Jagged cliffs and whitewashed fishing villages line the Costa de Prata of Estrema-dura, with beaches that rival even those in the Algarve. In the fertile region of the Ribatejo (Banks of the Rio Tejo), lush greenery surrounds historic sights.


Capital of the surrounding district and an important transport hub, prosperous and industrial Leiria (pop. 43,000) fans out from a fertile valley, 22km from the coast. Chosen to host the Euro 2004 soccer finals, Leiria is preparing itself for the crowds that will flood the city. The city’s most notable sight is its Castelo de Leiria, a granite fort built by Dom Afonso Henriques atop the crest of a volcanic hill after he snatched the town from the Moors. The terrace opens onto a panoramic view of the town and river. (Castle open Apr.-Sept. M-F 9am-6:30pm, Sa-Su 10am-6:30pm; Oct.-Mar. M-F 9am-5:30pm, Sa-Su 10am-5:30pm. ‚1.) Nearby beaches include Vieira, Pedrogao, and Sao Pedro de Muel, all accessible by bus.

Leiria makes a practical base for exploring the nearby region. Trains ( 88 20 27) run from the station 3km outside town to Coimbra (2hr. 6 per day, ‚3.60) and Lisbon (l%hr. 9 per day, ‚7.60-8.50). Buses ( 81 15 07), just off Pr. Paulo VI, next to the main park and close to the tourist office, run to: Batalha (20min. 9 per day, ‚1.20-2); Coimbra (lhr. 11 per day, ‚6.50); Lisbon (2hr. 11 per day, ‚7.80); Porto (3Mhr. 10 per day, ‚10.20); and Tomar (l’2hr. 6 per day, ‚3.10-6.70). Buses also run between the train station and the tourist office (15min. every hr. 7am-7:20pm, ‚0.80), in the Jardim Luis de Camoes. ( 244 84 87 70. Open May-Sept. daily 10am-lpm and 3-7pm; Oct.-Apr. 10am-lpm and 2-6pm.) If you’re going to spend the night, try Pousada da Juventude de Leiria (HI) O, on Largo Candido dos Reis 9. ( fax 83 18 68. Dorms ‚8.50-11; doubles ‚21-27.) Postal Code: 2400.


For centuries, the Knights Templar plotted crusades from a celebrated con-vent-fortress high above the small town of Tomar (pop. 22,000). The GSConvento de Cristo complex, built by the Moors and fortified by the Knights Templar in 1160, was the Knights’ powerful and mysterious headquarters. The Claustro dos Felipes is a Renaissance masterpiece. (31 34 81. Complex open June-Sept. daily 9am-6pm; Oct.-May 9am-5pm. ‚3. Under-14 free.) Trains (72 07 55) run from Av. Combatentes da Grande Guerra, at the southern edge of town, to: Coimbra (214hr. 8 per day, ‚5.60-6.40); Lisbon (2hr. 18 per day, ‚5.60-6.40) and Porto (412hr. 7 per day, ‚8.50-9.50). Rodoviaria Tejo buses ( 968 94 35 50) leave from Av. Combatentes da Grande Guerra, by the train station, for: Coimbra (212hr. 7am, ‚9.20); Leiria (lhr.; M-F 7:15am and 5:45pm, Sa 7am; ‚3.10); Lisbon (2hr. 4 per day, ‚6.50); and Porto (4hr. 7am, ‚12). From the bus or train station, head down Av. General Bernardo Faria toward the city three blocks; turn left and follow Av. Candido Madureira to the tourist office. ( 32 24 27. Open July-Sept. daily 10am-8pm; Oct.-June 10am-6pm.) Postal Code: 2300.


The centerpiece of Batalha is the gigantic KMosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitoria. Built by Dom Joao I in 1385, the complex of cloisters and chapels remains one of Portugal’s greatest monuments. To get to the monastery, enter through the church. (Open Apr.-Sept. daily 9am-6pm; Oct.-Mar. 9am-5pm. ‚3, under-25 ‚1.50. Under-

14 and Su before 2pm free.) Buses run from across from the monastery to: Leiria (20min. 10 per day, ‚1.20-1.50); Lisbon (2hr. 6 per day, ‚6.60); and Tomar (1 Vahr.; 8am, noon, and 6pm; ‚3). The tourist office, on Pr. Mouzinho de Albuquerque, stands opposite the monastery. ( 76 51 80. Open May-Sept. daily lOam-lpm and 3-7pm; Oct.-Apr. lOam-lpm and 2-6pm.) Postal Code: 2440.


In Nazare (pop. 10,000), it’s hard to tell where authenticity stops and tourism begins. Fishermen in traditional garb go barefoot while the day’s catch dries in the hot sun. But if Nazare is part theater, at least it puts on a good show and everyone gets front row seats on its glorious beach. For an evening excursion, take the funicular (3min. every 15min. 7:15am-9:30pm, ‚0.70), which runs from R. Elevador off Av. da Republica to the Si’tio, a clifftop area replete with uneven cobbled streets, weathered buildings, and wonderful views of the town and ocean. Around 6pm, fishing boats return to the port beyond the far left end of the beach; head over to watch fishermen at work and eavesdrop as local restaurateurs bid for the most promising catches at the fish auction (M-F 6-9:30pm). Cafes in Pr. Souza Oliveira teem with people after midnight. Nazare is on the revolving schedule that brings bullfights to a different city in the province each summer weekend. (Usually Sa 10pm; tickets from ‚27.)

Nazare is only accessible by bus ( 800 20 03 70). Buses run to: Coimbra (2hr. 5 per day 6:25am-7:25pm, ‚8.80); Lisbon (2hr. 8 per day 6:50am-8pm, ‚7.30); Porto (3lAhr. 7 per day 6:25am-7:25pm, ‚9); and Tomar (lV&hr. 3 per day 7am-5:10pm, ‚5). The tourist office is beachside on Av. da Republica. ( 56 11 94. Open July-Aug. daily lOam-lOpm; Sept. 10am-8pm; Oct.-Mar. 9:30am-lpm and 2:30-6pm; Apr.-June 10am-lpm and 3-7pm.) Try Pr. Dr. Manuel de Arriaga and Pr. Sousa Oliveira for the best deals on accommodations. Vila Turistica Conde Fidalgo , Av. da Independen-cia Nacional 21-A, is three blocks uphill from Pr. Sousa Oliveira, (sfax 55 23 61. July singles ‚30; doubles ‚35; Aug. ‚4045. Sept.-June singles ‚15-20; doubles ‚25-30.) For camping, head to Vale Parafso O, on Estrada Nacional 242, 2.5km out of town; they also rent bungalows and apartments. Take the bus (lOmin. 12 per day 7am-7pm) to Alcobaga or Leiria. (56 18 00. June-Sept. ‚4 per person, ‚3-5 per tent, ‚3 per car. Oct.-May ‚32.50-3.702.50.) Supermarkets line Rua Sub-Vila, parallel to Av. da Republica. Postal Code: 2450.


Named a UNESCO World Heritage site, Evora (pop. 44,000) is justly known as the Museum City. Moorish arches line the streets of this picture-perfect town, which boasts a Roman temple, an imposing cathedral, and a 16th-century university.

TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Trains ( 266 70 2125) run from Av. dos Combatentes de Grande Guerra to Lisbon (2V hr. 5 per day, ‚8.10) and Porto (6%hr. 3 per day, ‚14). Buses (266 76 94 10) go from Av. Sebastiao to Lisbon (3hr. every l-l’dir. ‚8.80) and Faro (412hr. 4 per day, ‚12). The tourist office is at Pr. Giraldo 65. ( 266 70 26 71. Open Apr.-Sept. M-F 9am-7pm, Sa-Su 9am-5:30pm; Oct.-Mar. daily 9am-6pm.) Free Internet access is available at instituto Portugues da Juventude, R. da Republica 105. (Open M-F 9am-11pm.) Postal Code: 7000.

ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. Pensoes cluster around Praija do Giraldo. Take a right out of the tourist office, and then the first right onto R. Bernardo Mato to get to the warm Casa Palma , R. Bernardo Mato 29A, which has quality rooms at competitive prices. (266 70 35 60. Singles ‚15, with bath ‚25; doubles ‚2530.) Or, cross Pr. Giraldo and take a right on R. da Republica, then turn left on R. Miguel Bombarda to reach Pousada da Juventude (HI) , R. Miguel Bombarda 40, which has a terrace with a view of the city. ( 266 74 48 48; fax 266 74 48 43. June 16-Sept. 15 dorms ‚13; doubles with bath ‚35. Sept. 16-June 15 ‚1028.) Many budget restaurants are near Pr. Giraldo, particularly along Rua Mer-cadores. The cozy Restaurante Burgo Velho R. de Burgos 10, serves large portions of local dishes. (Entrees ‚5-9. Open M-Sa noon-3pm and 7-10pm.) From Pr. Giraldo, walk up R. 5 de Outubro and take a right onto R. Diogo Cao to reach the only real Italian restaurant in Evora, Pane & Vino , Pateo do Salema. (Entrees ‚5-

SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT. Attached to the pleasant Igreja Real de Sao Francisco, the bizarre KCapela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) was built by three Franciscan monks using the bones of 5000 people. From Pr. Giraldo, follow R. Republica; the church is on the right and the chapel is around back to the right of the main entrance. (Open M-Sa 9am-lpm and 2:30-6pm, Su lOam-lpm. ‚1.) According to legend, the second-century Templo Romano, on Largo Conde do Vila Flor, was built for the goddess Diana. Facing the temple is the Igreja de Sao Joao Evangelista; its interior is covered with dazzling tiles. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 10am-12:30pm and 2-6pm. ‚2.50.) From Pr. Giraldo, head up R. 5 de Outubro to the colossal 12th-century cathedral; the 12 apostles on the doorway are masterpieces of medieval Portuguese sculpture. Climb the stairs of the cloister for an excellent view of the city. The Museu de Arte Sacra, above the nave, has religious artifacts. (Cathedral open daily 9am-12:30pm and 2-5pm. Cloisters open daily 9am-noon and 2-4:30pm. Museum open Su and Tu-Sa 9am-noon and 2-4:30pm. Cathedral free. Cloisters and museum ‚2.50.) A country fair accompanies the Feira de Sao Joao festival the last week of June. After sunset, head to HJonas, R. Serpa Pinto 115, to discover a cavernous underground lounge with a mellow bar. (Open M-Sa 10:30am-3am.)


Nearly 3000 hours of sunshine per year have transformed the Algarve, a desert on the sea, into a popular vacation spot. In July and August, sun-seeking tourists mob the resorts, packing the bars and discos from sunset until way past dawn. In the off season, the resorts become pleasantly de-populated.


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