Come to the Gardens!
Portugal is full of luscious gardens from north to south, where visitors can catch a cool breeze on the warmest of days and, possibly, learn the secrets of Portugal's history.
In the Bussaco forest, perched on a mountain above the town of Luso, visitors can stay at what was once a palace for the King of Portugal. Now it is a luxury hotel and the gardens surrounding the hotel are a national park. Miles of pathways meander through baroque sculptures, centuries-old trees, and lakes and waterfalls.
In Coimbra, the Garden of Tears is so named because here a love story to rival Romeo & Juliet played out in the 13th Century. The garden occupies a spot along the Mondego River.
In Sintra, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, two palaces offer plenty of gardens for exploring-- royal Pena Palace and the 18th century Seteais Palace. The grounds surrounding the Quinta da Regaleira estate, built in the middle of a dense forest, are Quinta da Regaleira are said to hide symbols the Masons, the Knights Emplary and the Rocicrucians.
Vast gardens can be found surrounding the sites and monuments throughout the city of Lisbon, such as the Parque das Nações (Nations Park), Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Belém Cultural Centre, Estufa Fria, Jardim Amália Rodrigues, Jardim Botânico da Ajuda, Jardim do Campo Grande, Jardim das Amoreiras, Parque Eduardo VII and Monsanto Park. The baroque Gardens at the Palácio Nacional de Queluz were inspired by France's Versailles.
A wide variety of flowers blooms on Madeira Island, often referred to as the "floating garden of the Atlantic." With six distinct climate zones, much of the island has been protected and its gardens and parks carefully maintained. Visitors can explore the Madeira Botanical Garden, Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Palheiro Gardens and the Ribeiro Frio Forest Park, among others. And, each April the island stages the Madeira Flower Festival.
On the island São Miguel, visitors can use the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel as the starting point for exploring the calderas, geysers, steam vents and springs of the Furnas Valley. Here a former orange grove has been transformed into botanical gardens, filled with exotic trees imported from every corner of the Portuguese empire.
The Solares de Portugal-- the network of 96 manor houses, family homes and stately palaces that offer lodging throughout the country--has a package deal specifically focusing on touring the gardens. Prices start at 75 euros per double room and per night.