Portuguese islands you should visit in summer

Best paradise island vacations in Portugal

Portugal is a country of many charms, from breathtaking scenery to a rich cultural heritage, and exotic beaches. Most visitors usually focus on mainland attractions. However, beyond the famous cities like Aveiro ad Lisbon are beautiful Portuguese islands that are equally amazing but special in their own ways. That is why we have given a rundown of top islands off Portugal, so you can have a variety of destinations for your next travel itinerary to the Portuguese Republic.

  1. Sao Miguel
  2. Madeira Island
  3. Pico
  4. Porto Santo Island
  5. Tavira Island
  6. Berlengas

Forget mainland Portugal; the archipelago offers some world-class beaches you should see in your lifetime. Thanks to the tropical weather year-round, exploring the unmatched beauty of Portuguese islands feels heavenly. Some of the best isles are located in Madeira, Azores, and the Algarve coast. Here are islands off Portugal to enjoy the best gastronomy, natural landscapes, and coastal activities.

1. Sao Miguel

Sao Miguel, or the Green Island, is the biggest island in the Azores and home to the only cruise ship terminal and one main airport in the archipelago. A temperate climate, hillsides, lush forests, and mountains combine to form breathtaking views wherever you go in Sao Miguel. If you're here for sightseeing, your journey is likely to start at Ponta Delgada, the island's capital city. There are enough shopping areas, gardens to relax, and restaurants to dine in at Ponta Delgada. Beaches at Sao Paolo, including Ribeira Quant and Praia do Populo, will mesmerise you with beautiful dark volcanic sands. Add Praia de Santa Barbara and Praia do Lombo Gordo for paragliding, canoeing, and whale watching for extra beach fun. Other points of interest are Salto do Farinha in Nordeste, the main lighthouse of Sao Miguel. Then Ribeira Grande will enchant you with its suggestive architecture.

Best for: Sightseeing

Popular with: Water sports enthusiasts

2. Madeira Island

With mild temperatures year-round, Madeira makes one of the best Portuguese islands for nature lovers. Some of the hiking trails are maintenance paths alongside waterways. In the northern valleys, dense forests fledged with ancient trees provide shelter to migratory birds you can watch as you trek. Take your road trips to the well-paved coastal roads for spectacular views on a rented car. But make sure the vehicle has enough torque to tackle the steep routes. Big game fishing, sailing, paragliding, and kayaking are everyday activities in the waters of Madeira Island. Scuba diving, horse riding, and snorkelling are excellent in the clear waters where sea creatures abound. If you bring your kids to the archipelago, make sure they see Santa Cruz, an ancient village northeast of Funchal. Take them to a large aqua park in Santa Cruz offering kiddies pools, multiple slides, and flumes. There are activities for adults in the park based on the Portuguese Islands' history, tradition, culture, and science.

Best for: Pleasant weather

Popular with: Road trippers

3. Pico

Here's another must-visit island in Portugal within the famous archipelago of the Azores. Pico Island got its name from Ponta do Pico, the largest volcano in the country, rising 7,700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. The mountain, which dominates Pico's skyline, tempts keen hikers to plan day trips along the summit. If you are serious about hiking Ponta do Pico, set aside four hours of climbing and another three for the return journey. From the lava flows that erupted three centuries ago, Pico is blessed with fertile volcanic soil, making the island suitable for grapevine cultivation. Don't leave before tasting the locally produced Verdelho wine which has recently made a comeback. Discover more of the history of wine production in Pico at Museu do Vinho on a tasting tour. When you've had enough drinks, explore a Gruta das Torres, a three-mile lava cave, or go whale watching, scuba diving, and swimming with the dolphins at Princess Alice.

Best for: Wine tasting weekends

Popular with: Volcanic hikers

4. Porto Santo Island

Situated North of Madeira, Porto Santo has some of the most breathtaking shores in Portugal, stretching four miles of white sand. The island is also famed for a couple of historical landmarks like Paços do Concelho, a Neoclassical entrance hall featuring a clock tower. Others include Matriz Church that dates back to the 15th Century, and a former residence of Christopher Columbus, the greatest explorer. Explore the intriguing history of Vila Baleira, the capital of the island where Christopher Columbus once lived. Getting to this place should be manageable via plane or ferry from Madeira. You'll be amazed by the many entertainment venues, especially for hikers and golfers. A world-class golf course found in the rugged interior of Porto Santo has a good atmosphere for leisurely walks. There's also game-fishing, diving, and horse riding.

Best for: Scenic beaches

Popular with: History buffs

5. Tavira Island

Tavira is among the best Portuguese islands in the Atlantic along the Algarve coast. You can get here by water taxis or ferries that regularly serve the area. Tavira Island is an integral part of Ria Formosa Natural Park. It is mainly associated with the white sand beach (Ilha de Tavira), backed with dunes and probably the best views in Algarve. Ria Formosa is home to thousands of birds, with the pretty pink flamingos dominating in the lagoons. For a quieter seaside experience, head to the central region at Praia da Terra Estreita or Praia do Barril to the west, which is famed for an old tuna factory and an anchor cemetery. At Ilha de Tavira, your kids will enjoy making sandcastles or playing in the soft white sand. Plus, the waters are calm and clean, hence suitable for tiny legs.

Best for: Day trips

Popular with: Beach walkers

6. Berlengas

Berlengas is a collection of three islands: Berlanga, Farilhões, and Estelas, which are uninhabited by humans, but millions of seabirds dwell here. It is actually a nature reserve, hosting cormorants, seagulls, and puffins. A typical vacation to the Berlengas may entail boat riding around the cliffs, hiking in the interiors, or relaxing on the beach. Learn the historical background of the archipelago at the Fort of the Berlengas (São João Baptista), which was established in 1656 to prevent the invasion by North African pirates and Spanish enemies. A glass-bottomed boat ride departs from Berlenga Grande harbour and takes you through grottoes and caves, plus spectacular views of marine life.

Best for: Bird watching

Popular with: Nature buffs

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