When most people think of holidays to Portugal, areas such as Lisbon or coastal hotspots like the Algarve are what usually spring to mind. However, for many travellers there remains a series of exciting island destinations yet to be explored.
Portugal boasts a network of tranquil and picturesque islands that are rich in secluded sandy beaches, dramatic mountainsides and fascinating wildlife. If it all sounds too good to be true, then think again. The experts at Co-operative Travel have compiled this guide of travel tips and advice on how to plan a Portuguese island adventure.
Located in the Atlantic Ocean, the diminutive island of Madeira is a perfect blend of sub-tropical conditions and stunning natural scenery. Unlike many Med holidays, Madeira isn’t a hub for wild parties and clubbing. Instead, the serene location draws the crowds with its diverse flora and fauna and unspoilt coastlines.
Madeira has experienced the rule of countless empires throughout history, with each civilisation leaving a distinctive trace in the island’s culture, architecture and cuisine. Take a stroll through the island’s capital of Funchal to experience a distinctive blend of colonial whitewashed homes and black granite churches, cosmopolitan cafés and designer boutiques.
The local cuisine has also developed a distinct and mouth-watering appeal, with regional dishes including pan fried beef and red peppers and pork marinated in wine vinegar and garlic. With a great range of resorts offering water sports and spa facilities, this is a perfect getaway spot for couples and families alike.
For those who think all Med holidays are spoilt by booze and revellers, think again! Located 37km off the coast of Madeira and accessible only by local flights or ferries, Porto Santo offers a glimpse of truly untouched natural beauty. The tiny island features miles of unspoilt sandy coasts, calm crystal waters and mountainsides that are perfect for hiking.
Active holidaymakers are in for a treat in Porto Santo, with excellent facilities for swimming and snorkelling on offer. Meanwhile, golf lovers can enjoy the excellent 18 and 9-hole golf courses.
If you prefer your scenery to be a little more dramatic than the golf course’s rolling greens, then head to the island’s dramatic mountain ranges. Formed from two extinct volcanoes, this spot is perfect for the adventurous hiker.
History fans should include a trip to the museum of Christopher Columbus, situated in the capital of Vila Baleira which also offers a charming spread of shops, bars and restaurants.
Located around 1,500km west of Lisbon, The Azores is an archipelago made up of nine different islands. The unique location between two continents allows the islands to have adapted a unique blend of cuisine, culture and practices.
Animal lovers are in for a treat with the Azores offering excellent opportunities for whale watching, bird watching and horse riding. The stunning coastlines also make it an excellent spot for water sports and diving is particularly popular. These isolated landscapes make for the perfect family getaway or an excellent second honeymoon destination for couples.