56km (35 miles) N of Coimbra; 68km (42 miles) S of Porto

Myriad canals spanned by low-arched bridges crisscross Aveiro. At the mouth of the Vouga River, it's cut off from the sea by a long sandbar that protects clusters of islets. The architecture is almost Flemish, a good foil for a setting of low willow-reed flatlands, salt marshes, spray-misted dunes, and rice paddies.

On the lagoon, brightly painted swan-necked boats traverse the waters. Called barcos moliceiros, the flat-bottomed vessels carry fishers who harvest seaweed used for fertilizer. They're ever on the lookout for eels, a regional specialty, which they catch in the shoals studded with lotus and water lilies. Outside the town are extensive salt pits, lined with fog-white pyramids of drying salt.