Monday, 13 March 2017

PORTUGAL: Portugal Won 490 International Awards For Tourism In 2016

Having won 490 international awards for tourism in 2016, Portugal is becoming a buzzword for tourists.

You can visit Portugal all year round, thanks to the good weather we have throughout the year,” says Ana Mendes Godinho, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Tourism, on a visit to India to promote tourism-led investment in Portugal.

Add to good food, brilliant weather and fascinating history, a destination that offers you the beach, the mountains and the desert, all under one roof or rather, under one sky. With several tourism awards to their credit, there are reasons galore to explore Portugal.

Nominated as “the best surf destination, families come to Portugal and take surfing classes together,” says Godinho. But if adventure is not your family name, pick one of Portugal's several beaches to just splash around or simply unwind.

While the popular beach destination Algarve won the World Travel Awards 2016 for Europe's Leading Beach Destination 2016, the beaches near Lisbon and Porto are worth a visit too.

“Portugal is a melting pot of cultures and this is translated in its food,” says Godinho. “The Portuguese were the first importers of Indian spices to Europe 500 years ago, and this has had an impact on our food,” adds Godinho, who recommends their fish.

“We cook bacalhau (salted cod fish) in a thousand ways,” she says. Other must tries include Portuguese cheese and chouriço (sausages); bifana (slices of pork meat in a pão); pastel de nata, a custard tart made of egg and milk with a crispy, flaky, baked exterior, which is ideally eaten with lots of cinnamon powder sprinkled over it and an espresso; and Francesinha, a huge sandwich, made with linguiça (smoke-cured pork sausage), fresh sausage, steak or roasted meat, covered with melted cheese, and swimming in a tomato-and-beer sauce.

It is topped with an egg (sunny side up) and served with fries. “The number of Michelin starred chefs has doubled in 2016. It's not just our food that overwhelms people, but also our wines especially Port and Alentejo wines,” adds Godinho.

Watch out for Boom, an alternative music festival, held in July near Monte Santo – one of the oldest villages in Portugal. Other festivals include Meo sudoeste, Super bock super rock, Nos Alive, Paredes de Coura, Meo marés vivas and Primavera Sound.

“One moment you’re on a beach and an hour later you could be in the mountains,” says Godinho. When you’ve had enough of both, head to Alentejo, where the sun always shines on its yellow landscape. Home to Portugal’s cork trees, Alentejo offers unique wines and is the ideal destination for cycling, while the island of Azores is considered to be the New Zealand of Europe – a must-visit for its volcanic thermal pools.

A visit to the vibrant capital Lisbon is a must, as is a trip to Porto, where you can sip on Port wine and relax by the River Duoro. Coimbra, is known for its history and is home to the oldest university in Europe, while Évora has great nature routes for walking and cycling.

Visit the temple of Diana and other Roman ruins while you're there. Don't forget to visit the Duoro Valley for its wines and take a train through its splendid vineyards.

Madrid is an hour’s flight from Lisbon and 5-6 hours away by road.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa is believed to be the first Prime Minister of a European nation, who has Indian roots.

2017 is the centenary year of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions to the three children in Fatima. Events commemorating it include a candlelight procession that will take place every night in 2017. The pope is scheduled to visit Fatima in May this year.

Portugal won the World Golf Awards for being the World’s Best Golf Destination 2016.

Tourism, technology, shoemaking, cork, oil and wine are the major sectors of the Portuguese economy that are thriving.

Top Bollywood destinations include Alentejo, Lisbon, Algarve and Porto.

Porto has been voted, for the third time as the best destination in Europe.