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14 reasons why you should visit Portugal next

Portugal's natural beauty, historic charm and great beaches with some of the biggest waves in the world, make it a destination that you must visit at least once.

1. Douro Valley

douro-valley

Tourist boats cruise up this amazing northern river valley, following the Douro through idyllic hills patch-worked by world-class vineyards producing grapes for port and other quality fine wine.

2. Vintage trams

vintage-trams

Characterful old trams rattle through the historic streets of Lisbon and Porto. In the capital, tram 28 (above) is a brilliant route between the Alfama old quarter and Estrela, while Porto’s tram 1 glides along the river to the Atlantic coast.

3. Sintra

sintra

Only a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, this hilltop town boasts a fairytale array of elegant palaces and imposing castles in a national park setting. The Pena Palace (above) stands out.

4. Fresh seafood

sardines

With 500 miles of Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline, Portugal is a seafood mecca. Grilled sardines are legendary but look out too for other fresh catch such as bream (dourada), seabass (robalo), octopus and clams.

5. Coimbra

coimbra

The mediaeval capital of Portugal for a century – and home to its oldest university for 500 years – this central Portugal town beautifully melds culture, history and student buzz.

6. Explore the vineyards

alentejo

It may be less famous than its Spanish neighbour but Portugal makes fantastic wine other than vinho verde and port. Look out for the Bairrada wine-producing province, plus sparkling wine from central Portugal, and fine reds from Alentejo (above).

7. Porto

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Sample fine port wine in historic production warehouses along the banks of the Douro in Portugal’s lively and charming second city. Make time too for the Serralves art gallery in a pretty park.

8. Lisbon

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One of Europe’s oldest capitals, Lisbon is a beguiling mix of mediaeval cobbled lanes, steep hills, chic shops, brilliant museums and a grand waterside setting.

9. Local delicacies

pasteis-de-belem-fachada

Its custard tarts (pasteis de nata) are justly renowned but Portugal produces a host of sweet delights, such as fiovos de ovos (egg threads), arroz doce (sweet rice) and pao de deus (coconut-topped buns). But if you’ve time to try just one speciality, let it be the custard tarts from iconic confectionary, Pasties de belem (above), which uses a 180-year-old recipe.

10. Fado

fado

This traditional form of melancholy but passionate song captures a wistful Portuguese characteristic called saudade. A new generation of singers such as Ana Moura and Mariza are adding modern sensuality.

11. Rota Vicentina

rota-vicentina

This 250-mile walking route runs along one of Europe’s most stunning shorelines before dipping inland to cross idyllic Alentejo shepherd trails dotted with timeless traditional hill villages.

12. Lesser-known historic jewels

guimaraes

Portugal is scattered with dazzling but often overlooked mediaeval towns, with Obidos, Evora and Guimaraes (above) standing out. All offer gorgeous ambience – while Guimaraes has claim to be the birthplace of the country.

13. Sea sports

nazare

Awesome surf rolls in all along Portugal’s uncrowded Atlantic shores. Peniche, Ericeira and the Alentejo beaches are good places – but Nazare (above) is where the largest wave ever ridden was tamed by American surf champion Garret MacNamara in 2011.

14. Monsanto

monsanto

The homes in this unusual hilltop town are built underneath huge boulders. In fact, some of the doors are even carved out of rocks. Take a stroll down its quaint cobblestone streets to admire the “rock-chic” Manueline architecture.

Adapted from SilverKris.