As travel restrictions slowly lift, people can start to make holiday plans even if the destinations are limited. Who can resist the thought of lunch in Madeira?

The Government’s Green List of countries you can visit for a holiday from Monday, 17th May is disappointingly short, but it does contain a few gems – not least Portugal and her islands, who WILL now accept British tourists from 17th May. Visitors will need proof of a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hrs of departure from the UK to Portugal.

Here Mark Hodson, Editor of 101 Holidays, tempts us with some of the best holidays in Portugal in May, June and beyond, including the chance to get free PCR tests.

Portugal’s Alentejo, with free PCR tests

The Alentejo region is a hidden gem, known as “the real Portugal”. If you book with Sunvil and stay five nights or more this year, each visitor will get two free Covid PCR tests. Its pick of the hotels is the Monte do Zambujeiro in Vila Nova de Milfontes where seven nights B&B costs £1,207 pp including flights from Gatwick on 24th May, 23kg luggage allowance and car hire.

June in Madeira

You could be soaking up the sun by lunchtime on Monday on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Mercury Holidays offers a wide range of hotels to suit all budgets. A week’s B&B at the four-star Monte Mar Palace on the north coast costs just £442 pp or stay at Quinta Penha de Franca, a lovely converted manor house in the capital of Funchal where seven nights B&B costs £434 pp. Flights from Gatwick are included. Madeira is offering every visitor a free PCR test on either arrival or departure with results within 24 hours.

Villas on the Costa Verde

Vintage Travel offers villas on Portugal’s Costa Verde. For example, Casa Picolino is a charming rustic villa with two bedrooms and a private pool set in pretty gardens. Seven nights rental from 22nd or 29th May costs £898 for up to four people. The same company also has a range of villas on the Algarve including Casa da Fonte, a three-bedroom villa with private pool costing £1,500 for up to six people. Flights are not included but can be arranged.

Wild walking and swimming

Inntravel has some wonderful walking holidays in Portugal. My pick is High Paths of Northern Portugal, a new self-guided tour in the Peneda-Gerês National Park in the remote north where you’ll find mountains, rivers, wild horses and waterfall pools for wild swimming. You stay in six different places, each with bags of character, and your luggage is transported each day to your next stop. Available from 24th June, seven nights cost from £830 pp including breakfast, four dinners, five picnics, route notes and maps. Flights are not included.

Portugal’s Minho region

Oliver’s Travels recommends the Minho region of northern Portugal where the stunning Villa Cleonice has views over the Lima valley and is close to Ponte de Lima and Peneda-Gerês National Park. The contemporary-styled house sleeps eight with a private pool and costs from £70 pp per night, excluding flights.

Wellness retreat on the Algarve

If you’re craving some proper R&R, Fleewinter is offering a five-night wellness retreat led by Janet Shook, a yoga teacher and expert in traditional massage, reflexology and energy healing. It will be held at the idyllic Vila Monte Farmhouse amid olive groves in Portugal’s unspoiled eastern Algarve. It costs £1,255 pp in May or June including breakfast, three lunches, three spa treatments and three experiences. Flights are not included.

Messing about on boats

The Grande Lago in Portugal is the largest man-made lake in Europe and has more than 400 islets where you can moor up and explore. You can rent a motor boat sleeping from two up to ten with 10% off in June. A week’s rental for four people costs around €1,321 excluding flights to Lisbon or Faro. No experience is required and there are no locks to navigate. Book with Nicols Boating Holidays.

Push the boat out on the Algarve

CV Villas has some top notch luxury villas with private pools on the Algarve, some of them fully staffed so you don’t have to lift a finger. Villa Balbina has a heated pool and direct access to a sandy beach. It sleeps ten and costs £19,445 for the week beginning 5 June including maid service and a private cook (seven breakfasts, six lunches and three dinners). Beach Cottage sleeps six and costs £3,506, for the week starting 22nd May. Flights can be arranged too.

Private tour of Portugal

If you have itchy feet but want someone else to do all the work, Abercrombie & Kent is offering a six-night Classic Portugal private tour which takes in Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto, staying in superb hotels and including a mix of expert guided tours and time to explore under your own steam. It costs from £1,760 pp including flights.

City break in Lisbon

Lisbon is one of Europe’s most charming and vibrant cities, packed with character and rapidly becoming established as a foodie hotspot too. i-escape has picked the best cool and quirky small hotels and apartments for all budgets. The Lisboans Apartments offer light and spacious self-catering accommodation sleeping from two to six in the thrumming Baixa district. From £126 per night in May and June for a one-bedroom apartment, £144 for two bedrooms.

The Azores in Autumn

If you’d rather wait until the autumn, Cox & Kings has an outstanding small-group tour of the (Portuguese) Azores islands. Spotlight on the Azores features geothermal lakes, volcanic craters and the capital of Ponta Delgada. You’ll taste gin at a local distillery and pick tea at one of Europe’s few tea plantations. From £1,620 pp including flights departing 2nd October. There’s a saving of £100 if you book by 31st May.

Summer in Iceland

I know it isn’t in Portugal but Iceland is also on the Green list and it’s absolutely stunning in summer. Regent Holidays offers a five-day South Iceland Summer Break which includes the Gullfoss waterfall, hot springs, geysers, a whale watching expedition and a dip in the Blue Lagoon. It costs just £795 pp in June or July including flights from Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton or Manchester.

By Mark Hodson, 101 Holidays
May 2021

Best of the South West
Best of Wales
14 Reasons To Staycation This Summer