Sintra: Since the Moorish occupation, Portuguese kings and nobles have recognized this town's irresistible charm. You'll find a denser concentration of beautiful villas and gardens here than anywhere else in Portugal. At least five major palaces and convents are tucked amid the lush vegetation.
Óbidos: This town is the most perfectly preserved 13th-century village in central Portugal. Its historical authenticity is the primary concern of the population of more than 5,000. For 600 years, Óbidos was the personal property of Portuguese queens, a symbolic love offering from their adoring husbands. Óbidos has always breathed romance.
Nazaré: This folkloric fishing village in central Portugal produces wonderful handicrafts. The town has a strong sense of traditional culture that's distinctly different from that of nearby communities.
Fátima: In 1913, an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children from Fátima, who were called upon to spread a message of peace. Their story was at first discounted and then embraced by a church hierarchy under assault by the ravages of World War I. Later, 70,000 people who were assembled on the site claimed to witness miracles. Today Fátima is the most-visited pilgrimage site in Iberia, home to dozens of imposing churches and monuments.
Évora: This is one of the country's most perfectly preserved architectural gems. A well-preserved ancient Roman temple rises across the street from convents and monasteries that flourished when the kings of Portugal used this town as their capital in the 12th century. These buildings combine with remnants of the Moorish occupation to form one of the most alluring, if not largest, architectural medleys in Europe.
Tomar: Beginning in the 12th century, the Knights Templar and later the Knights of Christ (two warlike and semimonastic sects) designated Tomar as their Portuguese headquarters. They lavished the town with adornments over the centuries until it looked, as it does today, like a living monument to the architecture of medieval Portugal.
Coimbra: The country's academic center, this town boasts a university with roots in the Middle Ages, a rich historic core, and a tradition of troubadour-style singing that's one of the most vital in Iberia.
Porto: The second city of Portugal, Porto has rich associations with the port-wine trade. Entrepreneurs who returned home after making their fortunes in Brazil built some of the town's most imposing villas here in the late 19th century. But as Portugal's economic center, Porto has also moved into the 21st century, with new office buildings, modern apartment complexes, fashionable shops and restaurants in its commercial heart, and such stunning developments as the Fundação Serralves, a National Museum of Modern Art, set in a 44-acre park in the western part of the city.
Guimarães: The birthplace of the country's first king, Afonso Henríques, and the core from which the country expanded, Guimarães is the cradle of Portugal. Its medieval section is one of the most authentic anywhere. The town was also the birthplace of Gil Vicente (1465-1537), a playwright referred to as the Shakespeare of Portugal.
Viana do Castelo: This northern town with strong folkloric traditions is noted for pottery, women's regional dresses, abundant rainfall, and a collection of distinctive and dignified public buildings. Its heyday was in the 1500s, when fleets departed from here to fish for cod as far away as Newfoundland. Profits from their activities helped pay for the town's handsome collection of Manueline buildings.
Guincho: On the Estoril Coast, 9km (5 1/2 miles) northwest of Cascais, this is the westernmost point in continental Europe. It's a dramatic, spectacular site where waves crash against three sides of a restored 17th-century fortress (now the Hotel do Guincho, one of the most unusual, luxurious hotels in Europe). Balconies -- best shared with a loved one -- overlook the panoramic scene, with beaches on both sides. The crashing surf makes good background music for a torrid affair straight out of a romance novel.
Serra de Arrábida: This whale-shaped ridge never exceeds 1,525m (5,000 ft.) in height. The masses of wildflowers that flank its sides are among the most colorful and varied in Iberia. The Serra lies between Sesimbra and Setúbal, across the estuary of the Tagus from Lisbon. En route from Lisbon, you'll find crowded and secluded beaches, a medieval Capuchin monastery (the Convento Novo), and a smattering of good restaurants. The town of Sesimbra, with its historic, sleepy main square and ruined fortresses, offers bars, restaurants, and insight into the Iberia of a bygone era.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.