Sunday, January 25, 2009

Portugal Vacations

Portugal Facts

As many of you already know, Portugal is the home of Port Wine. But did you also know that some of the world's best table wines come from the Douro region as does world famous brandy Maciera and the popular sweet liquor Madeira or the potent Aguardente (fire Water), also come from Portugal? Portugal is a wine connoisseurs paradise and luckily for us, has not yet been conglomerated and assimilated. Portuguese wines are some of the most flavorful and unique wines in the world today.

This post though isn't about wines, but about Portugal as a whole. Cities like Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Funchal as well as regions like the Azores the Algarve, Madeira and Minho are enchanting gems of Europe. Since many of Portugal's major cities were built off of the Atlantic ocean, beach resorts are a common theme in most Portuguese cities, making Portugal the ideal Travel experience.

Originally called Lusitania by the Romans, Portugal is Continental Europe's most westerly country with a covetous Spanish Empire laying siege on its Eastern front and a vast and untamed sea to the west. Due to the wars of long ago and the urge to discover new lands,most would assume that the Portuguese would have become a hardened a bitter group, but the exact opposite is true. For a people who have endured many years colonial wars in Africa, Sea battles with other envious seafaring nations, and continental wars with neighboring countries, including the heartache brought on by the iron fisted rule of Fascist regime of Salazar who ruled Portugal for most of the 20th century, and stagnated its social and economic diversity, the Portuguese are surprisingly the most freindly people you will ever meet.

But the Portuguese have turned much of the bitter tears of wars and isolation inward into a magical musical genre called Fado. It was in these during the fasciast rule where a century's old musical form called Fado took hold and flousrished in the country. Fado, with the help of a musical genius by the name of Amalia Rodrigues has become the national music of the Portuguese and is now being appreciated by people from America to Japan.

As legend has it, Fado has two distinct birth places and can be divided into Fado of Coimbra and Fado of Lisbon. The Lisbon Fados are world famous and tourists from the four corners of the globe swarm to the Fado coffee houses to enjoy the mournful songs of Fado. It is said that Fado began as songs sang by the Portuguese explorers and sailors like Vasco da Gama who in their yearning for home sang these tunes of sadness. When Portugal became the world's richest nation in the Middle Ages, a colonial empire that stretched from Brazil to Africa, India, China and Japan, Fado may have been born, strengthening its roots that makes it so unique today, but never really Fado until the 1800's. But it was Amalia Rodrigues who popularized it and added vocal inflections that was unheard of before her time creating the Fado that we know and love today.

When you think about your next Portugal vacations you will be truly blessed with a vacation that has no boundaries. Your Portugal Vacation may last a week, a month or many many years and each time you will find something new and rediscover something old. Places like Lisbon, Algarve, Sao Miguel, Funchal Madeira island or the Sun dried Algarve or the great cork plains of the Alentejo is all waiting to be discovered.

Whether you are looking for a Quinta to rent or Pousada hopping, or perhaps you are a looking for returning each year with a holiday timeshare, Portugal is a country that is full of surprises. It's no wonder that British make up the largest group of yearly visitors to Portugal, a country that has friendly ties for nearly a thousand years. British expats have been flocking to the shores of the Algarve, seeking year round warmth, culture and value.

If you are traveling to Lisbon, be sure to visit the grounds of Expo 88, with its stunning Lisbon oceanarium. Close by, don't miss out on the Carriage Museum which showcases one of the world's greatest collection of Carriages used by the Portuguese Aristocracy. Or Perhaps you are looking to take in culture and history. Lisbon's Gulbenkian museum is world renown and features artifacts spanning the long history of Portugal. For Art junkies, the new Berardo Museum is a must see for its vast collection of priceless art, including Andy Warhol, Picasso just to name a few.

Traveling to Portugal is always a please surprise and you will enjoy your Portugal vacations. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, there are just too many places to visit and things to see, it is truly a gem, and you will never regret your choice of having a Portugal Vacations.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Quinta Portugal Vacation

Portuguese Quintas

Last week we spoke about Santa Maria Island. Today we'll talk about Quintas.
Have you thought about renting a Quinta on your Portugal Vacation? Unlike Pousadas, which are important historical buildings that have been converted into hotels, with emphasis on historical preservation and in keeping with the region of the country, Quintas differ slightly.

A Quinta is rural estate or farm, whose main houses encompass architectural styles from the classic to the rustic. Although many of these are historical buildings, Quintas are often privately owned residences.

Quintas are great for the traveler who's looking for a more complete travel experience. Unlike Pousadas which are operated by a private company, Quintas are generally owned by private individuals, often by the same family for hundreds of years. Many of the Quintas available are located in Portugal's North Region, which is full history and charm. Being less touristic than the south, Northern Portugal is the place to go for those looking for History, Culture and Solace, it is a true Portuguese vacation experience.

Quintas are a great way to immerse yourself in the local Portuguese communities and experience Portugal up-close. The Quinta owners will both greet you upon arrival, as well as offer you insight into the countryside from ideal hiking to shopping, that you just cannot get from a commercial establishment. Quintas are generally close to many recreational activities including fishing, hunting, golf, swimming, rambling, tennis, horseback riding, cycling and wine tasting. Best of all, you will be surrounded by culture and history the likes that you have never seen before. A Quinta is the best way to fully experience Portuguese culture, intimately.

Unlike Pousadas, Since Quintas are private residences, there are a few procedures that you should be aware of.

Prices are in Euros. There are no extra fees for children under twelve. Breakfasts are included at no extra charge and dinners available at an extra cost. Short notice cancellations may require full payment.

You can find out more information at Solares de Portugal.

Below are some Quintas available to you.

Quinta da Agra Ponte de Lima
Quinta do Albergue do Bonjardim Sertã
Quinta da Aldeia Ponte de Lima
Quinta do Baganheiro Ponte de Lima
Quinta da Bela Vista Castelo de Vide
Quinta da Calçada Melgaço
Quinta da Casa do Paço Paredes Coura
Quinta do Casal Ponte de Lima
Quinta de Cima de Eiriz Guimarães
Quinta da Comenda S. Pedro Sul
Quinta do Convento da Franqueira Barcelos
Monte da Corte Ligeira Beja
Quinta de Cortinhas Arcos Valdevez
Casa Agrícola da Levada Vila Real
Quinta da Maragoça Penafiel
Quinta da Mata Chaves
Quinta do Paço d'Anha Viana do Castelo
Quinta de Parada do Vez Arcos Valdevez
Quinta da Prova Ponte da Barca
Quinta do Rei Ponte de Lima
Quinta da Roseira Ponte de Lima
Quinta de Santa Comba Barcelos
Quinta de Santo António Monção
Quinta de São Bento Vila Verde
Quinta de São Lourenço Anadia
Quinta do Sorilhal Vieira do Minho
Quinta do Sourinho Barcelos

Thank you for visiting Portugal Vacations and we wish you a happy travel on your next Quinta Vacation.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Portugal Vacations: Santa Maria Azores

Santa Maria Azores

Last week I told you about the Portuguese Island of Flores, a gorgeous island in the Azores Archipelago, and a must see on your next Portugal Vacation.

This week I will end off the exploratory journey through the Azores with Santa Maria. Strangely, Santa Maria, is probably the most famous of all the Islands of the Azores, because Christopher Columbus short stop-over during his return trip from maiden voyage to the Americas.

Discovered in 1427 by another Portuguese explorer, Diogo Silves, Santa Maria is the southernmost island in the Azores. It's closest neighbor is Sao Miguel, approximately 30 minutes by plane to the north. There are approximately 5500 residents on the island, who are connected to the other islands via a small island airport. The people on the island make their living, much like residents from the other islands, through fishing and agriculture. Unlike the islands from the northern and Central regions of the Azores which were settled by Northern Continental Portuguese, Santa Maria was inhabited by Portuguese people primarily from the Alentejo and Algarve in Southern Portugal. The older homes in Santa Maria tend to look like houses from Alentejo rather than from Northern Portugal.

The oldest island in the Azores, Santa Maria is also the third smallest, with only approximately 97 km² in area. It is possibly the most distinct from all other islands in the Azores archipelago due to large deposits of sediments that make it's beaches the lightest in color. Santa Maria has everything that anyone looking for a perfect beach experience without the stampede of tourists on your Portugal Vacation.

Santa Maria Azores, is the very best island to visit for those who enjoy wonderful beaches and sun. Santa Maria is the perfect place to visit on your next Portugal Vacation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Portugal Vacations: Flores Azores

Flores Azores

Last week on Portugal Vacations I told you a little about Corvo (Crow Island), the northernmost island in the Azoreas Archipelago. Today, I would like to tell you about Corvo's sister island Flores.

Flores is located on the north west, Flores is another Portuguese Island worth the travel and has a total land area of approximately 143 km², and like the rest of the Azorean islands is volcanic in origin. Many interesting rock formations can be seen on this picturesque island, such as the interesting threads created from petrified basalt. The highest point on the island is Morro Alto at about 3000 feet.

Flores was discovered in 1450 by Portuguese Explorer Diogo de Teive and remained uninhabited for about 20 years, primarily due to the fact that the Portuguese were discovering new Lands almost every year and there was just not enough time to administer each and every land mass. Like many of the other central islands, Flores was primarily established and inhabited by Northern Continental Portuguese. Today, there are approximately 4000 permanent residents on the island who reside in the municipalities of Santa Cruz or Lajes, who will be welcome you warmly on your Portuguese Vacation.

Flores is the Portuguese word for Flowers. It was named thus due to the large number of flowers, hydrangeas specifically, that grow wild and plentiful in the summer months. Many who visit Flores consider it the most beautiful of all the Azores islands, and its hard to argue. With its 7 Crater Lakes and many waterfalls, Flores is a daydreamer's paradise. Along with the large number of Lakes and waterfalls, Flores volcanic history has created the magnificent cavern called Enxareus Grotto, which is approximately 164 feet long and 82 feet wide.

Whether you're looking to day-dream your days away listening to the sounds of a nearby waterfall or sailing into the blue Atlantic Ocean, Flores is a recommended Island Getaway that will keep beckoning you back to simpler days and it makes a great Portugal Vacations.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Portugal Vacations: Corvo Azores

Corvo Azores

Last week on Portugal vacations I told you a little about the breathtaking island of Faial. This week I'll tell you a little about Corvo Island (Crow Island in English).

Often, people who travel to Portugal and the Azores specifically, usually forgo a trip to Corvo. Due to its relative isolation to the other Azores islands and its very small population, Corvo can often seem to be a very far away place to visit. But for those of you who are seious about travel, Corvo should not be missed. Don't let its small size fool you, this island is a great location for enjoying nature at its fullest.

Corvo is the smallest and northernmost Island in the Azores. Along with it's sister island Flores, it is part of the western Azores islands. Corvo is approximately 6.5 km long and 4 km wide, with a total land area of approximately 17 km2 As well as being the smallest island in land area, Corvo has also got the smallest population, with approximately 460 inhabitants who mostly reside in Vila Nova do Corvo.

Most of the residents of Corvo work in Agriculture and/or fishing. Due to its isolation, the people of Corvo have learned to do things for themselves and are very autonomous and self-sufficient, the extended family is very important.

The prominent feature of Corvo is the volcanic crater of Monte Grosso which has an approximate perimeter of 4 km and a depth of 300 m. Like many of the other Azores islands, these volcanic craters create a very unique and stunning vistas that are well worth the visit. The volcano is considered dormant.

Due to it's small size and relative isolation, Corvo does not have any hotels so day trip is probably the best option. There is a small campground and guesthouse on the island. You can get to Corvo by small airplane which services the islands a few days per week, or by boat from the island of Flores.

Corvo is indeed a walk off the beaten path, and can be very rewarding for those who take the time to appreciate this small island it is a great place to go on your Portugal Travels.

I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of Corvo. Please come back next week to learn more about the great places of Portugal On Portugal Vacations.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Portugal Vacations: Faial Azores

Faial Azores

On last weeks post of Portugal Vacations I told you about Graciosa, one of the beautiful islands of the Central Azorean Archipelago. In today's post I will tell you about Faial, another of the central Azorean islands.

Originally called Ilha da Ventura (Venture Island) Faial was renamed due to the large number of Myrica faya trees that exist on the island. Some still refer to Faial as the Ilha Azul (the "Blue Island"), due to the large quantity of Hydrangeas that grow there in the summer.

Faial is a Pentagonal shaped island with a land area of 173 km². It is very hilly, with 1,043 meters high peak and with a 2 km wide inner crater that is approximately 500 meters in depth. Faial's closest neighbor is the island of Pico which can be seen at any time of year. On clear days, the Island of Sao Jorge is also visible. Faial has had volcanic activity as recently as 1958 at which time a large portion of the population fled to the other Azores islands, Continental Portugal, Brazil or the United States.

Discovered in 1427, Faial was originally inhabited by Northern Continental Portuguese who migrated to it through the island of Terceira. As time passed, Flemish migrants also migrated to Faial and integrated with the local Portuguese population.

The most important city in Faial is Horta which is located on the southeast part of the island. Horta has always been an important stopover for Portuguese explorers and merchants during Portugal's long Maritime history. The Horta fort, which today is a Pousada, played a very important role in the defense of the Azores, which over the years has experienced raids and attacks by French, Spanish and the English.

Today, Faial has a population of approximately 15,000 people, many of whom work in Tourism, agriculture or fishing. Commercial whaling played a large role in the islands economy in the earlier part of the 20th century, but vanished completely after it was banned by the Portuguese state in the early 1980's.

The island is still considered an important stop-over for small commercial fleets and private yachts sailing from the Americas and Europe.

Faial is an excellent island for boaters who enjoy a day in the open ocean, or island hopping. It is also an excellent place for whale watching. For those of you who love hiking, then Faial is also a perfect location due to it's steep hills and marvelous vistas. Make Faial one of your stop-overs on your next Portugal Vacation.

Source of all images:

isabelmar: Flickr