Long considered primarily a haven for sunseekers and golfers, Portugal is also one of Europe’s unspoilt gems when you take the chance to dig a little deeper. This land of traditional villages and vibrant cities has a charming countryside strewn with historical treasures and a wide assortment of World Heritage sites - natural and cultural wonders that offer a window into this once great seafaring nation. Take in the prehistoric drawings at Foz Coa or 15th-century sea port at Angra do Heroísmo, alongside the other designated sites around the country that zip you back in time.
Portugal's lively and hugely underrated capital, Lisbon, along with its classy northern sibling, Porto, are magical places for the wanderer thanks to intriguing side streets, majestic plazas and trams which rattle along. Both cities have their share of enticing urban life, encompassing eclectic restaurants, colourful boutiques, bohemian cafés and stylish nightclubs that make excellent use of the waterside setting. Their sporting rivalries are also a must for football fans and others looking for passion and flair, while there is skiing for snow devotees who want a change from the norm.
Smaller cities offer something different and enchanting; beautifully preserved medieval quarters in the likes of Évora, Coimbra, Guimarães and Braga are well worth exploring.
Outside the cities, travellers can enjoy Portugal's warm sunny weather by wandering around centuries-old vineyards, visiting stone villages in the mountains or soaking up rays on the magnificent southern shoreline. A trip round these parts will be made even more native if you drop in on sleepy sulphur spas and hop around the offbeat pousadas; the government made full use of the country’s stunning convents, monasteries and palaces after WWII by turning them into homely accommodation.
Dramatic scenery lies all along the coast with imposing cliffs and sublime beaches where you can wallow in beautiful solitude. More than just a static backdrop, the dazzling scenery sets the stage for outdoor adventure as well. The Algarve is host to a slew of amazing golf courses; however it is also the perfect place to stretch your legs. Monchique and Silves are great for hiking while dreamy destination Sagres was once known as the end of the world! The Azores and Madeira are alluring islands off the Portuguese coast that deserve a few days of your time to round off the experience.
Horse riding and big-game fishing are standout activities that fully embrace the idyllic coastal settings, while surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, diving and mountain biking are a few other ways to spend a sun-drenched afternoon away from the crowds.
Those seeking a more unique slice of Portuguese culture can join in the revelry at a traditional festival; discover the melancholic music of fado (Portugal's answer to the blues), sample the captivating Manueline architecture or go port wine tasting along the Douro. Perhaps best of all, visitors can seek out the last remains of Atlantis in the Azores or Berlenga Island, the historical first line of defence from invaders past.