Praia da Senhora da Rocha - Beach near Lagoa Algarve Portugal

You’re already dreaming of where to spend your holidays in 2016, and it’s crossed your mind that somewhere with an abundance of sunshine, beautiful beaches, a hospitable culture and relaxed vibe might just be the place. Ticking all those boxes and more, it’s no great wonder that Portugal has landed on the top of your destinations list.

All that’s left to do is get planning. Here are some things to consider and tips to get you started.

Firstly, decide on what time of year you’d prefer to visit. Summer is the obvious choice if you’re a fan of hot weather. Summer in Portugal means an opportunity to cool your sun-kissed skin in salty Atlantic waters, to relax on golden sands or ride the waves at popular surfing spots. Summer is hot but not too hot, which means you can do plenty of outdoor activities both seaside and inland, day and night.

On the other hand, summer also means more tourists. If you prefer a more tranquil travel experience and don’t mind slightly cooler weather, spring is an ideal option. Even autumn in Portugal is highly pleasant, since the country experiences a high number of annual sunshine hours. This is particularly true in the southern part of the country (the north is always a little colder).

Next, decide which part of Portugal to visit. The options are many despite the country’s small size, and low-cost carriers have even started operating affordable flights to Madeira and the Azores islands – both autonomous regions of Portugal filled with natural beauty.

Lisbon is one of the most obvious destinations, being the capital city (and one relatively small and filled with charm). Another holiday hotspot is the Algarve, Portugal’s most southern region. Plan on going here if you favour white-washed fishing villages, delicious seafood, surfing and beaches. Porto in the north offers beautiful historical sites while the Duoro Valley is a wine-lover’s dream.

Seeing the whole country in a short amount of time wouldn’t do it justice, so you might decide to plan on visiting one or two regions and taking the time to relax while you get to know them intimately. Each region offers unique sites and experiences, so read up and plan your stay to fit in everything that appeals.

Planning for Portugal shouldn’t involve a lot of stress or drudgery: as a travel destination it’s generally safe, friendly, and accessible. Get your holiday booked in and planned now, and the only thing you’ll have left to do is count down the days.