Portugal was once a powerful seafaring kingdom that dominated the merchant routes to Africa, South America and the Orient, which can still be seen in its historic cities. Today, Portugal is a friendly country with a fantastic coastline. The hinterland, which includes deep valleys, green rolling hills and numerous charming villages, is perfect for exploring on foot, by kayak, by bike or even on horseback. There are numerous towns worth visiting in Portugal: from the capital, Lisbon, which is as popular for its lively clubbing scene as for its grand Manueline monuments and medieval alleyways, to Porto, which is the country’s second city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can taste many varieties of port wine.
The gorgeous scenery of Portugal will amaze you with the most beautiful sights you have ever experienced. The volcanic islands display unique profiles of land and beautiful natural formations such as waterfalls and caves. Also, coastal Portugal has an equally attractive and picturesque landscape. Little fishing villages, churches, bell towers, and winding streets explain Portugal’s abundant history in their own way. And then there’s Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe, which is definitely worth visiting. The hinterland of the country boasts intriguing towns and country villages, with charming churches, castles and palaces.
Portugal is the seventh biggest wine producer in the world, which makes it a perfect destination for wine connoisseurs. Traditionally associated with Port wines, Portugal has much more to offer. Over 300 native grape varieties make even the basic table wines worth tasting, as they be made from award-winning grapes, such as Gouveio and Arinto. Nowhere else in the world will you find true Port and Madeira wine or such palate-tickling wines as Vinho Verde, Vinho Verde Rosé and Vihno Verde Tinto, or the surprisingly tasty Tinto Espumante.
Fatima is one of the most important Catholic shrines in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Located in Portugal, about two hours drive nfrom Lisbon, it welcomes millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. The site became famous when Our Lady of the Rosary appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos and her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. Between May and October of 1917, the three children witnessed several apparitions. The last, on October 13th, was confirmed by a miracle witnessed by 60,000 people, and is known in the Catholic world as “the day the sun danced”.
Among the most interesting and lovable features of Portugal are its citizens, who are lively, warm and adventurous. They love to take part in events that retell their history, explain their roots and represent the country as a community. The folklore is vibrant and traditional music is often played, and home-made items and elegant artwork exhibited: as a souvenir, take home the signature of Portuguese art: beautiful blue paintings on white tile.
Lisbon, located on the steep hillsides that overlook the Rio Tejo, is a fascinating and inspiring city, boasting Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries and quaint museums. The oldest part of the city is Alfama, which sits below the spectacular Castelo de Sao Jorge. The Bairro Alto, or the upper town, is famed for its bars, restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Key attractions outside the historic center include the Museu Gulbenkian, the Museu de Arte Antiga and the Berardo modern art collection. Five kilometers to the east lies the Parque das Nações, the futuristic site of Lisbon’s Expo 98, whose main attraction is one of Europe’s largest oceanariums.
The UNESCO heritage site of Sintra is located a short distance inland from Lisbon. Since the temperatures are cooler there, thanks to its hilltop location, the town became a popular summer retreat for Portugal’s royalty and later on also attracted the rich and famous, and inspired countless writers, including Lord Byron and Gothic novelist William Beckford. The town’s historic centre, dominated by the Palácio Nacional, spreads across the steep slopes of numerous hills. Sintra’s annual festival to honor St Peter takes place on June 28 and 29, while in July and August the Sintra Music Festival stages classical performances in a number of the town’s buildings, including the Palácio Nacional. The end of July also sees the Feira Grande in São Pedro, with crafts, antiques and cheeses on sale.
The southernmost region of Portugal, the? Algarve, is the very place fromwhere the Portuguese set off on the epic journey that led them to discover new worlds, people and cultures in the 15th century. Today, the? Algarve is a hotspot for tourists. The sandy beaches nestling among golden cliffs stretch as far as the eye can see, and the blue hues of the ocean invite you to jump in sea and simply enjoy yourself and relax. However, Algarve is much more than just beaches; in the mountainous hinterland, people there live in harmony with nature and keep traditions alive. A visit to the area is like stepping back in time. The towns of the area are also special: while Silves preserves traces of its Moorish?Arab past, Lagos will remind you of the days of great discoveries. More cosmopolitan Portimão and Albufeira bustle with energy day and night?day. Tavira is a showcase for traditional architecture, and Faro, the gateway of?to the region, boasts a charming historic centre, which you must visit when you are in the region.
Porto is Portugal's second city and best known as the historic home of port wine, one of the great classic European wines. However, one should not forget that this historic coastal city itself is inexplicably beautiful – which is why UNESCO classified it as a World Heritage Site in 1996. One of the oldest cities in Europe, it is home to beautiful plazas, churches and houses with colorfully tiled façades. Outside its historic heart, the city has witnessed a renaissance and its seaside suburbs are becoming home to world-class contemporary architecture and cuisine. Port (Winho do Porto), which made this city so famous, is a fortified wine. This means that a proportion of grape spirit, or brandy, is added to the wine at some point during the production process. The first shipments of wine under the name port were recorded in 1678. Although the wine is made? in the vineyards of the upper Douro Valley, it takes its name from Porto, from where it has traditionally been exported.
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