Spain’s coastal neighbour to the west, Portugal is best recognized by its colourful tile mosaics, often showcased in glossy travel mags. These actually reflect the country’s Islamic, African and Mediterranean trade influences, and this cultural fusion can also be tasted in traditional Portuguese food, which is known for mixing fresh seafood with trade route spices and flavourings like piri piri (small, fiery chili peppers) and olive oil. In its capital, Lisbon, enjoy a sunset hike up the steep hillsides that overlook the Rio Tejo, or take a scenic train up north to Porto, home of Port wine and one of the oldest cities in all of Europe.
The Portuguese have adventure in their blood, and today the epic voyages of Magellan and Vasco de Gama have given way to weekend pilgrimages to the Azores, a group of nine volcanic islands, or mistérios, located far out in the Atlantic. Here among the craters, caves, hot springs and rock formations is an aquatic nature refuge that houses some of the best whale and dolphin watching in the world; in fact, this island archipelago is a rest stop for about a third of the world’s species of marine mammals. Since Portugal is one of the warmest European countries, with an average temperature of 15°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south, you can enjoy summer diving, hiking and adventuring year-round.