18km (11 miles) E of Lagos; 61km (38 miles) W of Faro; 290km (180 miles) SE of Lisbon

Portimão is perfect if you want to stay in a bustling fishing port rather than a hotel perched right on the beach. Since the 1930s, Praia da Rocha, 3km (1 3/4 miles) away, has snared sun-loving traffic. Today it's challenged by Praia dos Três Irmãos, but tourists still flock to Portimão in the summer.

The aroma of the noble Portuguese sardine permeates every street. Portimão is the leading fish-canning center in the Algarve. For a change of pace, this town, on an arm of the Arcade River, makes a good stopover for its fine dining. Stroll through its gardens and its shops (especially noted for their pottery), drink wine in the cafes, and roam down to the quays to see sardines roasting on braziers. The routine activity of the Algarvians is what gives the town its charm.