In the southern coast of the country, the Algarve is the mainstay of Portuguese tourism with golden sandy beaches, bright red rocky coasts and a profusion of castles built by the Christian kings during the Moorish Wars. Faro is the capital of Algarve and today, its huge old city wall indicates its past importance. Close to the Baroque cathedral, the attractive centre of the old town has been well preserved and indicates the town’s historic and dazzling past.
Lisbon is the heart of Portugal and is located on the massive Tejo Bay. The 1st Marques of Pombal rebuilt the city after it experienced the most devastating earthquake ever to hit a European town when only the plain, pointed arches of the Carmo Convent’s distinctive roof withstood the catastrophic earthquake. Baixa is the name of the lower city from which a lift ascends to the heights of Bairro Alto from where there are amazing views across the rooftops of the old town of Alfama. ‘Electricos’ are Lisbon’s quaint and unique trams which squeak and roar through the old town, travelling along the narrow streets and up and down the hills.
The Torre de Belém once guarded the approaches to Lisbon’s harbor. Shimmering white, like a fantastic mirage, the city’s most famous landmark is located on the shores of the Tejo. It was from here that ships crews were bid farewell as they set out on their long voyages of discovery.
The town of Sintra is situated on a forest slope on the Serra de Sintra. Its mild climate and proximity to the capital city led the kings of Portugal to build their summer palaces here. There is also an abundance of grand residences and palaces, with each surrounded by beautiful gardens and tropical plants. Located atop a tall rock is the Palácio Nacional da Pena, a pseudo-fantasy castle which dates back from the Middle Ages.
The long bridge, ‘Dom Luis I Bridge’, over the River Douro was built by Gustave Eiffel and is in the form of a huge arch, constructed solely of iron and from which, on two levels, it connects the town of Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia.
Portugal is a country of churches and cathedrals, massive fortresses, magnificent castles and prosperous towns. The sunshine and glorious coastline are mere bonuses!