Estremadura is a land of contrasts. The Atlantic crashes upon the southern coast, but farther up, it can hardly muster a ripple in the snug cover of São Martinho do Porto. East of the flat seascapes of the west are two mountain ranges. But the presence of the nearby sea is evident throughout Estremadura. Even in the many examples of Manueline architecture, especially at Batalha, the tie with the sea remains unbroken. Its nautical designs -- ropes, cables, armillary spheres, and seascape effects -- reflect Portugal's essential connection to the sea.

Estremadura contains lovely towns as old as Portuguese nationhood whose beauty has not been diminished by time. Despite the name (which means "extremities"), the region is neither extremely harsh nor especially remote. Rather, it is in many ways the spiritual heart of Portugal. Its isolation derives more from the slow, erratic, and sometimes undependable public transportation, which makes the region best suited to a driving tour.