Portugal is just a short flight from the UK, but it has the exoticism and climate of a far-flung destination. The country has so much to offer, over 1000 miles of coastline, with some of the best beaches in Europe, beautiful towns and cities steeped in history, rich cultural traditions, outstanding local wine and cuisine and warm, friendly people. A family holiday to Portugal is an experience the entire family will enjoy and one that will leave you and your children eager for the next visit.
When to visit
If your children are of school age you will, of course, be constrained by the school holidays and the higher prices for flights and accommodation that these peak periods incur. Though the summer holidays are the traditional times for a family holiday, when visiting Portugal, it’s worth considering spring or autumn. In spring, although the sea is not yet warm, the landscape is at its most beautiful, making it the perfect weather for hiking and sightseeing. In autumn the crowds will be much reduced, and the sea will be at its warmest making a late season beach holiday a viable option. Summer is hot, though the further north you go the cooler it will get, but be aware that central Portugal, in summer, is like a furnace. If you are travelling in Portugal with children in summer you will need to be scrupulous about the application of sun cream and the wearing of hats and you’ll need to keep out of the sun entirely during the hottest part of the day.
Where to stay
The Algarve is, of course, the most popular tourist destination in Portugal and with over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and over 100 beaches it’s not hard to see why, but there is a lot more to Portugal than the Algarve. North of Lisbon lies 500 miles of Atlantic coastline with sleepy fishing villages and splendid cities, like Porto, famous for its bridges and port wine. You may decide that you want to hire a car and take your children on a bit of a road trip in order to see as much of the country as possible, or you may decide to use the very good and inexpensive public transport system. Whether you decide on a multi- location or a single location holiday you will need to book the appropriate accommodation. Getting the accommodation right, especially when you have children with you, is particularly important. Hotel accommodation will give you plenty of ‘me’ time, they’ll be kids clubs for the children and plenty of other children to play with. You may decide however that you want to spend time together as a family, cooking, eating and relaxing together in which case self-catering accommodation is what you should be looking for.
What to do
Portugal really does have something for everyone. The coastal resorts of the Algarve offer every kind of water sport imaginable, catering for all ages and abilities. There’s just as much choice when it comes to land-based activities, whether you fancy climbing, trekking, horse riding or golfing. If you want to give your children an introduction to the history of the country, there are countless castles and ancient towns to be explored. And when you can think of nothing else, there’s always a glorious beach just around the corner.