Golden beaches and coloured azulejos
Once a powerful seafaring kingdom that dominated the merchant routes to Africa, South America and the Orient, Portugal today is a friendly, low-key place with a laidback vibe and a fantastic coastline, much of it fringed by golden sands and endless dunes.
Many of these beaches extend as far as the eye can see, and are rarely busy even in high summer, but as they face the full power of the Atlantic, they can be dangerous for swimming.
Its rolling interior is perfect for exploring on foot, by kayak, by bike or even on horseback – though a large part of the country’s charm comes from languorous days on the beach, dining on fabulously fresh seafood and kicking back with a beer to watch the sunset over the Atlantic.
During a holiday to Portugal legacy of its former wealth and power can be seen in its historic cities; Lisbon, superbly sited on the Tejo river estuary, is popular today for its grand Manueline monuments and medieval alleyways.
A cruise to Portugal is also a good chance to visit Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean.