Portugal is an ancient nation, and was once the crossroads of ancient Romans, Greeks and Carthaginians. It blossomed into a nation in the 12th century, casting off the Middle Ages, and took to the sea to explore and build trade.
For a relatively small nation, Portugal has more than its fair share of places listed as World Heritage. Today there are 18 sites in Portugal, including historic centers, archaeological sites, cultural landscapes, natural parks and intangible heritage.
These sites are spread across the Portuguese islands, from the stone walled vineyards of Pico, to the ancient laurisilva cloud forests of Madeira, to the bustling historic city of Angra, on the Island of Terceira.
But, music has also won world recognition: Fado – the song of the Portuguese soul, is Intangible World Heritage, along with the coral songs of the Cante Alentejano.
Portugal began in the city of Guimarães, and the well-preserved city center has sites from Middle Ages to the 19th century.
Just to the south, Porto with its cascading houses tumbling down to Ribeira, by the River Douro, and the waterfront area of Vila Nova de Gaia speak of the history of this city linked to the sea. To the East, we find the breathtaking vineyards of the Douro River Valley, the oldest demarcated region in the world.
So many sites can bring you back in time, such as the Templar’s Convent of Christ in Tomar, or the historic walled cities of Évora and Elvas. And, also on the World Heritage list are the great abbeys of Batalha and Alcobaça, and the University of Coimbra, perched above the River Mondego.
These sites and others are destinations worth a journey – and that speak to ability of humans to dream, create, explore and be at one with nature.