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Portugal is somewhere for those who love the great outdoors.

It has some of the best surfing and kite-surfing conditions in Europe. On the water, there is also great sailing, diving, fishing, kayaking and white-water rafting.

On land, it is most famous for golf. Less-known is that it also has some of the most beautiful and un-spoilt areas in Europe for hiking, wildlife-viewing and birding, climbing, mountain biking and paragliding.

Here are some suggestions:

   

SURFING

Portugal is considered by many to be the best surfing destination in Europe. It has 850 km of Atlantic coastline, much of it west-facing, with a huge variety of breaks and conditions. Waves are consistently impressive, with huge ones in the autumn and winter and more moderate conditions in the spring and summer. Good surfing areas can be found on much of the west coast. In the most popular spots there is usually a good choice of surf shops and schools.
 
The best surfing areas in Portugal include:
·    The extreme south-west between Sagres (Algarve) and Comporta (Baixo Alentejo)
·    Beaches on the Lisbon Coast such as Guincho, Ericeira and Leiria with Nazaré and Peniche (home of the Rip Curl Pro)
·    The Minho coast such as the beaches of Cabedelo de Viana and Afife
·    Azores and Madeira
 
 
WINDSURFING & KITESURFING
 
Portugal has become a mecca for windsurfers and kitesurfers, who come from all over Europe, year after year, to enjoy excellent wind and wave conditions. Strong and steady winds are common, including the afternoon onshore effect from April to October, the northerlies during high pressure weather conditions and predominant south-westerly trade winds. There are many exposed coastlines, as well as more sheltered lagoons, estuaries and bays around the country to enjoy windsurfing and kitesurfing. 
 
The best windsurfing and kitesurfing areas in Portugal include:
·    Algarve: Alvor (with the PKRA championship), Ria Formosa, Tavira, Vilamoura
·    Coastal Beiras around Aveiro and Figueira da Foz
·    Lisbon Coast at Guincho, Nova Vaga (Caparica) and Leiria with Peniche
·    Minho and Porto coast: Ofir and Esposende to Cabedelo de Viana and Moledo
·    Azores and Madeira
 
 
SAILING
 
Steady winds make Portugal an excellent place for sailing. It is also becoming increasingly important on the professional sailing circuit, in the recent past hosting stages of tournaments such as the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race. Much of the coastline facing west is exposed and oceanic and thus best for expert sailors, but there are also many sheltered bays, ports, estuaries and lagoons, ideal for leisure sailing and beginners.
 
The best sailing areas in Portugal include:
·    Lisbon Coast on the Lisbon estuary and along the coast to Cascais
·    Algarve: around the marinas of Lagos, Portimão and Vilamoura and up the Guadiana river
·    Minho river and Aveiro lagoon (Coastal Beiras) for small boat river sailing
·    Azores and Madeira for cruising around islands
 
For cruising sailors seeking information on Portugal, check out Noonsite.
 
KAYAKING, CANOEING & RAFTING
 
With its many rivers, estuaries and lagoons, it is surprising that kayaking, canoeing and rafting are still practiced by only a select few in Portugal. This means there are miles and miles of empty and peaceful stretches to explore, amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in Portugal. In some of the best locations to practice these sports, a few local tour operators do exist, and these rent out all the necessary equipment and lead day trips and longer excursions.
 
The best kayaking, canoeing and rafting areas in Portugal include:
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 RIVER & SEA FISHING

Portugal has ideal conditions for river and sea fishing, and the sport is very popular in the country. The clean and cool rivers of the north and centre, which pass through the mountains of the interior and spill into the Atlantic are renowned for trout and eel. Local fishermen all over the country can typically be seen casting lines into the waves from beaches and headlands. There are also good conditions for spear fishing in the clear seas around rocky headlands. And just off the coast are deep seas which hold albacore, tuna and marlin. Note that a fishing permit is required for all classes of fishing in Portugal.  

The best fishing areas in Portugal include:

 

 

SNORKELLING & SCUBA DIVING

The best snorkelling and scuba-diving conditions in Portugal can be found in the clear waters of sheltered and rocky coasts. Sights include rocky drop-offs, volcanic features and large fish species. On occasion, one also sees dolphins from the boat. When calm enough, it is also possible to snorkel around rocks and coves along the shoreline.  

The best snorkeling and scuba diving areas in Portugal include:

  • Madeira’s Garajau Nature Reserve and Porto Santo island
  • The Azores islands for diving combined with dolphin and whale spotting
  • The south coast of the Algarve and the Berlenga islands (photo below) off Peniche (Leiria)

 

 

GOLF

Portugal is a year-round golf destination and has a choice of over 70 courses. Half of these are located in the Algarve, making this a major attraction of the area, and the remainder are scattered around the country. Courses are often located in beautiful areas, along coastlines and in the hills of the interior. Several were designed by Sir Henry Cotton, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros. International tournaments include the Portuguese Open held in Estoril in June and the Portugal Masters in Vilamoura during October. Green fees typically range from €35 to €160.

The best golfing areas in Portugal include:

 

 

HIKING & MOUNTAIN BIKING

With its diverse landscapes, beautiful scenery and un-spoilt countryside, Portugal is a land created for hikers and mountain-bikers. The options are endless, from long empty beaches and cliffs to unspoilt countryside and rugged mountains. More often than not, you will be the only person or group in an area, apart from the occasional local farmer. Some places have way-marks, but most of the time it is best to follow your nose. The most comfortable times of year for walking and mountain-biking are the spring and autumn. In the summer, it is best to head out early. The winter is mild, but in January there may be occasional snow in the interior.

The best hiking and mountain-biking areas in Portugal include:

Recently created is the Rota Vicentina, a 340km west coast trail in the Baixo Alentejo and Algarve regions. Well-marked, it follows two routes, the Historic Way passing through rolling hills, traditional villages and cork oak forests, along with the Fishermen's Trail along cliffs, beaches and old fishing villages. Along the Rota Vicentina, stay at Herdade da Matinha, Cerca do Sul, Herdade do Touril, Walnut Tree Farm and Casa Fajara.

 

CLIMBING, CAVING & PARAGLIDING

Portugal is a hilly country, much of it taken up either by granite or limestone. This makes it a good place for technical rock climbing, caving and paragliding. The granite mountains of the northern and central interior have huge bare slabs, crevices, crags and boulders. The limestone hills of coastal areas in the centre and south of the country are typified by vertical walls, overhangs and caves.

The best climbing, caving and paragliding areas in Portugal include:

  • Granite mountains of Peneda-Gerês (Minho), Caramulo and Serra da Estrela (Mountain Beiras) for climbing
  • Limestone hills of the central coast from Coimbra to Setúbal, notably at Redinha (Leiria), Montejunto and Arrábida (both on the Lisbon Coast), for climbing. Mira d’Aire (Leiria) for caving
  • Vertical sea cliffs of the west coast of the Algarve and Baixo Alentejo for extreme deep water solo climbing
  • Boulders at Sintra and Cascais, on the Lisbon Coast, for technical climbing
  • Glacial Valleys of Linhares da Beira in the Serra da Estrela (Mountain Beiras) for paragliding 

 

 

BIRDING

On the migration path between Africa and Europe, and with diverse Atlantic, Iberian and Mediterranean ecosystems including lagoons, estuaries, rivers, plains, forests, mountains and gorges, Portugal is a paradise for bird-watchers. There are over 360 regularly-occurring species. And being a small country, it is easy to cover various areas of interest in a single trip.

The best birding areas in Portugal include:

  • Lagoons and estuaries of Aveiro (Coastal Beiras), Lisbon Coast, Sado, Ria Formosa (Algarve) for waders and wildfowl, including the Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Purple Heron, Pied Avocet and Collared Pratincole
  • Mountains of the Minho, Trás-os-Montes and Mountain Beiras for birds of prey such as Montagu’s Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Scops Owl, European Honey Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon and Red-backed Shrike
  • Gorges and scarps of the Douro and Tagus rivers (Alto Alentejo), for birds of prey such as Egyptian Vultures, Eurasian Griffon Vultures, Golden Eagles, Bonelli’s Eagles, Red Kites, Eagle Owls and Nightjars
  • Forests and countryside of the Minho and Leiria for Coal, Blue and Crested Tits, Robins, Pied Flycatchers, Hoopoe and Cuckoos
  • Plains of the Baixo Alentejo and Alto Alentejo for the Greater and Lesser Bustards, White and Black Storks, Spanish Imperial Eagles, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Eurasian Hoopoes, Rollers and European Bee-eaters
  • Islands and cliffs of the Azores, Madeira, Baixo Alentejo and Algarve for sea birds such as Cory’s Shearwater, Red-throated Divers, European Storm Petrels, European Shags, Gannets, Arctic Skuas, Common Giullemots, Bethelot’s Pipits and Atlantic Canaries.
  • Birding is becoming increasingly popular in Portugal and beginning to make a bigger mark on the international scene. Specialist bird-watching companies and guides are now easier to find. It's astounding how many bird species you'll see in the countryside and at our properties. If you're looking for expertly-run tours and birding stays, head for this eco-lodge in The Baixo Alentejo. Also recommended is a vist in October to Sagres in the SW Algarve, which becomes Europe’s major migratory corridor for storks, eagles, vultures, hawks and falcons on their way back to Africa. The Sagres bird festival takes place during this time.


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