Folks, it's true, the best kept secret on travel to Europe (including maybe Rick's short time and focus on the subject) would have to be a visit to Portugal. Went there for just two weeks in July. From Lisbon to Porto. Best rip - right up there with Italy! It has pretty much everything that the higher profile Med countries have plus alot more. Places and experiences that no where else can touch, Proof? Spend a day in Sintra...or walking the neighborhoods of Lisbon...or wandering the town of Obidos wit side trips to the Berlenga Island and the world heritage monasteries....or Porto for Fado, some port tasting across the river and cruise up to wine country. You simply can't do this anywhere else.Perhaps what moat of EU travel was like 30+ years ago? Unspoilt. I have been told that Portuguese people can be somewhat humble. Lucky for the tourist - you will never be more welcome and at home than in this gem of Europe. I follow Rick and never gone wrong. Portugal may not sell as many books but truly an amazing, clean, friendly country. I see Rick rated Lisbon high in best places in EU - get going before the hoards come. Anyone agree?
I certainly enjoyed my trip to Portugal in 2002, and do think of returning. I didn't find it to be as rich an experience as, say, Italy, but I do agree it was a great value for money. It did feel a bit like a "back door"; it's certainly not undiscovered, but there were far fewer tourists than some other places, and fewer than it deserves. And if you like large portions of food and think that other European countries don't give enough food at restaurants, you'll be in heaven. The food was very tasty, but what was most memorable was the sheer size of what I got, particularly in relation to what I was paying. Even the "meia dose" (half portion) was still more than I could eat (more correctly, what I should have eaten, as I did manage to scarf it all down). Not to mention that rice AND potatoes are served with almost everything. My favorite place (a true back door) was Santarem (not covered by Rick). It's a gem, and only an hour from Lisbon by frequent trains. I stayed two nights (and saw Tomar as a daytrip from there), but it could certainly be a worthwhile daytrip from Lisbon.
I too enjoyed Portugal and their hospitality. Perhaps not as much as Italy, or some other favorites of mine, but it is well worth a visit. I'd agree that it seems less travelled than most of the big named cities and regions so you can get a lot of value for your money and there are a lot of cultural experiences to explore. I did think the cities were very run down. The governments are working on how to revitalize the buildings, but the cause is very entrenched and difficult to overcome (long story). I'm guessing there may never be hoards of tourists the way there are in Italy, Paris or Prague. It's just a bit too isolated and off the main paths of travel to easily get to. But with cheap intra-European flights, more people could take advantage.