World Travel Awards: the Oscars of the travel industry

Out of 9,000 nominees in 2012, Portugal and some of its regions won 3 outstanding awards:

  • 2012 Europe's Leading Beach Destination: The Algarve
  • 2012 Europe's Leading Golf Destination: Portugal
  • 2008 Europe's Leading Tourist Board: Turismo de Portugal

“Wining a World Travel Award is the ultimate travel accolade: a demonstration to both the travel industry and the travel consumer that a brand stands in a class of its very own”
G.E. Cooke

This type of awards is particularly valuable because it is the result of a public voting process including qualified executives working in tourism and the consumer travel buyer. This means that winners represent the best of the best according not only to its peers but also the world traveler.

This is not the first time Portugal received World Travel Awards and nominations, and it has already been nominated for 2013 again. Here’s the full list:

  • 2013 Europe's Leading Beach Destination
  • 2013 Europe's Leading Golf Destination
  • 2013 Europe's Leading Tourist Board
  • 2012 World's Leading Beach Destination
  • 2012 Europe's Leading Tourist Board
  • 2012 World's Leading Tourism Authority Website
  • 2011 Europe's Leading Beach Destination
  • 2011 Europe's Leading Tourist Board
  • 2011 World's Leading Tourism Authority Website
  • 2010 Europe's Leading Beach
  • 2010 Europe's Leading Tourist Board
  • 2010 World's Leading Tourism Authority Website
  • 2009 Europe's Leading Beach
  • 2009 Europe's Leading Marketing Campaign
  • 2009 Europe's Leading Tourist Board
  • 2009 World's Leading Tourism Authority Website
  • 2008 Europe's Leading Beach
  • 2007 Europe's Leading Beach
  • 2007 Europe's Leading Tourist Information Website
  • 2007 World's Leading Tourism Authority Internet Site
Portugal voted best country to visit by Condé Nast Traveler

Portugal’s quickly establishing itself as a top travel destination in the world. This time around it was voted by Condé Nast Traveler and its readers as the best country to visit in 2013. Voters favored the country known as “Europe’s West Coast” over other strong competitors like: Argentina, Spain, USA, Italy and Thailand. This award recognizes the quality of Portuguese tourism offered on 15 categories including hotels, resorts, spas, towns and cities, transport as well as products such as tourist souvenirs and fashionable accessories.

A small country with tremendous diversity and kind people seem to have been the winning factors. The magazine talks about Portugal’s “special visual charm” and its century-old traditions, cities that combine history and modern architecture and events, and a breathtaking countryside living shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best beaches in the world. Add to that Portuguese people “who are seductive in their charm and kindness” and you get a destination that sits at the top of the countries to visit in the world.

Lisbon and Porto elected Best European destinations

Lisbon was elected 2nd Best European Destination in 2013 (after winning 1st place in 2010), and Porto was elected Best European Destination in 2012. In the last 4 events, two Portuguese cities won the top award twice!

Every year, 20 cities compete for the highly prestigious title of Best European Destination, an award created by European Consumers Choice. The award is decided by a public voting process using social networks data. The public voted, and Lisbon and Porto have been consistently among the best in Europe.

After 3 years running in the top 3, in 2013 Lisbon was ranked 2nd Best European Destination (just merely 0.2% votes behind the wining city). One of the most striking descriptions published during the voting process reads: “Lisbon city with magic light, bathed in the river and kissed by the Atlantic Ocean... The millennial history, the castle of Sao Jorge with breathtaking views over Lisbon, monuments, gardens and palaces... The gastronomy healthy and rich in flavor... The unique wine produced in our country of mild temperatures throughout the year... The white sand beaches and the hospitality of the people, solidarity and always ready to help the next... The nights filled with excitement... The culture, exhibitions and theater... A city unforgettable, historic and sophisticated...”

In 2012 it had been Porto’s time to take the Best European Destination award. Referred to as the "Cidade Invicta" (unvanquished city), Porto is full of history, old and modern architecture, and mouth-watering gastronomy. According to the organization, “with all the charms of cities with a riverfront, and people that know how to make you feel at home, this city can conquer your heart and leave a long lasting impression”.

Porto: Best European travel destination for 2013

Porto is the first city in Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 European cities for 2013. Lonely Planet teamed up with traveling authors and local experts to select the 10 most amazing European destinations in 2013.

For those thinking that this was a “sleepy” riverside city only known for its worldwide famous Port wine, Porto is today one of the world’s top destinations. With a bohemian art scene, exhibitions and street-side concerts, Porto is described by Lonely Planet as “a city that has emerged as a vibrant arts capital that’s rightfully getting a lot of buzz as a great value destination”. Populated by big museums, cutting edge-exhibitions, world-level architecture and musical events, Porto is second-to-none in Europe.

Porto is also a great entry point to the Douro Valley, world-renowned for its Port Wine, and declared as World Heritage by the UNESCO. According to the UNESCO, the Alto Douro region has been producing wine for nearly 2,000 years and its landscape is an “outstanding example of a traditional European wine-producing region, reflecting the evolution of this human activity over time”.

With some of the best gastronomy and wine in the world, traveling in the Porto and Douro Valley region is a sense-awakening trip. According to Lonely Planet this is one of those places “travelers should be heading to right now”!

Portugal: 7th most visitor-friendly country in the World

The World Economic Forum said it: out of 140 countries in the world, Portugal ranked 7th in “Attitude of population toward foreign visitors”. Portugal scored 6.6 out of 7. This top rank as one of the friendliest countries to visit, is a testimony to the hospitality of the Portuguese people. The centuries-long history of discoveries, global trade and cultural exchange, seem to have shaped the DNA of the Portuguese. They are warm, welcoming and always ready to help visitors.

This study also ranked Portugal as one of the best in the world regarding infrastructure: road quality (4th in the world); availability of ATMs (also 4th in the world); and sanitation (1st in the world with 100% of the population covered). Top all of that with a 4th best in the world on environmental regulation, and you get a country where you’re going to feel welcome, drive around and pay your checks comfortably!

Some of the best hotels in the world

Lisbon is home to some of the best hotels in the world. Two of them, The Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon and the Olissippo Lapa Palace, appeared in the list of best hotels in the world 5 years in a row. This feat got them in Condé Nast Traveler’s Platinum list in 2013.

Portugal’s lodging excellence is not limited to large hotels. Also in Lisbon, the Bairro Alto Hotel was considered in 2012 the Best Small Hotel in Europe by the International Hotel Awards, and the Leading Boutique Hotel by the World Travel Awards.

These are just a few examples of the outstanding lodging options available throughout Portugal. This country’s geo and cultural diversity is celebrated every year with appearances in Condé Nast’s Hot List of World’s Best New Hotels. In 2013 this list included 5 Portuguese hotels: Pousada de Cascais (Lisbon); Fazenda Nova (Algarve); Villa Extramuros (Alentejo); Carmo's Boutique Hotel (Ponte de Lima); Lisboa Carmo Hotel (Lisbon); Cooking and Nature Emotional Hotel (Alvados). These add to the other 4 listed in 2012: Hotel Bela Vista (Portimão); Imani Country House (Quinta de Montemuro); InterContinental Porto-Palacio Das Cardosas (Porto); L’And Vineyards Resort (Alentejo).

Believe it or, this is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Portugal may indeed be one of the best hidden gems of world tourism. A small country, Portugal exudes beauty and diversity jam-packed between the border with Spain and a stunning coast line. From top luxury hotels, to the best hostels in the world, including world-level B&Bs, this country’s lodging will amaze any tourist, specially the most travelled one.

Madeira ranked 2nd Best European Island by Condé Nast Traveler

2012 was yet another great year for Madeira and we’re not just talking about its Madeira wine. The Portuguese island known for its tourism, wine and more recently as the birthplace of one of the best soccer players in the world (Cristiano Ronaldo) was elected by Condé Nast Traveler as the 2nd Best Island in Europe to visit.

As part of their annual Readers' Choice Awards, Condé Nast Traveler and its readers have distinguished Madeira as a can’t-miss destination calmly waiting for you in the Atlantic Ocean. Second only to a Turkish island, Madeira scored a boosting 97/100 on Scenery, and received scores above 90 on other areas like Friendliness or Ambience. Add a few extra high scores on Lodging and Restaurants and you end up with an assurance of luxury stays and mouth-watering experiences.

UNESCO World Heritage

Portugal is small… very small indeed. Its landmass represents about 0.05% of the world’s total… but the value of its architecture and historical towns has been recognized by the UNESCO with 2% of all the World’s Cultural Heritage locations. In fact, Portugal is in the top 15 of countries with properties recognized by the UNESCO.

Including anything from pre-historic rock art sites, to centennial monasteries and historical villages, this list is a testimony to the diversity and value of the country’s heritage:

  • Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores
  • Convent of Christ in Tomar
  • Monastery of Batalha
  • Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon
  • Historic Centre of Évora
  • Monastery of Alcobaça
  • Cultural Landscape of Sintra
  • Historic Centre of Oporto
  • Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde * 18
  • Laurisilva of Madeira
  • Alto Douro Wine Region
  • Historic Centre of Guimarães
  • Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture
  • Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications
  • University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia

On top of these tangible assets, the UNESCO has also recognized “Fado” as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. Fado is a performance genre incorporating music and poetry widely practiced by various communities in Portugal. Fado is Portugal’s most traditional and unique music genre. As UNESCO describes it: “Fado is a performance genre incorporating music and poetry widely practiced by various communities in Lisbon. It represents a Portuguese multicultural synthesis of Afro-Brazilian sung dances, local traditional genres of song and dance, musical traditions from rural areas of the country brought by successive waves of internal immigration, and the cosmopolitan urban song patterns of the early nineteenth century. (…) The dissemination of Fado through emigration and the world music circuit has reinforced its image as a symbol of Portuguese identity, leading to a process of cross-cultural exchange involving other musical traditions.”

Visit Portugal and bring your check list to make sure you don’t miss these attractions. Tangible or not…

4 Best Hostels in the World

According to HostelWorld, the 4 Best Hostels in the world are in Lisbon. This award, also known as the Hoscars for Hostels, was awarded 9 times to Portugal in 2013. These awards recognize hostels for their excellence in security, cleanliness, equipment, personnel, ambiance and location.

Lisbon hostels took the first 4 places: Yes! Lisbon Hostel, Home Hostel, Travelers House, and Living Lounge Hostel. All-and-all Portugal received 9 awards including: 8th place by the Lisbon Central Hostel in the “small hostels” category; 1st place by the Yes! Lisbon Hostel in the “large hostels” category; and 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in the “medium hostels” category by the Home Hostel, Travelers House and Living Lounge Hostel, respectively. In 2012 several Porto hostels had also populated the top hostels list: Dixon’s Hostel, Porto Spot Hostel; and Rivoli Cinema Hostel.

With over 100 hostels spread-out through the country, and multiple awards for the top hostels in the world since 2008, Portugal has established itself as one of the best destinations in the world for hostel travelers.

Algarve: Best golf destination in the world

When you travel around the country, you’ll find it easy to understand why the conditions for golf are perfect in Portugal. The country is green by nature and that’s reflected in the quality of its greens. This excellence has been recognized over the years with different awards, but 2012 was outstanding for Portuguese golf resorts.

The year started with an early award from the Today’s Golfer. After a broad public voting process, Portugal received the "Today's Golfer Travel Award" for the Best Value for Money Golf Destination.

Later in the year, Portugal was elected by the World Travel Awards as Europe’s Leading Golf Destination. The WTA, recognized as the Oscars of the Travel industry, awarded Portugal based on the quality of the greens, the services offered, number, diversity, and outstanding quality of its golf resorts.

If this award placed Portuguese golf resorts on top of Europe, a second award placed them on top of the world, literally. Just one month after the first award, Portugal was elected as the “World’s Short Haul Destination of the Year for Golf Holidays” during the 2012 World Travel Market.

These awards were the perfect intro to a golf summer which started with the Algarve hosting one of the world’s largest golf events, the Golf Travel Market (IGTM). The Algarve was indeed a perfect location for the event as it was several times voted the World's Best Golfing Destination by IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators).

So, if eagles and birdies are more than flying species for you, you should get on a plane and check for yourself the quality of the Portuguese greens!

Europeans and Americans voted Algarve as Best in the World

Lagos and Tavira got recognized in 2013 by the quality of their hotels including their services and nearby attractions. According to Trivago these two Algarve beaches ranked among the 10 best beaches in Southern Europe. According to one of the largest hotel search engines in the world, the hotels in these cities have racked up over 80 pts out of 100, which makes them some of the most desirable beach destinations in Europe (Lagos, 6th; Tavira, 10th).

Judging by the awards in the last years, the summers in Algarve are pretty hot, and we’re not just talking about the temperatures. In 2012, The World Travel Awards distinguished the Algarve as Europe's Leading Beach Destination. Aside from its natural beauty and world-level attractions, this award is also partially supported by the individual awards received by Algarve’s resorts: Vila Joya (Best European Boutique Hotel); Conrad Algarve (Best New Luxury Resort in Europe); Dunas Douradas Beach Club (Best Residential Resort); Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel (Best European Villas Resort); Ria Park Hotel & Spa (Best European Hotel for Conferences); Sheraton Algarve Hotel e Pine Cliffs Resort (Best European Family Resort); Le Meridien Penina (Best Golf Resort in Europe); Hilton Vilamoura (Best European Beach Hotel); and Blu & Green Vilalara Thalassa Resort (Best European Spa Resort). If you think this is small feat, then take a look at some of the nominees that the Algarve beat: Cannes, Corfu, Marbella, Mykonos, just to name a few…

If the WTA recognized the excellence of the resorts, Tripadvisor with input from its users recognized Algarve’s natural beauty by listing Praia da Rocha (Portimão) as the 5th most “Breathtaking Beach” in the World. Like one of the users put it: “the beach alone is worth a trip to Portugal”. Apparently this is not the only one, because American publisher Travel and Leisure elected Salema Beach (Vila do Bispo) as one of the 25 Best Secret Beaches on Earth!… as they describe it: “Salema is a small fishing village known for its gentle Atlantic shore break on a wide beach between two steep cliffs. While much of Portugal’s scenic Algarve Coast has been engulfed by new high-rises and resorts, Salema remains admirably authentic, with one main street, white stucco houses, an outdoor market providing staples for picnics, and just a dozen places to eat and drink.”

Portugal voted top country to visit

The buzz around Portugal and its hidden gems continues to spread. Portugal won the 5th edition of the Globe Spots Award. Focused on destinations that have strong potential to become top world destinations, the organization gives the awards based on a combination of travel experience and as they put it “rumors and speculations from the travel community”. It seems like Portugal is now getting talked about in the travel scene and quickly establishing itself as the next hot destination.

The award comes with a description that may well getting you racing to book your trip to Portugal:

“Portugal oozes 'old European charm'. Medieval towns and historical quarters are full of squares, churches and monasteries. Narrow lanes are flanked by old skew houses with crooked balconies draped in drying laundry. Here, neighbors still share the latest gossip or discuss politics from their windows. Pastry shops and taverns are found in such abundance it makes you wonder whether the Portuguese eat at home at all. The pace is soothingly slow and any day seems to be a good day for a drink. Chances are that after a few days in Portugal, you’ll find yourself sitting in a small square with a glass of tawny Port in your hand, no matter whether you previously liked the stuff or not. It's just one of those things Portugal does to you.”
Portugal’s secret weapons: Beauty and Romance

Portugal was considered the 6th most beautiful country in the world by the U City Guides a travel organization producing “guides that are the one-stop source for the savvy urban traveler”. The organization attributes this award to features like the pristine natural wonders of the Azores, the “floating garden” of Madeira, the dramatic coastline and mystical capes of the mainland, the serene plains of the Alentejo with the stunningly-sited white medieval vilages of Marvão and Monsaraz, the Peneda-Gerês National Park, and the perfect collaboration of man and nature in the magic fantasy of Sintra and verdant Douro Valley. The scale of the country, and its diverse regions, caught the eye of the assessors: “Everything is in a small scale but when all combined it’s impressive how so much diverse beauty somehow fits in such a tiny country that seems to be a favorite of the sun”.

Beauty seems to be common to plenty regions and cities in Portugal. Lisbon is the best example: won the award of 4th most beautiful city in the world. As the organization describes it: “Magnificently sited on a series of hills running down to the grand Tagus River, Lisbon is one of the world's most scenic cities. Beautiful unexpected views are found at every turn down its colorful, picturesque streets, and especially from strategically-placed viewpoints or terraces at the top of each hill. The city has an unpolished, seductive appearance; an effortless beauty with captivating details such as cobbled designs, tiled façades, and pastel-colored buildings blending together to give it a singular atmosphere now lost in so many other cities. In such a stunning place, it's no wonder that many of the world's great explorers questioned what other beauties lied beyond the horizon when they departed from here in the 15th century.” With so much beauty all around, and close proximity to Sintra and Óbidos, it is easy to understand why Lisbon was also considered the 6th most romantic city in the world.

In the North, Porto is the location for Majestic, a café that took the award of the 6th most beautiful Café in the world. With competition from all over the world, including Lisbon’s historical landmarks A Brasileira and Versailles Pastry Shop, the Majestic Café took the award based on its outstanding beauty from its façade to its interior décor. This café “continues to live up to its name with a wonderful Belle Époque atmosphere in its main room and attractive winter garden which have guaranteed it a spot in every café-themed coffee table book.”

Award winning food and wine

If you looked up “Portugal” in the dictionary you could well get “outstanding gastronomy”, “world-class wines”; and “mouthwatering sweets” as synonyms. With a gastronomy that’s as diverse as the country’s morphology, it’s impossible to visit the country without falling in love for its fresh fish, charcuterie, cheeses and wide assortment of pastries and sweets… and of course its world renowned wines.

In fact, wines are indeed the crown jewel of the country. All you got to do is look over results from some of the most recent international wine competitions and you’ll see dozens of medals and awards being swept by Portuguese wines: in the 2013 International Wine Challenge a Portuguese wine was among the 5 best in the world (Dona Georgina 2005); in 2012 the best sommelier in the world Luca Gardini elected a Portuguese wine as the best wine in the world (Porto Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 2003); and also in 2012 the Portuguese Luís Sottomayor won the award of world’s best winemaker by the International Wine Challenge... and these are just a few examples.

Cheese is another product that makes the Portuguese proud. Its wide assortment is also a perfect reflection of the country’s diversity: from the creamy strong-scented Queijo da Serra, produced in the country’s highest peak (Serra da Estrela), to the hard and dry Queijo de S. Jorge, produced in the Azores islands (S. Jorge), going through dozens of others cheese types (almost as many as the number of counties). The value of the Portuguese cheese has also been recognized with multiple awards including: a gold medal at the World Cheese Awards in 2011 (Queijo “Sabores da Idanha” fom Beira Baixa); and a silver and bronze medal in 2012 at the International Cheese Awards.

Finally, you can’t travel through the country without appreciating the richness of its pastries and sweets. In fact, even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you’re likely to grow an extra one… that’s how outstanding Portuguese sweets are. From the traditional Pastel de Nata and Bola de Berlim, which you can buy in almost any corner coffee shop, to the egg-based sweet deserts invented centuries ago in convent kitchens, a visit to this country will have you revisit the meaning of “sweet heaven”.

The perfect city to visit with your kids

Lisbon was declared by QTravel as a mandatory destination if you’re looking to spend a good time with your kids. This expert in tourism pointed out both the indoor and outdoor activities that you can enjoy with your kids in Lisbon.

QTravel describes the city as the “perfect” option for a fun break, and easy exploration whether on foot or by tram. Special recommendations in the city include the S. Jorge Castle, Lisbon Story Center, Lisbon Zoo, Monsanto Natural Park and the Park of the Nations (fmr Expo 98) with its Science Pavilion, Oceanarium and Water Gardens. A short drive away you can also enjoy beautiful beaches both north and south from Lisbon, the Dinosaur tracks in the Serra D’Aire, dolphins in the Sado Estuary, and the Pena Palace in Sintra. This is just to name a few!

Lisbon is definitively a city kids of all ages will love (you included!)

Best beaches in the World

Portugal has less than 0.2% of the world’s coast line but is was awarded close to 10% of the world’s Blue Flags. These Flags are awarded to clean, healthy and sustainable beaches around the world. Locations awarded the Blue Flag have worked hard towards sustainable development following strict criteria regarding Water Quality, Environmental Education and Information, Environmental Management, and Safety.

So whether you’re a fan of rough sea (North), roughed cliff beaches (Alentejo) or warm light-sand beaches (Algarve), look for the Blue Flag because chances are it will be there! It’s yet another sign of the country’s devotion to the oceans.

Azores: Best Quality Coast Award

The unique beauty of its pristine ecosystems and geographical location, have led some to claim the Azores as part of Atlantis. From its volcanic peaks, through its dark-rocky coast line, to the ocean waters surrounding the islands, this is a unique place in the world.

The quality of its ecosystems has been recognized multiple times internationally. One of the most important awards was the Quality Coast Award in 2013. This award distinguishes the best examples of sustainable tourism worldwide and the Azores were praised by its high use of renewable energies and policies to support production of local products, using traditional methods, in particular wine, cheese, fruit, and tuna.

Another of the important distinctions came from the world leading diving magazine Tauchen. The magazine elected the Azores as World Top Destination for diving. Some of the remarkable characteristics that lead to the award include the deep blue ocean, large marine animals like dolphins and whales, and also the existence of several environmental protection programs.

Portugal Travel: International News

Aside from multiple formal travel awards, Portugal has been reviewed very positively by many leading international publishers. Here are a few top examples:

  • The Guardian has covered Portugal frequently in the last years as an inescapable destination in European travel. It has written about the Western Algarve as an “unspoiled” region, where “white-washed fishing villages” are a must-visit; described Porto as “Portugal's beautiful, jumbled second city (…) on the Douro river estuary, fantastic for wine and food, architecture, plazas and culture, stylish bars down tiny back streets, and lovely hotels”; and clarified for everyone that Sintra is “often described as a Disneyland for grown-ups, but spend time exploring the surrounding beaches, seafood restaurants and woodlands, and you'll find there's much more to this historic town.”

  • The New York Times wrote amongst other things about Lisbon and its Campo de Ourique quarter: describing it as “once a hotbed of revolutionary thinking which helped establish the Portuguese Republic in 1910, this district maintains a village-of-yore ambience with safe, tree-lined streets and a leafy park. While it has never been a tourist destination, that’s changing thanks to an influx of younger residents and a vanguard of shopping and dining options”.

  • The Washington Post, and its readers have also elected in 2012 Castelo de Vide as the 5th best destination for holidays in Europe. A romantic medieval village, Castelo de Vide is a perfect example of XV and XVI centuries’ architecture.

  • With so many international independent accolades, it is hard not to see Portugal as one of Europe’s best travel destinations.