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The Rough Guide to Portugal is the essential travel guide with clear maps and coverage of the country's unique attractions. The Rough Guide to Portugal guides you around the fashionable cities of Lisbon and Porto, takes you hiking in the hills of central and northern Portugal, and covers every beach along the Algarve, making it the ideal companion whether you're on a city break, beach holiday, or cross-country.
The guide unearths the best sights, hotels, restaurants, and nightlife across every price range — from backpacker hostels to beachfront villas and boutique hotels. You'll find specialist coverage of Portuguese history, art, and literature and detailed information on the best markets and shopping for each region. The locally-based Rough Guide author team introduces the best vineyards, country taverns, and fado clubs and provides reliable insider tips, whether you're driving Portugal's roadways or shopping for linen and lace.
Explore all corners of Portugal with authoritative background on everything from Porto's architecture to surfing at Peniche, and rely on handy language tips and the clearest maps of any guide. Make the most of your holiday with The Rough Guide to Portugal.
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Where to go and when
Since Portugal is so compact, it's easy to take in something of each of its elements - northern river valleys, southern coast, and mountains - even on a brief visit, whether you rent a car or make your own way by public transport. Scenically, the most interesting parts of the country are in the north: the Minho, green, damp, and often startling in its rural customs; the sensational gorge and valley of the Rio Douro; the remote Trs-os-Montes; and the wild, mountainous serras of Beira Alta. For contemporary interest, spend at least some time in both Lisbon and Porto, the only two cities of real size. And if it's monuments you're after, the whole centre of the country - above all Coimbra, vora and the Estremadura region - retains a faded grandeur dating from the Age of the Discoveries in the sixteenth century and from the later gold and diamond wealth of Brazil.
The coast is virtually continuous beach - some 800km of it - and only on the Algarve and in a few pockets around Lisbon and Porto has there been large-scale tourist development. Elsewhere, a number of beach areas have seen casual development on a relatively small scale, these resorts remaining thoroughly Portuguese, with great stretches of deserted sands between them. Perhaps the loveliest beaches are along the northern Costa Verde, around Viana do Castelo, or, for isolation, the wild stretches of southern Alentejo. It must be added, however, that the Portuguese coast is the Atlantic and can often be windswept and exposed. If you like your swimming warm, the only area where the water approaches Mediterranean temperatures is the eastern Algarve, where a series of sandbank islands, the ilhas, protect the shore.
Swimming aside, when you go matters little. The entire country is warm from April to October, if slightly erratically so in the rainy north, while the Algarve is amazingly mild throughout the year - it hardly has a winter and January can be delightful when the almond blossom is out. The Serra da Estrela, in contrast, features winter snow for skiers, while further north winter is wet and the wind bitingly cold - this is no time for extended journeys around Trs- os-Montes. Throughout the year, escaping the crowds, outside the Algarve and Lisbon, is little problem. Especially on the Algarve, booking accommodation is essential in high season; elsewhere, however, you should find rooms with little difficulty throughout the year except at festival times when even the smallest towns and villages can fill up quickly.
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