Features of this guide to Portugal include: reviews of hotels and restaurants right across the country; accounts of all the sights and monuments; practical tips on exploring the national parks and finding the best beaches; and entertaining background to the country.
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Mark Ellingham set up Rough Guides in 1981, and wrote the first edition of the Rough Guide to Portugal the following year. John Fisher has also been involved with Rough Guides from the start and is the author of several other titles, including Mexico, Spain and Greece. Graham Kenyon also co-authored Rough Guides to Spain and Greece before changing professions to become an IT specialist in the City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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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