Three worlds rolled into one, the Beiras offer as much diversity as any region in Portugal. Along the Atlantic, the Beira Litoral lures surfers and sunseekers with scores of sandy beaches. Here, the sophisticated university city of Coimbra and the brash casino-party town of Figueira da Foz arm-wrestle for visitors’ attention.
Opening up like a pop-up book from the banks of the Rio Douro, edgy-yet-opulent Porto entices with its historic centre, sumptuous food and wine, and charismatic locals. Street Art & Cutting-Edge Architecture Beyond Porto’s alley-woven historic heart, contemporary architects have left their idiosyncratic stamp on the city’s skyline.
Go to be bewitched. Portugal’s largest region, covering a third of the country, truly captivates. Think dry, golden plains, rolling hillsides and lime-green vines. A rugged coastline, traditional whitewashed villages, marble towns and majestic medieval cities. Plus a proud if melancholic people, who valiantly cling to their local crafts.
The Minho delivers world-class natural beauty with a knowing smile. Here are lush river valleys, sparkling beaches and granite peaks patrolled by locals – who, whether they are charging 2m waves along the Costa Verde or shepherding their flock into high mountain meadows, seem particularly in tune with their homeland.
Estremadura & Ribatejo
Stretching from the Rio Tejo to the Atlantic Ocean, Estremadura and Ribatejo constitute Portugal’s heartland, but their central importance goes beyond geography. These fertile lands have formed the backdrop for every major chapter in Portuguese history, from the building of key fortified settlements in the 12th century to the release of Salazar’s political prisoners in 1974.
The northern half of the Alentejo is a medieval gem, with a scattering of walled fortress towns (such as Elvas and Estremoz) and remote cliff-top castles (such as Marvão and Castelo de Vide). Only a handful of visitors to Alto Alentejo travel beyond Évora, so once outside the city you’ll see traditional life at its most authentic.
This small subregion has the lot, providing huge draws for travellers. Vineyards soon give way to the coast and salt pans, the country's historic university town of Coimbra, lush forests and one of the Iberian Peninsula's most important Roman ruins. Head further west and you'll hit some wonderful beaches and historic fishing towns.
Running up the Atlantic coast from the mouth of the Rio Tejo almost to the Rio Mondego, Estremadura has long been a land of plenty, its rolling hills and valleys offering up some of Portugal’s richest farmland. For proof, visit the elaborate kitchens that fattened up the monks at Alcobaça’s extraordinary monastery.
The Algarve’s capital has a more distinctly Portuguese feel than most resort towns. Many visitors only pass through this underrated city, which is a pity, as it makes for an enjoyable stopover. It has an attractive marina, well-maintained parks and plazas, and a historic old town full of pedestrian lanes and outdoor cafes.
One of the world’s oldest demarcated wine regions (since 1756), the Douro Valley showcases steep terrace vineyards carved into mountains, granite bluffs, and whitewashed quintas (estates) and 18th-century wine cellars that draw in visitors from around the world. Come for the ports and wines, winding scenic roads, postcard-pretty villages and excellent regional restaurants.