Beyond the Algarve's cliff-flanked beaches, Portugal is a country of bucolic landscapes and culture-rich cities. The distant strains of fado music, scents of freshly grilled fish and a party-loving spirit suffuse the Moorish alleys of Lisbon and Porto's medieval Ribeira. But don't stop there. Head inland to stroll cork and almond forests, sip port in the Duoro's tumbling vineyards and hike in the Peneda-Gerês National Park's lake district. Everywhere you'll be greeted with a heartfelt bemvindo (welcome).
The best introduction to Lisbon is a rickety ride on vintage tram 28, taking in hilltop St. George's Castle and Alfama's labyrinthine Moorish alleys. Head north to Coimbra's 13th-century university. Porto's pride and joy is the Ribeira district on the Douro River, a medieval maze of terraces, stairways and baroque churches and a World Heritage Site. The artifacts of ecclesiastical Braga lie even farther north. Travel south to see the Roman ruins of Évora and traces of Faro's Moorish past.
To really see Portugal, locals say, you must go inland: to the olive and cork forests of Alentejo, say, or Estremadura's remote hills by horseback. Hike, bike or climb granite peaks that glisten with lakes and waterfalls in Peneda-Gerês National Park. Medieval villages sit high in the sheep-nibbled mountains of Serra da Estrela. Sample wines in the rustic quintas that dot the vineyards of Douro. Madeira's fabled levada (waterway) trails weave past plunging gorges and volcanic peaks scaled with terraces.
The Algarve's sheer cliffs and golden beaches are rightfully famous. Family-friendly coves, championship golf courses, glitzy yacht marinas, marshy lagoons -- this 180km coastline has it all. Naturalists head to the sweeping dune-flanked bays and bird-rich wetlands of Costa Verde and Beira Litoral. Big Atlantic waves and a stiff breeze draw surfers and windsurfers west to beaches like Praia do Guincho and Carrapateira. In Estremadura, hang out with bronzed Lisboetas on Costa da Caparica or spot dolphins near Sétubal.
Eating and Drinking
Start the day, Portuguese style, with coffee and pasteis de nata (cinnamon-dusted custard tartlets). In Lisbon's Alfama, charcoal-grilled sardines and bacalhau (salted codfish) are served to the backbeat of melancholic fado music. Eat garlicky caldeirada (fish stew) on the Atlantic coast. In the Algarve, try Monchique for spicy chicken piri-piri. Meaty picks include Porto's trademark tripe and juicy suckling pig in Minho. Wash it down with a citrusy vinho verde white, a full-bodied Douro red or a vintage port.