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Some say Portugal is one giant fishing village. Covering the Western shores of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal slithers down the coastline. A people known for ingenuity, Portugal is a country blessed with shipbuilding, colonial conquest, unique architecture, great culinary treats, artistic history and a vacation heaven known for inexpensive hotels and beautiful seaside cliffs. You can thank a blend of Roman, Arabic, and European cultures for the diversity that sets the Portuguese apart from the rest of the world. There's magic to Portugal evident in its stone villages, rolling hills and idle pace.

Because Portugal is so rich in history, becoming acquainted with Portugal's diverse regions and general history can give you a good idea which area suits your traveling needs. www.portugal.org/index.shtml is the official trade and tourism website for the country. It's filled with historical information pertinent to the different epochs and regions that compose the colorful country. Alantejo, for example, a swath of land just North of the Algarve in the Southern part of the country, is known for Roman ruins, medieval castles, thermal spas and Moorish outposts. While sparse in population Alanterjo is grand in architectural sights and natural farming and seafaring landscapes. In addition to this government site, you can visit Portugal's official tourist board site at www.visitportugal.com/Cultures/en-US/default.html for a rundown of events and specific looks at towns and villages popular with the touring class.

For specific travel deals to Portugal, Go-Today (tel: 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has a fly and drive package that lets you venture off the beaten path and make up your own itinerary. Since Portugal is full of small roads and villages, the advantage of independence from a structured tour allows you to visit regions normally unvisited by tourists. Starting at $439 for a two-person car, this seven-day trip includes airfare out of New York (add-ons from other U.S. cities are available) to Lisbon, a Hertz rental car for the length of the trip with unlimited mileage and local taxes. You need to book this trip by August 30, 2005 for travel good from January 5 to March 30, 2006.

Hotel's are on you with this fly and drive tour, but with Portugal's very inexpensive and extremely comfortable and charming Pousada system of inns, bed and breakfasts, and small hotels, finding a gorgeous place to stay is easy as spending $30. Types of accommodations include old monasteries. Check out the complete listing of Pousadas at www.marketingahead.com/pousadas.html. With 48 inns spread across the small country, it's easy to find a place to stay that will suit your needs. Ocean views, castles, or quaint rooms are par for the course at these inexpensive hotel options. You can book your rooms through the Marketing Ahead website.

Through Affordable Tours (tel: 800/935-2620; www.affordabletours.com) you can find a selection of tours. For $1,429, a "Sunny Portugal" tour which covers the beaches and cliffs of the Algarve, Lisbon and Estoril is available from Colette tours. The ten-day trip includes airfare, hotels and a host of meals and sightseeing excursions. Leaving out of New York, this trip departs in late October and throughout November. Book fast to ensure availability. Fifteen meals including eight breakfasts and seven dinners are included in the price of the package. Air taxes and security fees are not included. Affordable has a full listing of Portugal packages.

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