Portugal was a pleasant surprise. Near the end of our wish list of countries to visit on our pan-Europe trip, we chose to include it in our itinerary largely because of its close proximation to Spain (at the top of the list) and its pleasant May weather, much nicer than some second and third choice countries. And like any experience when you have limited expectations, we were enthralled with Portugal – completely flabbergasted about how we almost overlooked this place.

While I can’t claim that our visit to Portugal was extensive, it did give us a flavour of the diverse regions of the county. We started in the south in Lagos, the centre of the coastal Algarve region, full of picturesque beaches, secluded lagoons, and international partiers.

Moving north, we found ourselves in Lisbon, a city we felt reminiscent of other great European capitals but without the same density of tourists. A highlight was our day trip to Sintra with its royal palace and gardens and Sagres, once considered the western edge of the known world (or the world pre 1492).

Our next stop was Porto where we drank (and moderately enjoyed) its namesake drink, Port, dined on the freshest fish, and marvelled at the architecture of the Dom Luís Bridge – designed by Gustave Eiffel.

Back en route to Lisbon, we made a spur of the moment detour to Coimbra and took in many of the newly unearthed historical sites from this former medieval capital. We also caught some remarkably talented fado performers.

Here are a smattering of photos from our adventure in Portugal.

The Port in Lagos, Portugal

A lighthouse at the end of a rocky jut out in Lagos

Lagos Rock Formations

Lagos Rock Formations

Lisbon's Rua Augusta Arch

The Oceanário de Lisboa

Exploring Portugal 8

Exploring Portugal 9

Exploring Portugal 10

Exploring Portugal 11

Exploring Portugal 12

Exploring Portugal 13

Exploring Portugal 16

Exploring Portugal 17

Exploring Portugal 18

Exploring Portugal 19

Exploring Portugal 20

Exploring Portugal 21

Dom Luís Bridge

Porto neighbourhoods by night

Porto neighbourhoods by night

Statue of Vimara Peres, the first ruler of Portugal in the 9th century, in Porto

Coimbra

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha in Coimbra

Coimbra from above

1. The main strip in Lisbon leading to the Rua Augusta Arch
2. The port in Lagos
3. A lighthouse at the end of a rocky jut out in Lagos
4-5. The unbelievably exquisite Ocean rock formations around Lagos
6. Lisbon’s Rua Augusta Arch
9 – 10. The incredible Oceanário de Lisboa
11 – 12. The view of Lisbon from Largo do Carmo (take the Santa Justa lift to get there)
13. Carmo square all set up for the Santo Antonio Festival
14. Carmo Convent – a Medieval church partially destroyed by the town’s earthquake in 1755. A highlight of our trip.
15 – 16. The medieval Palácio Nacional da Pena in Sintra
17 – 19. The amazing gardens of the Quinta Da Regaleira, an outdoor oasis dream made reality by the estates former owner
20. Sagres – the most southern point of Europe, and recognized as the end of the world for many explorers before embarking on westward trips such as Columbus
21. Porto’s most prominent landmark – the Dom Luís Bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel and sharing many design elements with the Eiffel Tower
22 – 23. Porto neighbourhoods by night
24. Statue of Vimara Peres, the first ruler of Portugal in the 9th century, in Porto
25. Coimbra
26. Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha in Coimbra – built in the 14th century and opened only five years ago after years of excavation and recovery
27. Coimbra from above