Local insights: coronavirus in Spain & Portugal

Spain and Portugal are popular summer destinations, but coronavirus has put something of a spanner in the works this year. We chatted to our local expert to find out more.
Spanish windmills and medieval castle on a hill in Consuegra, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. Photo: Vladimir Sazonov/Shutterstock
Spanish windmills and medieval castle on a hill in Consuegra, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. Photo: Vladimir Sazonov/Shutterstock

Spain and Portugal are both incredibly popular summer-holiday choices for Brits seeking sun, sea and TLC. But with coronavirus in play, and government and quarantine guidelines being updated daily, travel to these reliable destinations feels like more of a gamble. Indeed, Spain has already been removed from the UK’s ‘safe list’; rumours that Portugal was next have so far been unfounded, though Wales and Scotland have gone ahead and imposed a 14-day quarantine on anyone returning from the Iberian gem. We caught up with our local expert for Spain and Portugal, Antonio Gómez Coronado, to find out more. 

Antonio Gómez Coronado in Galicia at the Cíes Islands. Photo: private archive

In conversation with Antonio

Q: You’re our local expert for Spain and Portugal. Do you see a difference between the two countries at the moment in regards to travel?

A: It is rather difficult to foresee how travel will behave in the future. For the moment, it seems that Portugal has slightly better control over the pandemic than Spain, but probably the next months will be crucial to see what happens.


Q: Which is your favorite region in Spain and why?

A: I love Galicia for so many reasons. It is probably the least-visited area in Spain and it offers plenty of resources to make a holiday memorable. It has plenty of coast, so you can benefit from a lot of activities in the sea, from visiting the beach to yachting. Gastronomy is huge, with amazing seafood (probably the best in the world, no kidding!) and quite a lot of regional dishes that you can hardly find anywhere else in Spain. Wines are also a big thing in Galicia, with Albariño or Ribeiro grapes rivaling the best of the best. Finally, from the point of view of culture, you have a wide history, amazing cathedrals and you can sleep in castles or monasteries from the 12th century onwards. What else do you need to create a dream?

Panorama of the alcazar above the medieval San Martin bridge - Toledo, Spain. Photo: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

Q: What are your recommendations for travelers planning to visit in 2021? Do you have any recommendations on where to go or stay or how to book?

A: I can imagine people will not be looking for crowded spots in 2021, so rather isolated areas, with less-crowded destinations will be the key. Again, Galicia could be a great spot, but also Castilla-La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote, or Extremadura could be great. In Portugal you have amazing options in Alentejo or Serra da Estrela where you hardly see many people anywhere.


Q: In your opinion, which is better: public transportation, a rental car, or private transfers to get around either country?

A: In Spain, you can probably manage well with public transportation if you wish to save some money. In Portugal, private transportation is still affordable, so I sincerely recommend this option instead.


Q: What’s your all-time favorite activity in each country?

A: Well, if we are talking about a must-see destination, I would say that Toledo in Spain and Sintra in Portugal are those which you would regret not visiting.

Sunset at Castle Marvao, a small picturesque village in the Alentejo, Portugal. Photo: ARoxoPT/Shutterstock

Q: If you had two weeks to spend in either country (or combined), which itinerary would you suggest for a first-time visitor?

A: In Spain you could follow the route from Barcelona - Valencia - Madrid - Cordoba - Granada - Sevilla - Malaga, where you could see every important destination and end up by the sea. In Portugal, it’s even easier, as you could go from north to south visiting Porto - Douro Valley - Coimbra - Alentejo - Lisbon - Algarve, with the same philosophy.


Q: Spanish Paella and Portuguese wine: both countries are famous for their excellent cuisine. Do you have a top tip restaurant and/or recipe recommendation?

A: Wow, it would be so hard to choose only one point, but let me give you a tip instead. Look for restaurants which do not have a menu in English. That will ensure local treatment and fair pricing!

Table with view a wonderful view over the river in Porto, Portugal. Photo: Diana Rui/Shutterstock