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Beaches

With around 600 miles of coast, much of which is sandy beach, Portugal is a beach-goer's paradise. Portugal's excellent climate made Portugal beaches the most popular holiday destinations in Europe.

Costa de Prata

Further south between Porto and Lisbon there's a change of colour and we're on the "silver coast" with its white sandy beaches which are equally popular with watersports enthusiasts and sunbathers. The beach at Adraga, near Sintra, set between two hills and accessed via a steep, winding road, is popular with surfers. So is the fishing port of Peniche, a little further north. For calmer waters head for the stretch of unspoilt sand further east at Baleal.

Costa do Sol

Sometimes called the Estoril Coast, this stretch of seafront extends 32km (20 miles) west of Lisbon. Its two major resorts are Estoril and Cascais. Once the playground of the wintering wealthy, the area now attracts throngs of tourists, mainly from northern Europe. The region is considered as the Portuguese Riviera, and is also occasionally the coast of two Springs as the weather in Autumn is usually similar to that which occurs in Spring. This particularity allows for nature to bloom once more before entering a mild winter. The very unique climate combined with a large offer in terms of recreation, sports, accommodation and meeting resources attract many international events all year round.

Costa de Caparica

The Costa da Caparica to the south of Lisbon has nearly 30km of calm water and sandy beaches. It is popular with city-dwellers and the beaches can get crowded during the summer and at weekends. Nevertheless, the calm sea and large sweeps of sand lend an air of Rio de Janeiro and there are plenty of bars and restaurants in which to sip a cool drink during the midday sun. Caparica itself is a fishing village with brightly coloured sardine boats moored offshore and there is an open-carriage railway running along the coast linking the beaches. The coast can also be reached via the Ponte 25 de Abril, the suspension bridge from Lisbon.

Alentejo Coastline

Alentejo's coastline, just above the Algarve, is relatively short. However, its beaches are incredibly popular, not least because two tranquil lagoons offer calm, warm waters for swimmers. The beach at Santo Andre is set on the largest lagoon, separated from the Atlantic by a strip of sand.

Algarve

This region at the southern tip of Portugal gained its place on world tourist maps because of its string of beautiful, clean, sandy beaches. Lovely coves, caves, and grottos -- some accessible only by boat -- add to the region's allure. Albufeira and Praia da Rocha are set against a backdrop of towering rock formations; the best cove beach is at Lagos, a former Moorish town with a deepwater harbor and wide bay.

Madeira

The Portuguese island of Madeira has sharp, angular cliffs, so head for its tiny neighbour, Porto Santo, 75km to the north-east, which has a golden sandy beach along its southern coast. Life is simpler here, with just a handful of hotels and some good local restaurants.

Azores

The Azores archipelago in the Atlantic has nine islands. The only beach option is Santa Maria, the most southerly island, which has two sandy shores, Praia Formosa and Sao Lourenco. Summer temperatures average a pleasant 23C.