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Topping charts as one of the friendliest and safest countries in the world is bright and colorful Portugal, and anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit is likely to agree. An excellent destination for solo travelers, families, digital nomads, and gap-year students, Portugal has been welcoming the world to its cities and shores, yet it remains one of the most peaceful countries to visit and move to.
No matter if you’re in Lisbon’s buzzing downtown, party-loving Algarve, or artistic Porto, the lifestyle you’ll meet is sure to be laid-back, and Portuguese locals are known for marching to the beat of their own drum. Even in the midst of a busy day, locals find time for quick coffee breaks at the local cafés or pastelarias, and hour-long work lunches, usually enjoyed on an outdoor terrace beside beautifully aged historic buildings, a body of water, or a phenomenal viewpoint. Paired with the ever-present sun and pleasant climate, how can anyone remain stressed with such calming daily routines?
Metropolitan and progressive, Portugal‘s two main cities that aren’t the capital, Porto and Algarve, attract a lot of attention, including a large majority of the country’s population. Venture away from these hubs and you’ll see miles upon miles of country roads, pasturelands, fields dotted with cork oak trees, and sleepy, stone villages where some days a bleat from a goat is the most “noise” you’ll hear. In rural Portugal, signs of modern life and the digital age are scarce, and it’s an excellent place to unplug for a weekend (or longer) of relaxing.
Much of the country is serenaded by the rumble of the Atlantic, and in the busiest fishing villages, the ocean sounds mix with the voices of locals greeting each-other in passing. Sitting by the sea with a coffee and a good book isn’t a luxury in Portugal, but a regular perk. Whiling away the time with a seafood platter and a glass of crisp white or “green” wine—Portugal’s amazing vinho verde, which isn’t green at all but either white or rosé—is another perk, and a budget-friendly one to boot.
When considering peace, national security is an obvious factor and the statistics speak for themselves. In Portugal, the probability of violent crimes ranks low and unemployment fell from over 17% in 2013 to below 8% at the end of 2017. Armed police in pairs and sometimes triples wind past pedestrians in the most historic and visited squares and streets, like sunny Praça do Comércio and lively Praça da Figueira. In the last decade, an increase in the presence of police and a decrease in crime rates suggest a possible correlation.
Harmony and peace are about so much more, however, and these feelings radiate through Portuguese communities. Locals, known for their melancholic yet friendly and calm demeanor, welcome visitors with amicable smiles, local tips, and the occasional invitation to try a Portuguese dish, or to see a local hidden gem. It’s not uncommon for locals to befriend visitors, even if just for a minute, and share a piece of their day-to-day life. And these features are not secluded to the mainland either, but stretch to the Azores and Madeira Islands, where hydrangea-lined streets, rolling, green mountains (some reaching the clouds), exotic flora, and thermal pools add to the effect.
Increase the potential for a peaceful experience by visiting in the offseason. Between October and May, even the landmarks with Ronaldo-sized reputations slow down, and it’s possible to explore without bumping into other tourists at every turn. In particular, late autumn, winter, and early-to-mid spring are the best times to visit stunning, palace-filled Sintra, to watch a sunset from a semi-secluded Camilo Beach, or to feel a mystery blooming while ambling through Porto‘s narrow alleys.