Portugal has an important goal: it wants to be a destination where sustainable tourism is lived to the fullest. By committing to travel practices that benefit not only the planet, but also its inhabitants and travellers. This country is becoming the perfect destination for lovers of unique experiences. In Portugal, authenticity reflects not only the past but what actions people take to shape the future.
If you want to discover Portugal sustainably and differently, here is a list of tips to make the most of it:
1. Shop locally in Portugal
One of the best ways to do local tourism is to get to know the typical products of the region and explore the shops that offer them. Talk to the shop owners and find out about the origin of their products, their history, where they come from, and how they are made. Some of the most characteristic products of Portugal are:
- Cork: Did you know that Portugal is the world’s largest exporter of this product? So much so that there is even a cork fabric that can be used to make products such as clothes, shoes, and watches.
- Tiles: This country is known for being colourful, and one of the factors that bring colour to it is it’s tiles. You’ll see them everywhere: homes, churches, streets, walls in all shapes, colours and sizes! Stop to admire their designs, and you will discover surprising patterns and stories.
- Wine: Does Porto wine sound familiar? One of the most authentic ways to enjoy wine in Portugal is to visit one of its wineries. Buying this drink directly from its producers is a way of supporting local trade and, in addition, learning about the history behind its production.
If you want to know more about other typical products of the region, read on, we will tell you more in point four.
2. Enjoy restaurants with local food (Km 0)
Who said you couldn’t change the world from the table? The slow food movement advocates local and sustainable cuisine. It is based on principles such as respecting farming methods or enjoying seasonal products produced in the region.
Portugal has many restaurants that are concerned about the origin of the food in their cuisine. In each city, you will find different ingredients depending on its surroundings: the sea, rivers, and forests. Portugal will find a way to show you why its gastronomy is unique.
3. Visit the Berlengas, the sustainable islands that will leave you speechless
Can you imagine a place where absolutely all its energy is produced by solar panels? On the Berlengas Islands, this dream is a reality. Located 10 km off the Peniche coastline, the archipelago is made up of various islands and rocks in three groups: the Berlengas, the Estelas, and the Farilhões-Forcadas. They were named a World Network of Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2011, and also have a Special Protection Area for Wild Birds.
Visit the São João Batista Fortress or the Berlanga and Duque de Bragança lighthouses. Also, dive into the waters of spectacular beaches such as Praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro and Praia do Cova do Sonho.
4. Porto and North: Douro Valley and the “Terra Fria Transmontana” Route
Northern Portugal is full of secrets waiting to be discovered, and the Terra Fria Transmontana route will help you do just that. It is a 455 km itinerary that runs through the Tramuntana region made up of Bragança, Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro, Vimioso and Vinhais. It is possible to do the route on foot or by bicycle. Also, as it is a circular route, you can start it from any point.
In the north, you will also find the Douro Valley, a region marked by the river with the same name, which it shares with Spain. This is the ideal place for wine and vineyard culture lovers, as it is the only wine region where grapes are handpicked due to the steepness of its hills.
Among the most picturesque places to visit in this valley, we recommend Pinhão, a town surrounded by vineyards, and Tua Lake, where you will find unspoilt natural landscapes that you will want to photograph. If you are looking for how to get there from Oporto, take a look at the option of arriving by Linha do Douro. It is a scenic train that connects Oporto with Pocinho.
5. Centre of Portugal: Schist Villages and Historical Villages
Surround yourself with endless mountain scenery while breathing the fresh air of the Aldeias de Xisto. Admire its rivers, which are one of the main sources of water in the country, running through this paradise across 5,000 km2. This region is divided into four territorial units: Serra da Lousã, Serra do Açor, Zêzere, and Tagus-Ocreza.
Here you will be able to live an authentic experience by living with its inhabitants. All of them have taken care of this territory and have a lifestyle directly connected to nature, properly sustainable and conscious. You will fall in love with the picturesque architecture of its villages and the cultural heritage, they carry while you enjoy the incomparable cuisine.
You can visit the twelve Aldeias Históricas. Nestled in the mountain ranges, admire their medieval castles while discovering stories of conquest and ancient traditions that continue to live on in this corner of Portugal.
6. Lisboa Region: Ericeira, Mafra and Arrábida
Here are some of the hidden gems you can find near Lisbon for a getaway during your trip. First on the list is Ericeira, a fishing village where you can enjoy traditional seafood cuisine and dozens of bars and cafés. It is also a favourite destination for surfers.
Admire the greatest work of Portuguese baroque at the Convent of Mafra, known for its 92 bells. In Mafra, you will also discover a natural jewel in the Tapada Nacional de Mafra, where they work on the conservation of the Iberian lynx.
Visit the Arrábida Natural Park, where you will find views of beaches, green scenery, and even some caves. The flora of this region is lovingly preserved, as many species are unique to this area, so there are areas that can only be accessed with a certified guide.
7. Alentejo: Alqueva, Arraiolos and Marvão
Lake lovers will be amazed by Lake Alqueva, the largest reservoir in Portugal and Western Europe. During your visit, be sure to pack your camera as this particular spot is known to be one of the best places in the world to photograph stars. A sustainable trip isn’t complete until you discover the benefits of low light pollution! This is a fantastic place for astronomical tourism.
The local produce section left you wanting to discover even more Portuguese delicacies, visit Arraiolos. This town is not only known for its beauty and the warmth of its people but also for a long tradition of hand-woven carpets. Inspired by shapes, you won’t want to miss out on having one at home and bringing the craftsmanship of Portugal into your home.
Continue your journey to Marvão, the highest point of the Serra de São Mamede and considered a natural fortress. From the top, you will have a breathtaking view of the region.
8. Algarve: Alcoutim and Monchique
Near the Algarve mountain region, there are dozens of towns to discover. Here we recommend two that are a must on your itinerary: On the one hand, Alcoutim will allow you to disconnect while you admire the Guadiana River surrounded by the green of its mountains. Enjoy the local restaurants that serve fresh fish from the river and handmade products such as pottery and linen towels.
Protected by the forest, Monchique is an ideal place for lovers of hiking, canoeing or cycling. Take the opportunity to try a medronho (brandy) in one of its bars and breathe the fresh air of the surrounding mountains.
9. Azores: Flores, Graciosa and Santa Maria islands
Thinking of sustainable tourism on an island? Then the Azores is the place for you! Connected to other islands by plane or ferry, the island of Flores may seem small, but it offers a big wow factor for visitors.
Visit Faja Grande, covered in waterfalls that you can admire from the shore, then travel through Castanheiro, where more than a dozen waterfalls converge in a small lagoon. Recharge your batteries by spending the night in places like Aldeia da Cuada, which has gone from being an abandoned village to a rural hub for sustainable tourism in Portugal.
Classified by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve, Graciosa Island, also known as White Island, will leave you speechless. Some of the must-see stops for nature lovers are Ponta Branca, Ponta Restina and the Furna do Enxofre, a volcanic cavern!
10. Madeira: São Vicente and Porto Santo Island
Last but not least, of the recommendations on this list is undoubtedly Madeira. São Vicente, located in the north of the island, is one of the most beautiful valleys of the archipelago. Here you will find the famous São Vicente Caves, as well as extensive vegetation and beaches with magnificent waves for water sports.
Porto Santo, eleven kilometers long, is one of those places that may seem small but leaves a huge impression on you. With incredible sites such as the Paleo dunes or the Tropical garden. You will soon realize that there is no other place quite like Porto Santo in the world. If you want to know more places to visit in Madeira, we recommend you to read our blog, Discover Madeira.
11. Enjoy a trip on a sustainable sailboat
We have already talked about the Berlangas, where solar energy is used throughout the island. But Portugal’s sun provides energy for other activities, such as boat trips. But how does this impact flora and fauna? Pollution, noise, and CO2 emissions from an ordinary boat tend to disturb the creatures that inhabit the ocean. Opt for renewable energy boats to avoid CO2 emissions and oil spills that affect wildlife. It will allow you to contribute to sustainable and responsible tourism during your stay. The views and tranquillity of the sea will take on a whole new meaning!
12. Practice slow travel
Stop looking at the clock! Plan your trip thinking about yourself and the environment you want to visit. In Portugal, sustainable tourism focuses on getting to know the cities in a different way. This kind of travel focuses on savouring what is unique to each region so that you can experience these places with your heart. Venture into a new way of travelling, where you lose sense of time and start telling the best travel stories. It’s time to be present; it’s time to disconnect in Portugal.
13. Choose nature as the heart of your trip
Let the environment be the protagonist of your adventure. In Portugal you will find all kinds of places to visit: mountains, beaches, rivers, lakes, big and small cities. Dare to discover what makes each of these spaces unique. Immerse yourself in a journey that creates a positive existential experience, opening your horizons and connecting with places and people.
Now that you have your sights set on the sustainable tourism which Portugal has to offer, what are you waiting for? Pack your suitcase, put on your most comfortable shoes, load up your camera and let the adventure begin!