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List of Itineraries For Portugal

As Published In The Karen Brown Guide.

Total Number of Itineraries in this list: 7

Alluring Algarve

This itinerary introduces you to one of Portugal's most alluring tourist areas: its southern strip called the Algarve. The name comes from the word Al-Gharb, the Arabic word for west, so-called because it was the most westerly European stronghold of the Islamic civilization that occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages.

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Back to the Beginning

This is a short itinerary, perfect for a few days' excursion out of Porto into the beautiful and intensively cultivated Douro Valley, where the grapes for vinho verde (green wine) are grown. Because the climate does not allow time for the grapes to ripen fully, the wine produced is quite light with a slight sparkle. The Douro is a swift river, dropping over 120 meters during its 160-kilometer journey across Portugal, and carving deep, precipitous canyons into the landscape. The unwieldy geography has not daunted the people who live on the steep but fertile slopes along its banks, however, and the sight of tiny white villages clinging to the hillsides, surrounded by narrow strips of fields stepping down to the river, ranks among the most picturesque in the country.

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Exploring the Alentejo

After a drive along the Costa de Lisboa and some spectacular views of the Atlantic, this itinerary takes you into the heart of the Alentejo, with its fortified towns and romantic, walled medieval villages clinging to the top of strategic hilltops. Because this itinerary follows in reverse the natural pass that the Spaniards would have chosen in their days of conquest to march to Lisbon, you'll be seeing some of the most heavily fortified villages and castles in the country. Throughout much of the Portugal's early history, Spain was a constant threat, making defense spending a high priority for many early monarchs.

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Lisbon Highlights

Any trip to Portugal should include some time in the capital and largest city, Lisbon. The sunset glow on the estuary of the River Tagus (Tejo) has given it the name of Mar de Palha, or Sea of Straw. This is the centerpiece of Lisbon's charm and one of its most attractive features. It also provides an excellent sheltered harbor, which has been the city's most significant economic attribute and the reason for its long-term importance.

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Medieval Monuments

This itinerary routes you to a number of the most notable medieval monuments in Portugal. It begins with a tour of the ancient region known as Estremadura, which comes from the Latin for “beyond the River Douro,” now encompassing only the strip between the Tagus and the sea north of Lisbon. This was one of the earliest areas wrested from the Moors in the 12th century and boasts some of the best-preserved historic sights in Portugal. Next the itinerary turns inland, crossing the fertile country known as Ribatejo, meaning “the banks of the River Tagus,” where farming and cattle raising are the primary industries, and ends in the Upper Alentejo. Alentejo means “beyond the Tagus,” which makes sense when you realize these regions were named by the Christians as they made their way down from the north. This area was of particular importance in the 13th and 14th centuries because, once recaptured, it formed the border between the Portuguese kingdom and the Moors to the south and between Portugal and the most accessible route from Spain to the east.

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Port to Port

This itinerary takes you along the Atlantic shore of Portugal from Lisbon, the country's most important port, to Porto, the second in importance. You will often see Porto spelled Oporto, especially in the United Kingdom. That is simply a variant retaining the article "o" which means "the." This itinerary follows the coastline known as the Costa de Prata (the silver coast). This is one of the less-developed coasts and rather less spoiled by modern high-rises. Quaint fishing villages with pretty beaches are more the rule than the exception. The trip is not all sea coast, however, since we detour inland to visit three of the country's most compelling sights: the romantic forest of Buçaco, the old university city of Coimbra, and the spectacular mountain scenery of the Serra da Estrâla-Portugal's highest range.

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Romantic River Routes

This itinerary takes you through the extreme northwest corner of Portugal, the verdant area near the River Minho known as the "Verde Minho." It is indeed an apt description: Its intensely cultivated fields and heavily forested mountain slopes envelop the visitor in green. Culturally, the area shares a great deal with its Spanish neighbor to the north, Galicia. This is the most densely populated section of the country and also the coolest and the rainiest. The economy is primarily agricultural; the majority of the small family farms are still cultivated and harvested in much the same way as they have been for generations. Once off the beaten path, you slip back in time, occasionally even passing families in wooden carts drawn by a team of oxen.

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