After visiting Lisbon I wanted to explore more of Portugal. I flew to Porto for three days which felt like a less-touristy, smaller version of Lisbon. Porto is the progenitor of Port wine. Afterwards I drove through the Douro Valley wine region and continued north to the border of Spain; from there travelling south to the southern coast where sand and sun draw tourists from all over Europe. During the summer many of the locals are also down south vacationing and things slowly transition from vacant and peaceful to busy and energetic as you near the southern coast. Portugal is a great vacation destination owing to its small size that allows for transversal of its multiple regions in a relatively short amount of time.
The landscapes vary between vineyards and olive orchards and cork trees (Portugal is the largest international supplier of cork); everything I saw was mostly dry, sunny and hot in the south, with more temperate climates towards the north. The people in the central north of Portugal have a reputation for being very friendly and hospitable, even among the Portuguese which my experience as well. Beyond polite formalities people seemed genuine when they greeted me with a smile which was surprising considering the number of foreign tourists they must be accustomed to interacting with. It’s nice to visit a place that enjoys other people’s enjoyment and attention.
Exploring mainland Portugal was a great way to spend a slow-paced, relaxing week. The driving is effortless (the roads are flawless owing to the many tolls). You can stumble around and find charming, small towns without much effort.