11 Must-See Photographic Attractions in Portugal (When & Where to Go)
Exciting News! We’re thrilled to announce our 2024 TOUR to photograph the magical beauty of PORTUGAL (June 6 to June 17).
During our longest and most diverse photo tour we spend 9 days in Portugal, photographing exciting locations such as Porto, the Douro Valley, Aveiro, Obidos, Nazaré, off-the-beaten-path charming villages, the mysterious chapel in the surf (see photo on top), impressive monasteries, and finally, Lisbon. We specifically scheduled this tour for mid-June to capture the vivid green vineyards of the Douro Valley. Portugal is a stunning country with a rich and diverse culture that offers endless photographic opportunities. Many Americans have even chosen to make Portugal their new home.
A Paradise for Photographers
Portugal is a safe and welcoming country that provides a plethora of visual delights, making it a paradise for photographers. It’s worth noting that Portugal is the oldest country in Europe, having maintained the same borders since the 12th century. Portugal was a kingdom for nearly 800 years until a revolution in 1910 transformed it into the Portuguese Republic.
A Few Fun Facts
- Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is one of the oldest European capitals, predating even Rome.
- Portugal boasts one of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Coimbra, established in 1290, which is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and has over 20,000 students. Coimbra itself is a picturesque city worth exploring.
- With 497 miles of coastline and 364 days of surf, Portugal is one of the world’s top surf spots, attracting surfers from all over.
- Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, is famous for being the first person to circumnavigate the globe.
- Piri-Piri, a sour, sweet, salty, and spicy chili sauce, originated in Portugal and is often used in the famous Portuguese chicken dish.
- Port wine, a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley in the north of Portugal, is the country’s most famous export.
- Portugal is situated on the southwestern Iberian Peninsula and is the westernmost point of Europe.
- It is renowned as the world’s largest producer of cork, with over 70% of the global demand being met by Portugal.
- The Portuguese Empire was one of the most powerful in history, lasting for nearly six centuries until the handover of Macau to China in 1999.
- Portuguese is spoken in nine countries, including Portugal, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea.
- The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, spanning 7.6 miles, was the longest in Europe for 20 years.
- The mournful Fado music originated in Lisbon around 1800 and has been included in the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
- The city of Aveiro boasts buildings covered in colorful tiles, adding to its charm.
- Lisbon was hit by a devastating earthquake in 1755, destroying 85% of the buildings and killing 275,000 residents.
- The Rio Douro is the Iberian peninsula’s third-longest river.
1. Charming Trendy Porto
Porto, one of the oldest cities in Europe situated along the Douro River estuary boasts a rich history, stunning beauty, quirky graffiti, and public art. In fact, Porto was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. If you’re feeling adventurous, try Bacalao, a traditional Portuguese dish made with reconstituted dried salted codfish. While the fish is now imported from Norway, it remains a staple of Portuguese cuisine with over 300 ways to prepare it. Just be prepared for the pungent smell if you come across it in a grocery store next to crates of strawberries.
There are certain Portuguese dishes that you definitely have to acquire a taste for, such as Bacalao but the delectable Natas, flaky tarts filled with custard, are sure to please anyone. In Porto, there is a bakery where you can witness the production of these treats and enjoy them fresh out of the oven. The city also boasts restaurants with innovative cuisine and delightful wines, often from small wineries that do not export internationally. One interesting aspect of Porto is its proximity just across the river to Vila Nova de Gaia, home to some of the most famous Port wine cellars, like Sandeman and Taylor. Our group gets to photograph the old wooden barrels in these cellars and sample the fortified dessert wine.
For more on Porto, click here. »
2. The Mighty Douro River — One of the Many Photographic Attractions in Portugal
The Douro River, also known as the “River of Gold,” is the third longest river in Iberia. It flows through beautiful rural landscapes, starting in central Spain and ending at the mouth of Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal. We mentioned the port wine cellars in the enchanting city of Porto. Now, we turn our attention to the tradition of port wine production in the Douro region. Wine has been cultivated there for over 2,000 years, with a focus on port wine since the 18th century. UNESCO has designated the Douro vineyards as a World Heritage Site. In the past, the wine was transported downriver in flat-bottom boats called rabelos, fortified with brandy, and stored in port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto.
However, due to the treacherous currents of the past, the journey was dangerous. Today, tanker trucks transport the wine safely from the vineyards to Porto.
Read more about the amazing Douro Valley by clicking here. »
Pinhão, a small town on the banks of the Douro, offers an expensive hotel, great restaurants, and short river cruises, but the remainder of the town is in need of repair which makes it interesting for us photographers. Rick Steves, our local travel guru, calls it a place with “the charm of dirty fingernails,” but we find lots of fun stuff to shoot maybe exactly because of the “dirty fingernails” and we also use this town as a starting point for a fun boat trip down the Douro river.
4. Undiscovered Provesende
Provesende, high up in the mountains, is a picturesque village situated in the Douro wine region of northern Portugal. The town is enveloped by vineyards and thriving wineries. Its center houses a number of historical landmarks and grand manor houses that speak of a splendid past, but some of these structures now lay in ruins. It also has a checkered past as criminals were exiled to this faraway outpost.
5. The Big-Surf Town of Nazaré
Nazaré has international notoriety for the huge waves that attract surfers from all over the world. It’s lesser known but just as rewarding for its photographic attractions and you don’t have to put your life on the line for them. ;-)
6. The Knight Templars in Tomar
Among the many photographic attractions in Portugal are several stunning medieval monasteries, some of the largest in Europe, that date back to the times of the Knight Templars and the Crusades. Think not one cloister but eight — truly impressive!
7. The Tiles of Aveiro
Azulejos, the decorative glazed ceramic tiles, are a unique feature of Aveiro that make the residential area attractive and colorful. These tiles cover most of the tiny narrow 1- to 2-story houses in the area and can also be found on building facades all over Portugal. The intricate Moorish designs and the introduction of a new technique called majolica by Italian and Flemish artisans in the mid-16th century influenced the history of these tiles.
For more on Aveiro, click here. »
8. The Colorful Fishing Boats of Torreira
Torreira, a small traditional fishing village in the Aveiro Lagoon, is another one of the many photographic attractions in Portugal. The beach in Torreira is one of the largest beaches in Portugal and is covered with golden sand, but the weather is windy and the sea can be rough and cold.
Continue reading about Torreira by clicking here. »
9. Medieval Óbidos in White, Blue, and Yellow
Óbidos is surrounded by a classic crenelated wall and has a gorgeous historic center that is a labyrinth of cobblestoned streets and flower-bedecked, whitewashed houses with vivid yellow and blue paint accents. This charming town is located near the Atlantic coast and not far from the capital. It is a well-preserved example of medieval Portugal. With a rich history dating back to before Roman times, Óbidos was favored by royalty, particularly Queen Isabel in the 13th century. The town boasts many beautiful churches, which were built and improved upon by the queens who lived there over the centuries, and a stunning castle.
10. Beautiful Lisbon
Lisbon is where our Portugal Photo Tour ends but we always encourage our clients to spend a few extra days in this fascinating city.
In Miramar, just south of Porto, we photograph the Chapel of the Lord of Stone, a tiny chapel that is completely surrounded by water during high tide. Many miracles are attributed to this chapel and (maybe for that reason) it’s a favorite wedding chapel. You can see an image of this magical place taken at Blue Hour.
What some Photography Tours Participants loved about the Photographic Attractions in Portugal
Read much-appreciated testimonials for our Photography Travel Tours Portugal Tour that express what our clients loved about their experience, what they learned, and what they remember fondly.
Vicki and Dennis Wert
Our recent photo tour to Portugal was our fifth tour with Jim and Magrit! Portugal exceeded our expectations and we enjoyed every aspect of our trip and the many photographic attractions in Portugal.
We always enjoy our trips with Jim and Magrit and that is why we continue to travel with them and recommend them to the many photographers we know. Their advanced research of the area really pays off, because their planning gets us to the best places at the right times of day, and they find places with excellent shooting that we likely would never find on our own. Additionally, providing transportation to their guests means that we don’t need to rent a car or read a map. We can concentrate on photography.
The Portugal tour wins hands down for a variety of subjects! Cities, villages, monuments, vineyard terraces, colorful traditional fishing boats, monasteries, and their cloisters, cathedrals, gardens, and even drying fish are just some of the many subjects we found to photograph. Of course, blue-hour opportunities were abundant. I was also able to add to my doors, windows, staircases, and laundry collections! We can’t wait until our next tour!
I wanted to thank you for a fabulous trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of locations we visited in Portugal and all the wonderful photo opportunities from people to places and everything in between. I thought that it was a nice balance of structured time and time to ourselves. Thank you for all your assistance. I always learn something new from you and feel like I am catching up with some of the proficient photographers in the group. I look forward to processing my photos. It was a fun group of participants which added to the experience.