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While it's true that Portugal is no longer the Iberian Peninsula's best-kept secret, it's fairly easy to escape the crowds. Even at the busiest resorts in the Algarve, it only takes a short bus ride or a walk across countryside to reveal rarely visited places that still offer the feeling of discovery - a sentiment close to the Portuguese soul. Portugal has an old-fashioned charm, with medieval castles and picture-perfect villages scattered over meandering coastlines and flower-covered hillsides. From the ancient university town of Coimbra to Lord Byron's favourite Portuguese haunt, Sintra, the country's proud history can be felt everywhere.

Sun-kissed beaches like Cascais and Sagres offer enticements of a more hedonistic sort. Indeed, the dramatic, end-of-the-world cliffs, wild dune-covered beaches, protected coves and long, sandy islands of Portugal's coastline have long enchanted visitors and locals alike. Meanwhile, the country's capital, Lisbon, and its northern rival, Porto, are magical places for the wanderer, with riverside views, cobblestone streets and rattling trams framed by looming cathedrals.

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