Best Islands of Portugal To Visit in 2018

By Swathi Ramaswamy on May 31, 2018
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Stunning beaches, spectacular scenery, idyllic climate, and rich cultural heritage are some of the few reasons why Portugal is one of the most coveted tourist destinations in the world. Exploring the islands of this country will give you an opportunity to take delight in the best sea surfing in the world. And if you want to visit the mainland, there are sightseeing spots and activities galore for a wonderful vacation with your family and friends. You will find the most picturesque islands off the Algarve coast and the small groups of islands in Madeira and Azores. Read this article to take a closer look at the best islands of Portugal.

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Enjoy the White Sand and Warm Water in Santa Maria

Though most of the Azorean islands feature black, rocky beaches, this is not what you will experience when you head for Santa Maria. Located in the extreme south, Santa Maria boasts of whitest sandy beaches and warm waters, in which you can take a refreshing dip with your family and kids. The island is blessed with the driest climate, which means that you can enjoy the most happening beach vacation with your loved ones. Verdant hills run down the stretch of white sand. The major attractions include sixteenth-century fort ruins, hiking trails, national parks. The waves crashing on the shores are a treat to one’s eyes, providing plenty of opportunities for some surfing action. If you are fond of water sports, indulge in kayaking and jet skiing. Take a gentle dip in the nearby rock pools if you are not much of a water sports enthusiast. Reaching the island is simple, as you will get flights from São Miguel, Azores primary airport as well from Portugal mainland. You can also avail ferry services operating from São Miguel and Santa Maria. 

Get mesmerized with Green Island, Sao Miguel

The island featuring the only airport and cruise ship terminal is also the largest in the Azores. Strategically seated in Delgada and Ponta, the island attracts travel enthusiasts from all over the world. São Miguel boasts of gardens, restaurants, and stores to delight travelers for a couple of days. The roads are well-maintained. The locals call the island, ‘Green Island’. That is because the temperate climate and the volcanic soil have made the island look lush green with hills and forests. The beauty of the mountains in the island interior offers tourists with a breathtaking view. The best scenic views are at Vista do Rei, offering a stunning view of the green and turquoise waters of the lagoon. And if you are an adventure-seeker, explore the abandoned Hotel Monte Palace, a five-star facility once. Make sure that you visit this hotel wearing sturdy shoes. Vacationing without food and wine makes no sense. So, savor your taste buds with delicious seafood and red wine. The must-do activity is taking a plunge in the hot springs, which are naturally heated. The other activities include kayaking, snorkeling, paragliding, whale watching, and canyoning. You will also find an underneath waterfall for some more thrilling activities. You can reach São Miguel by car, local bus service, and direct flights from the major European cities. 

Revel in the Beauty of Flores 

Life is slow in Flores, and if you are looking for a laidback vacation in Europe, this is the place for you. Flores has been aptly named implying flowers. Head for this beautiful island with your loved ones. You will love the island’s unspoiled beauty and natural surroundings, which have made the place a UNESCO biosphere in the year 2009. Seated in the far-west Azores, this island stretches 55 square miles and dotted with volcanic craters. And seven of them have metamorphosed into stunning lakes over the years - a sight to behold. The blue waters, the picturesque mountains, and a splash of vibrant colored-flowers are some of the major attractions of the island. The activities include canyoning, diving, hiking, sailing, whale watching, and scuba diving. The other popular leisure activities for tourists include river and ocean fishing, bird watching. You can get travel to Flores by air, rental cars and bikes, and liveaboard boats. 

Relax in Nature’s Lap in Madeira

The island attracts double the tourists as the islands of Azores. Millions of travel aficionados flock to Madeira each year. Enjoy the mild and moderate weather, the daily average temperatures not rising more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The island is for nature lovers. Did you know that an unusual natural system of concrete canals and stones provides water to the colorful flowers of the region and crops across Madeira? The best is that the maintenance trails for these waterways provide excellent hiking opportunities to adventure lovers, which otherwise remain unreachable. The lush green and dense forests will leave you mesmerized. The forestland boasts of native, towering trees, offering shelter to many resident and migratory birds. The stunning natural surroundings and zigzag coastal roads are sure to captivate your senses. Tourists heading for Madeira prefer paragliding, horse riding, and golfing. Besides, you will take delight in water-based activities as well, including kayaking, game fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The water activities are popular because of the island’s profuse sea life and transparent waters. If you are looking for a comforting vacation, unwind in Madeira’s pristine beaches. The island is famous for its food and beverages including honey cakes, fortified wines, octopus, tuna, black scabbardfish, and shellfish. You can reach the island by air, cruise ships, ferry, and car service. 

Appreciate the Beauty of Pico’s Volcano 

A trio to Pico is incomplete if you do not revel in the beauty of the volcano, which gives this island the name. The highest mountain in the country, Ponta do Pico rises 7,700 feet above the ocean and offers a jaw-dropping view from all over the island. Professional hikers can make their wear to the top of the mountain in approximately four hours and retreat their steps in about three hours. So, if you are planning to explore Pico, make sure you are all set for a strenuous hiking adventure. The weather remains unpredictable. Therefore, when you have reached the summit, the weather may be rough, unlike the base. The activities include wine tasting tours, visiting the three-mile lava caves, whale watching, hiking, and swimming. The best way to access Pico is by air. You can also opt for ferry services to explore the neighboring islands. 

Explore Coimbra’s Treasure Troves 

Seated along the Mondego River, Central Portugal, this island city boasts of picturesque gardens, historical spots, rich culture, and Portugal’s famous fado music. So, if you are contemplating to visit Coimbra, expect to experience the country’s rich history and dignity. The best activity is getting mesmerized or lost, exploring the multiple historic sites such as the Gothic Monastery in Santa Clara-a-Velha and the beautiful cathedral. The monastery houses the tomb of Queen Isabel. Do not miss the University of Coimbra. Fall in love with its Joanina Library, one of the beautiful libraries in the world. The island city also boasts of modern riverfront park with veranda bars, a smart-looking pedestrian bridge, restaurants, and huge shopping plazas. You can reach Coimbra by air, bus or train from Lisbon. Getting around the island city is easy with trolley buses, cars, and foot. 

Bask in the Beaches of Porto Santo Island 

The island is seated north of Madeira and a perfect holiday hotspot for beach lovers. The major attractions of Porto Santo Island are its stunning beaches, featuring the unspoiled and sandy shoreline. The historic sites include the former residence of Christopher Columbus, the sixteenth century Paços do Concelho, which is a palace and town hall. You will also love to visit the fifteenth century Matriz Church. The other tourist activities include hiking and golfing. Enjoy your hiking adventure to the summit on Porto Santo, which is a peak named Pico da Facho. You can reach the island by air, boat, and ferry service. 

Enjoy the Sunny Days in Ilha da Tavira 

Located some hundred meters off Portugal’s southern coast is every tourist’s delight. If you are planning to take a tour of the island, do so with your loved ones. The beautiful days drenched with abundant sunshine are sure to make your vacation a memorable one. Enjoy your stay with your family and kids on the beaches, swimming and sunbathing. If you walk along the beach, you will notice it gets isolated as you move. Take delight in the tufted dunes. If you feel hungry and want to reach out for some drinks, you will find restaurants and bars on the beach itself. Ilha da Tavira is a must-visit if you are looking for a beach vacation without much crowd. The easy way to reach the island is by flight, bus service, ferry, and taxis. 

Explore Terceira Island for its Landscapes and Activities 

This island not so developed is the third largest of the islands of Azores. If you love architecture, then the city of Angra do Heroismo is just the place for you. However, tourists flock to the island because of its stunning landscapes and outdoor activities. The island features a stunning castle known as Castelo de São João Batista, a historical spot where the Portuguese and the Spanish raged an epic battle there. The activities include unwinding on the Praia de Vitoria beaches, enjoying the sand and waves. Explore the Gruta do Natal and Algar do Carvão. The special tourist activities include fishing, discovering nature, and hiking. Savor your taste buds with the local food complemented with the green wine, a specialty of the island, named Vinho Verde. You can reach the island by air, bus, car, and ferry.

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