The lovely Atlantic city of Porto grew rich thanks to its proximity to the vineyards lining the fertile Douro Valley and has more than enough splendid architecture to keep visitors happy for days. However, it is also near some of the most sacred destinations on the Iberian Peninsula; there are several pilgrimage places near Porto to be seen on day tours.
February is carnival time on the Algarve, this year running over the weekend of February 14 to 17. For visitors to the Algarve during late winter, there are three days of heady celebration in almost every town and village; the festival diary then stays busy right up until Easter.
Located on the northern Atlantic coast of Portugal, within easy reach of Porto and tucked into the untamed Douro Valley, Lamego is a town of medieval churches, winding streets and gracious shady avenues, steeped in history and with a quietly laidback atmosphere. Spending the day in Lamego also reveals one of Portugal’s most sacred pilgrim churches.
The volcanic, craggy but fertile island of Madeira sits off the coast of Portugal in the wild Atlantic Ocean; its crenellated coastline crafted from millennia of waves pounding against its southern cliffs. Visiting Cabo Girao is a half-hour scenic road trip from the pretty capital town of Funchal.
Newly elected one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal, the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa lies east of Olhão in the Algarve, a 60-km (37-mile) straggle of sand dunes, salt pans – some dating back to Roman times – and marshland rich in birdlife and rare fauna. A day in the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa can make a tranquil break from the busy beaches and golf courses of the Algarve.