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Portugal Travel Guide - The Non Fiction Author

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Why You Will Fall In Love With Portugal!

No matter what kind of traveller you are, Portugal has something for you. A blisteringly beautiful example of nature's bounty, Portugal has shores like icing sugar, ocean so dazzlingly blue it looks photo-shopped, medieval castles, and captivating cities. But there is more to the country than the honeymoon paradise clichés people have gushed about for generations.

Portugal is electrifying, inspiring and surprising. Blessed with the best of the earth's treasures, this country is a superior geographical hybrid, and visitors searching for the picture perfect will be won over by the world-famous caves of Porto, breathtaking beaches and cliffs, mountain ranges as you move inland and fertile plains bearing towering oaks and pretty orange trees - all in one small, easily navigable country. Cape St Vincent can be buffeted by heavy storms, but Portugal generally sits on the sunny side of things, and everyone who spends some time with this land of open, relaxed culture will fall for the warm character of Portuguese people along with the warm weather. This is the southern European way of life, and everyone takes their time here.

Wanderers with hedonistic pursuits can really hone in on a lifestyle preoccupied with pleasure: the Algarve – the region of eternal spring - lives up to its reputation as an oversized and very beautiful sun-bed, where you can enjoy an alfresco breakfast of fresh seafood on the terrace all year round. Fish galore, hearty grilled specialities, down-to-earth local cuisine and noble wines will feed any foodie desire. Spas, saunas and relaxation can prepare nocturnal party goers on any budget for Lisbon's bars, rearing their heads to out-shine or out-decibel each other in sophisticated or artistic localities.

Culture vultures and architectural aficionados will be impressed by crenulated 10th century castles and dazzling Manueline cathedrals, the juxtaposition between remote villages and pulsating cities, opulent palaces and the ornate stucco of one of the world's most beautiful bookshops. Find out about saudade, the Portuguese blues, a nostalgic and difficult-to-translate melancholy which has shaped Portugal's arts, music, film, literature and even national identity in profound ways.

Those preoccupied with the aesthetic of travel will find Portugal's art a sublime assault on the senses. The country itself is a work of art, opening up like a huge lush garden full of dashes of colour from citrus trees and early year almond blossom, a texture telling its story through rough rock, crumbling monuments and silky sands, and the taste of salty sea air. Along with 10,000-year-old rock art, Lisbon dares with full-on contemporary design and a fashion scene great fun to explore, whilst new directions in Porto mean exciting renovation projects. Home to many stylistic traits and stemming whole artistic movements, Portugal's masterpieces and cutting edge creativity mean it has been, and continues to be a thriving environment for artisans, painters and poets.

For those who seek to escape to the great outdoors, active lifestyle enthusiasts will find plenty to appreciate in Portugal. Perfect waves and winds make the country a paradise for surfers and windsurfers, and the Atlantic coastline is host to all kinds of pursuits, from dolphin watching and diving to kayaking. Moving inland, soaring granite peaks and precipitous river gorges form the backdrop for many adventures including horse riding, hiking and paragliding.

Intrepid travellers in search of beauty seldom seen will fall head over heels for Portugal's Azores, an island chain which is one of the most isolated in the Atlantic Ocean. With nine moss-covered stepping-stone islets with only around 240,000 year-round inhabitants, even seasoned globe trotters might have trouble pinpointing the Azores without a map. Finally, the world is slowly waking up to the allure of these volcanic marvels, so watching the sunrise creep up from Portugal's highest point Pico, or watching wide-eyed as a whale surfaces from the deep blue, can be enjoyed with a healthy balance of solitude and human comfort.

The real beauty of this country lies in its sheer diversity and geographical compactness. No two visits to Portugal are the same; and whilst on your first visit you might explore its vast south, and of course its bright and ever-evolving capital Lisbon, a classic choice for travellers, you might also decide to make your way north to the Alentejo – Portugal's hidden treasure with bull-trodden pastures and the scent of rosemary in the air.

Cinematic scenery, a packed festival calendar ripe for visitors, delicious local fare and a trove of cultural and historical excitements are just the edge of the jagged cliffs which line the land. Experiencing this captivating country can be many things to many people: it's time to discover your Portugal.

Chapter 1:

Portugal at a Glance (North, South, East, West)

Bordered by Spain to the east, Portugal is divided by the Tagus river, which separates the rugged north from the rolling plains of the south. The less-travelled north is an extension of the mountains of the Iberian Peninsula – which is forested and carved up by deep valleys. Between the Douro and the Tagus rivers soars the highest mountain on the mainland, the granite Serra de Estrela, attracting skiers and hikers depending on the season and reaching almost 2,000 metres, which is only dwarfed by Portugal's highest peak, the self-titled 'Pico Alto', or tall peak, located on an imaginatively named island, also called 'Pico,' in the Azores.

The north, along with boasting a cooler, often tougher landscape than its warm, Mediterranean counterpart, has a good selection of national parks, where the river deltas of the Sado and Tejo rivers along with their surrounding dunes and lagoons hold protected status. The Alentejo remains a (relatively) untouched rural idyll, its walled heart, the little village of Évora, is a place where leisurely pace remains untouched by the city rat race and friendly greetings are offered by the locals from whitewashed cottages. In rural Portugal, laundry is aired publicly in the streets – and figuratively too: animated chats in the public squares make the town centre an open-air forum for debate and gossip; which visitors will find a very 'Mediterranean' phenomenon uniting cliché and reality.

Despite its mellowed out attitude, though, Portugal is not stuck in the murky backwaters of time. The country's urban characterisation brings bags of personality and a singularly iconic culture precious to Portugal. Its cities, though, are also full of rich and complex heritage, possibly taking a lifetime of visits to understand, and only one visit to fall in love with. There aren't many sprawling metropolises for you to visit here, but capital and largest city Lisbon is the most popular destination for visitors with good reason. Here, you can sample many of the delights unique to Portugal – fado music, Portugal's famous wines (including Port), with all the modern conveniences of a city, as well as the old charm and twisty alleyways of the centuries-old Alfama district.

South of the Tagus river, the landscape is characterised by undulating plains planted with Mediterranean flora, edibles and shrubbery such as cork oaks, figs, olive trees and vineyards. Here, there are around 300 days of sunshine per year, and other Europeans can shudder with envy at south Portugal's lower temperatures of 15 degrees. The beaches are a welcome accompaniment to the weather, ranging from bathtub-sized coves all the way through to wild and epic, such as the Praia da Falesia which hugs miles of steep rock faces, around the bizarre natural wonder of Ponta da Piedade - with its exposed cliffs carved into impossible 60 foot pillars – and along to the Tavira which appears to run in a single golden sandy strand into the horizon.


Bearing in mind that this a small country with big potential, plenty of gems and an overwhelming amount to