Portugal is one of the most popular yoga destinations in Europe. While it’s a frequent travel choice for lots of yogis and non-yogis alike, it’s also a hidden gem to others. Having traveled through Portugal recently myself, I’ve put together this guide to help you get a glimpse of what yoga in Portugal looks like and what the country has to offer.
If you’ve ever been on a yoga retreat in Portugal, you’ll find some of the things below familiar, and your interest in exploring Portuguese sights will probably be renewed. If you’ve never been to Portugal before and it’s still an exotic destination for you, I hope you’ll give in to its charm after reading through my article.
Before I start, I have to confess that I’ve had a thing for this country for a long time, even before visiting it in the flesh. I was very attracted to the rough-edged melodic notes of the language (as melodic as Spanish, but with a rougher note overall), to the country’s poetry and cultural history, to its fado music and medieval architecture, its cuisine and the sights I saw in photographs.
I was sampling a bit of all of those in my spare time, dreaming about the day I could take the time off to visit its shores. Therefore, for me, Portugal was a dream come true and I’m pretty sure it will feel that way for almost everyone, whether they were dreaming of it before or not.
Portugal at a Glance
Portugal is located on the shores of the Atlantic coast, on the Westernmost reaches of Europe. It’s shaped like a long strip of land, encompassing a lot of shorelines but having plenty of mountain regions as well. Basically, everywhere you look you’re bound to find a spectacular, breathtaking view.
Because of this natural beauty, Portugal is a favorite destination for both surf and yoga. The numerous beaches conceal plenty of hidden spots, ideal for exploring any kind of watersports, while the tranquil and majestic landscapes everywhere are the perfect setting to inspire meditation. It’s no wonder yogis all over the world (as well as surfers) are flocking to Portugal’s shores in search for their next great adventure.
You can find here almost anything you are interested in: a unique culture, great music, great food (including an amazing quantity and variety of fresh seafood), great wine (and we all know how wonderful yoga and wine go together!), castles and romantic medieval architecture, majestic mountains, lots of beautiful beaches, and much, much more.
The people are friendly and very welcoming towards visitors, the temperature is perfect (not too cold, not too hot) and it’s all around one of the most charming destinations you’ll ever visit.
I will now do my best to walk you through the best destinations to explore, so you can have a glimpse of just how great the tourist experience in Portugal can be. Afterwards, I will get into more specific yoga holidays and retreats in Portugal, so you can book a retreat that gives you the chance to both practice what you love and see the country as well.
The Best Cities Destinations to Visit in Portugal
No visit to Portugal can be complete without Lisbon, its capital. It’s the center of its cultural life and there’s plenty of fascinating history and street life to be admired in any neighborhood, not just the old town center, as is the case with most other European cities.
The famous pasteis de nata cookies, the appetizers made from salted cod (bacalhau) or the fresh sardines are among the most impressive treats of the Portuguese cuisine. In Lisbon, they will all be outstanding so it’s the best place to try them, especially if you hadn’t before.
One of the most beautiful port towns of the world, Porto is a travel lover’s dream. You can walk along its beautiful river Douro all day and night and not get bored. Charming tavern-style restaurants litter the edge of the parapet and the stone steps leading right to the river’s edge; you can take a break for a delicious snack or drink any time you like.
If you follow the river towards the ocean, you’ll be able to face not only a spectacular view but also the rare opportunity to admire the sunset with the sun diving right into the ocean. I did exactly that and it was so awe-inspiring it lifted my mood for weeks!
Also, if you visit Porto, you cannot leave without visiting the famous bookshop Livraria Lello, which is said to have inspired J. K. Rowling to write her Harry Potter series. One peek inside it and you’ll understand why: the intricate wooden staircases and decorations look just like Hogwarts.
Coimbra is the oldest university town of Portugal and a small gem of medieval architecture. Placed on a hillside overlooking a river (as many Portuguese towns seem to be), it is a wonder in terms of things to visit while in it. It dates back to the Roman era and was even the capital of the kingdom of Portugal between 1131 to 1255. The best thing about this rich history is that most of the buildings from all eras are remarkably well-preserved and can be admired today (including an aqueduct structure from Roman times).
Sintra is a place along a mountaintop consisting of several castles and palaces of different eras, along with Moorish ruins of a citadel and various gardens and parks. It is the historical residence of the Portuguese monarchy and it looks like something straight out of a fairytale. You won’t be able to believe your eyes once you visit it.
Be warned that one day is not enough even if all the castles to see are within 30 minutes of each other. Once you go into any of them, you’ll find that you can spend most of the day exploring its many chambers and beauty, so you’ll have to keep coming back the next days for seeing the rest of the castles.
Last but not least, Sintra is a favorite destination for wedding photography, and it’s easy to understand why. So, if you feel like a fancy photoshoot, whether you are getting married or not, keep in mind that there are a lot of local services of professional photography that can deliver some of the best profile pics you’ll ever have taken.
For those of you who love the seaside, going to the beach to bask in the sun or to get active on the surfboard, Algarve is the ideal destination. In peak holiday season, the population of Algarve triples, that’s how popular it is to tourists. Considering how breathtaking the cliffs on its shoreline are, and how many good surf spots are situated there, it’s easy to understand why.
Portugal and Yoga
Probably because the ocean’s proximity makes Portuguese people be very laid back and in tune with their bodies and natural harmony, yoga became popular in Portugal pretty early and developed into a strong tradition. Even the smallest of Portuguese towns are bound to have at least one yoga studio you can attend, and Portuguese beaches are a common choice for groups practicing their asanas.
This high popularity of yoga in Portugal, together with how beautiful the country is, make yoga retreats in Portugal also very sought after.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Miriam is the editor of BookYogaRetreats, an avid world explorer, and a yogi. She’s also into exploring world cuisines and reading fiction from all over the world. When she’s not doing marketing stuff, she expands her collection of teas and spends some time petting the neighborhood cats.