The Portuguese were once famed for their seafaring and trading, so perhaps they have a natural affinity with travellers, even though for decades they were somewhat neglected by visitors to Europe. That is changing now, and for good reason, as people discover the distinctive culture and landscapes of olives, almonds, cork trees, vineyards, windmills and unspoilt villages.
In Lisbon, its capital, take time to wander through the narrow streets of Bairro Alto or Alfama. Beyond Lisbon lies Sintra, known as one of Portugal’s most beautiful towns, with its fairy-tale palace, crumbling villas with wrought-iron balconies festooned with flowering vines, and verdant forests.
There are also kilometres of beaches, the most famous of which are along the Algarve and Costa do Sol, and the infamous surf beach Nazare, medieval monasteries and hills dotted with castles and wild flowers. Braga, with its Baroque churches, is known as the Rome of Portugal. To the north is Porto, on the River Douro, where the country’s most famous export, Port wine, is stored in warehouses known as lodges before it is dispatched all around the world. Take a cruise along the river or visit a tiny fishing village along the coast. Fresh fish, especially sardines, are a staple of Portuguese cuisine, along with bacalhau, and locally made olive oil.