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For centuries Portugal has lived in its Spanish shadow; a secret behind the showpiece. But at last this beauty is shining through.


1   |  A Portuguese fairy tale.

The Grimms Brothers eat your heart out, nowhere delivers a better fairy tale than Sintra. From the Bavarian Gothic Pena Palace to the pastel-hued manors, castle walls, rolling storybook hills and enchanting woodland, it’s a dreamy must-see. Those who dare should visit the Quinta da Regaleira estate and peer inside the colossal Initiation Wells. Dark underground towers cloaked in an eerie moss, if this were a Grimm’s tale, something ghoulish would lurk inside. 


2   |  Lisbon, you gorgeous little introvert, you.

Lisbon has stayed off-radar for the last several centuries, but a wallflower she is not. The decorative ceramic tiles for which this city is famed lavishly adorn the walls, doorways and floors, while The Madre de Deus Convent houses five centuries of the most beautiful. Don’t forget the Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts) because a trip to Portugal isn’t complete without at least one… One per day that is! Pasteis de Belém – just across from St Jeronimos Monastery – have been making the city’s most delicious pastries since 1837.


3   |  A book-lovers dream destination.

Óbidos, a medieval town just 80 kilometres from Lisbon has transformed itself into a literary wonderland. Themed bookshops freckle the landscape, such as the 13th-century Church of Santiago which is now the Grande Livraria de Santiago (“The Grand Bookstore of Santiago”) complete with bestsellers on the marble altar and towering art books where there once were pews. The vegetable market now sells cookbooks and there’s even a book hotel with 45,000 titles.


4   |  The boulder homes of Monsanto.

While you might like to line your house with weatherboard, the residents of Monsanto choose something a little more unorthodox. 200 tonne boulders to be exact. Located in Portugal’s east, Monsanto is a 16th century village hanging from a lofty mountaintop, and it’s littered with enormous granite boulders. The village’s original inhabitants built into these mammoth stones, some of which are even fitted with doors, leading into craggy Flintstone-style homes. The stonework is adapted everywhere; walls, floors, and even roofs.


5   |  Beautiful remote beaches.

Great hikes and beaches. Just like home - with an added dash of Latino sass. Half an hour from Sintra, you can hike from Cabo Roca to Adraga Beach, where you’ll be met by a gorgeous sliver of blonde sand and the Atlantic Ocean. Deliciously remote, watch the surfers tackle thunderous waves before descending into Restaurante da Adraga. Order a huge bowl of fried Boulinhos de Bacalhão and a generous glass of wine. As the sun dips, Adraga’s cliffs are bathed in a racy orange glow.

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House of Travel Calder & Lawson's Carlos Barbosa, who is half Portuguese, shares some secrets from home.


Vidago is in the middle of nowhere, but it’s surrounded by natural springs and far removed from the masses. Coimbra is said to have the oldest University in the world. I love walking through the main street and smelling the roasted chestnuts.


Évora is a little hidden gem, with medieval architecture, Roman baths and the ancient Temple of Évora.


Restaurante Cruzeiro in the Amares region serves the most amazing goat dish I have ever had.


Built on a hill flanking the River Duoro, Porto is delightfully higgledy-piggledy. Tap into the Port wine for which it's famed.


Half an hour from Sintra, you can hike from Cabo Roca to Adraga Beach. Reward your efforts with a bowl of fried Boulinhos de Bacalhão at the beach-fronting Restaurante da Adraga.  

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