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Video courtesy of Visit Portugal Tourism

Portugal is situated on the western extremity of the Iberian Peninsula and has existed within unchanged borders for nearly 800 years. For a small country, it is diverse; from the sandy coves and colourful fishing villages to the manicured golf links of the southern Algarve. Less explored are the fertile flat plains where horses and fighting bulls graze, cylindrical brick windmills dot coastal hillsides, and the upper reaches of the Douro Valley produce Portugal’s famous product – port wine – from steeply terraced vineyards.

While legend has it that the city of Lisbon was founded by Ulysses, historians and archaeologists say that Lisbon was first settled by Phoenicians in the 12th century BC and given the name “Alis Lippo”. In 205 BC, the Roman Empire engulfed Lusitania (Portugal) and elevated Olissapona to the status of a Roman municipality.

Later, as Lisbon flourished as a centre for trade under 300 years of Moorish rule, the Alfama section of the city hosted the Moorish aristocracy. Dom Alfonso III completed the Moorish expulsion in the Algarve, however, and made Lisbon the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal in 1255. Toward the end of the 15th century, Portuguese mariners developed advanced navigation techniques that permitted them to pioneer the exploration and charting of the “New World”.

Today, the city has three major quarters; the lower town is the heart of Lisbon where most of the governmental buildings and institutions are found. Barrio Alto, the upper town, is a charming area where time doesn’t seem to have meaning. The oldest part of Lisbon, the Alfama, is made up of tiny whitewashed houses along a labyrinth of narrow alleys.

Belem, formerly a separate town and now absorbed by Lisbon, contains the city’s masterpiece of Manueline architecture, the Monastery of Jeronimos Abbey. It stands in silent tribute to Portugal’s celebrated age of discoveries. It is a fine example of Manueline architecture, born out of an exuberant period when Portuguese navigators were leading the world in exploration.

St. George’s Castle stands magnificently atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills, with the city laid out before it. The breath-taking view from St. George’s shows terracotta tiled roofs, ancient monuments, as the Tagus River flows under its graceful suspension bridge.

A short drive west of the city is the stylish resorts of Estoril and Cascais, their streets lined with palm trees and their night life sparkling — particularly in the casino. Although this is a very popular area, the beaches seem empty and remote, making for pleasurable secluded strolls.
As its name suggests (“The Port”), Porto epitomizes the European port city. Located on a dramatic gorge cut by the Douro River, Porto lies just 6 kilometers from the sea. Orange-tiled houses packed closely together cascade down to the river, and Europe’s most graceful arched bridges span the gorge above. Porto’s fame, however, springs not from the beauty of its buildings but from the taste of its port wine. First extensively developed by English merchants in the early 18th century, the port industry still plays a major role in the city’s economy.

Porto is the second largest city of Portugal, and the one from which the country derives its name. It sits on the Douro River, the most important in northern Portugal, and is a seaport city to this day. Hidden within not only the Old Quarter and throughout the city are gems to admire and enjoy. For example, there are the three bridges spanning the Douro including the Maria Pia, the railroad bridge designed by Eiffel. The two-tiered Ponte de Dom Luis connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, home of the port wine trade. There are many antique shops, lively bars and a main shopping area.

The region is crossed by the River Douro which enters Portugal between the ravines and mountains of the interior to flow through the entire World Heritage landscape where the Port and Douro wines are produced. It is from here that the wine is sent to the lodges at Vila Nova de Gaia, as the cruises touring the region make their way upriver.

In this area of mountains and natural parks, the region’s heritage is seen in its castles, such as the one in Guimarães, and the shrines and churches which are the stage for pilgrimages in the summer. You will find the Baroque architecture of Northern Portugal in its stone and gilded carvings side by side with rural chapels. In its cities, which retain a human scale, such as Viana do Castelo, Braga, Lamego, Chaves and Vila Real, and in the manor houses and stately halls, you will find the genuine Portuguese people, who like to share their table, their customs and traditions. In Porto and Northern Portugal, the joy and gratitude for all we have and are is experienced in the most spontaneous way.

In the Alentejo the power of the land marks the time and cities like Elvas and Évora, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, show the tenacity of the people. Perhaps this is the reason that culture and spirituality take on a singular character here. These memories of the past are also shared by other cities, such as Santarém, Portalegre and Beja, and in the former Jewish quarters, particularly in Castelo de Vide.

The flat land makes hiking and cycling easy, though horses are also part of the landscape. You can combine these rides with birdwatching and, in dams such as Alqueva, with the tranquillity of the waters or stargazing.

also explore the coast. The landscape here is hilly and rugged, with small sheltered coves between the cliffs, many of which are ideal for surfing. You will also breathe the scents of the countryside here, the aromatic herbs that season the fish, seafood and other regional fare to be accompanied by the region’s excellent wines. Indeed, the entire Alentejo lives according to the rhythm of the earth.

No shortage of beautiful beaches, sandy stretches as far as the eye can see, framed by golden cliffs, virtually deserted islands marking the boundary between Ria Formosa and the sea, and small coves sheltered by the rocks. The ocean, in every shade of blue and mostly calm and warm, invites you for long swims and to indulge in water sports.

More cosmopolitan Portimão and Albufeira are bustling towns by night and day. Tavira is a showcase for traditional architecture and Faro, the gateway to the region, deserves a long stop to discover its beautiful historic centre.

To relax, you can have various treatments in the spas and thalassotherapy centres and in the Monchique Thermal Baths. There are also many internationally acclaimed golf courses where you can enjoy a spot of exercise. And hotels, tourist villages, resorts, from the simplest to the most sophisticated.

Right in the middle of the Atlantic, the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo are a haven of natural beauty. The exotic colors of the flowers stand out from among the blue sea and the emerald green vegetation; this is an archipelago where two thirds are a protected area and where the largest Laurisilva forest in the world is located.
July is the hottest month in Algarve with an average temperature of 24°C (74°F) and the coldest is January at 12°C (54°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 12 in August. The wettest month is December with an average of 117.2mm of rain.

July is the hottest month in Lisbon with an average temperature of 24°C (74°F) and the coldest is January at 11°C (52°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 11 in July. The wettest month is November with an average of 127.6mm of rain.

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