tourists - the Azores.
Those nine volcanic islands offer beautiful land and seascapes, from the white beaches and terraced vineyards of Santa Maria to the waterfalls and dazzling volcanic lakes of Flores. In between are windmill-studded Graciosa, the colorful marina and lunar landscapes of Faial, and São Miguel, the largest island with geysers and hot springs. 

World Heritage
Recognizing these islands’ natural and cultural history, UNESCO named Pico’s lava-field vineyards and Terceira’s town of Angra do Heroísmo, crucial to explorers during the Golden Age of Discoveries, World Heritage Sites. The entire archipelago has been named a Geopark, unique worldwide for its 121 diverse geosites, which include the surrounding deep-blue sea, filled with whales and dolphins. Routes and interpretative programs help visitors explore caves, lava fields, calderas, crater lakes, fumaroles and hot springs.

Azores Activities
The bottom line for your clients, though, is the engaging combination of hospitable people, beautiful scenery, vibrant local culture and interesting experiences. Oh yes, and the beaches. Whatever their passions -- swimming with dolphins, mountain biking, family adventures, sailing, diving, canyoning, birding, whale-watching, kayaking, golf, fishing, horseback riding or cooking, there’s an experience awaiting them here. Those who don’t want to explore the volcanic landscapes on foot can experience them with Green Jeep Tours  (www.greenzoneazores.com); Turangra (www.turangra.com) is a good source of guides and Azores Choice
(www.azoreschoice.com) arranges guided and self-guided walking tours.
Each island has its own attractions. On São Miguel, suggest clients see the Caldeira das Sete Cidades and Furnas hot springs and visit the Gorreana tea estate, Europe’s only tea plantation. Whale and dolphin watching trips are best from Faial, where Horta harbor’s painted wall is a colorful reminder of its long history as the last port-of-call for transAtlantic yachtsmen. Pico Mountain’s perfect cone is the highest point in Portugal, a stunning backdrop for the central islands. Tiny Corvo’s beautiful crater attracts photographers, and a variety of bird species from Europe and the Americas. Clients can visit a cheesemaker on São Jorge, taste wines on several islands and savor delicious Cozido das Furnas, slowly cooked underground by volcanic heat.

Luxury Lodgings
The islands are well-prepared to welcome your clients at beautiful four-star hotels and resorts. One of Portugal’s finest, Terra Nostra Garden Hotel (www.parqueterranostra.com) on São Miguel, has been beautifully restored to its original 1930s Art Deco splendor. Clients will enjoy both the hot springs spa and its restaurant that proudly showcases Azorean products. Another good choice here is Hotel Camões (www.hotelcamoes.com), and on Terceira the Hotel Terceira Mar (www.bensaude.pt/terceiramarhotel), in gardens with a salt-water infinity pool and overlooking a 16th-century fortress. Hotel do Canal (www.bensaude.pt/hoteldocanal/en) on the ocean at Faial’s port of Horta, has a view over the bay and Pico Mountain.
SATA flies from US cities via hubs in Boston, Toronto and Montreal and also offers complete vacation packages
(www.flytoazores.com). The Azores are a 5-hour flight from Boston

Azores or Algarve?
While the Azores have a subtropical Mediterranean climate with year-round 60s and 70s temperatures, their ocean location means more winter rains. This makes the Azores perfect for clients looking for summer, spring or fall vacations with a variety of land and water experiences, but you should steer clients looking for almost-guaranteed sun to Portugal’s Algarve. Fall and winter temperatures are in the 60s and 70s and the Algarve averages 300 days of sunshine annually, so water sports are almost year-round activities.
Clients may have heard of Algarve beaches crowded with packaged tours and apartment blocks, but assure them that the western Algarve is far different. This beautiful coast developed later and responsibly, with complexes like Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel (www.martinhal.com) -- the Algarve’s only 5-star resort -- blending into the landscape. Balconied beach rooms furnished with local materials -- native woods, cork and stone -- are in low buildings amid gardens of native plants and trees, overlooking a half-mile crescent of golden sand.
With three restaurants (be sure to reserve at least one dinner at O Terraco), the luxurious Finisterra Spa, children’s programs, tennis, swimming, windsurfing, board-surfing, kayaking and paddle-boarding (all with equipment and lessons), it would be easy for clients to spend an entire vacation right here. But Martinhal is in the center of a spectacular coast they’ll want to explore. Beaches beneath dramatic cliffs, walking trails, even castles await them, and tour boats take them into sea caves, dolphin spotting and to water-level views of the towering cliffs.
Suggest they walk the ramparts of the beautiful Moorish castle at Silves and visit the windswept promontory at Europe’s southwestern tip, where Prince Henry the Navigator sent sailors off to explore the world. Nearby Lagos is a lively port with shops, historic sights and gold-encrusted churches. Martinhal works with agents to plan entire Algarve vacation packages.
It’s easy to see the whole Algarve from here, as it’s only 85 miles to the Spanish border, but clients may want to explore the eastern end from beautiful Tavira, near the Algarve’s capital of Faro. Book them at one of the two pousadas, luxury hotels set in restored historic buildings (www.pousadasofportugal.com). Pousada de Tavira is a former convent in the heart of the atmospheric old town, steps from the garden-filled castle and riverside promenades. Boats shuttle to the Rio Formosa Nature Preserve that protects miles of beach-lined barrier islands and lagoons. Nearby Pousada de Estoi is in an elegant palace above the little town and close to the excavated Roman villa of Milreu, with beautiful mosaics and an excellent museum.
TAP (www.flyTAP.com) flies to Lisbon through its hubs in Boston and Newark, and on to Faro. Clients stopping in Lisbon will love Memmo Alfama (www.memmoalfama.com), a smart new hotel in the heart of the historic Alfama with beautiful views and exceptional service. They’ll find equally good service on a fashionable tree-lined promenade at the boutique Heritage Avenida Liberdade (www.heritage.pt).
For complete information about Portugal, visit www.visitportugal.com.

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