I was born in one of Portuguese colonies in Asia in 16th Century. Now I am a British citizen and had been living in the UK for nearly 25 years. I wanted to go and see Portugal, to understand part of my heritage and identity etc. This tour showed me what I was looking for.
In the very first small cafe/ restaurant at Rede Expresso bus station, I had what we call cutlets which is a mixture of cod fish and mash potatoes deep fried in oil. I never knew that it originated in Portugal. I must add that food in Portugal is absolutely delicious. It is cheap as well. I ate so much. I joked with my friends that this is one tour in which you will actually gain weight.
Then along the way, I discovered where our architecture originates from. It was sort of discovery of my routes. I wish I could talk with people. Sadly I don't speak a single word of Portuguese.
I agree with most of the pointers of why the Iberian Area has also become one of preferred areas to visit. (Except the bustling towns one). We have not cycled through Portugal before but know Spain pretty well. One of the big reasons why we keep on returning is the safety reasons. If you live in a country where the level of crime and violence against especially women is so rife - it is wonderful to feel human again without looking over your shoulder all the time. Another reason linked to this, is the ability to feed your spiritual side again as well.
My wife and I actually moved here permanently in 2008 and have lived in the rural and rustic centre of the country and now in the Algarve. The two regions are very different in some respects, but away from the madding crowds of the resorts, they are pure Portugal, and I love to have that choice.
No matter where we go, the people are very welcoming as has already been mentioned. In this age of rushing around with no time for anyone or anything except a job and iphone/pad, it is a very welcome change.
From a cycling point of view, the hills of the centre are breathtaking and will lead you to some wonderful, quaint villages. The winters are cooler than the south, where cycling can be pursued all year round. Both areas have their pros, and very few cons.
affordability! and the overlooked factor, Portugal for me, is the gateway to Europe.
We cycle toured Portugal September 2012. We went for the mountains and the castles. We were so excited to ride through deep valleys with vineyards dotting the hillsides and castles at the peak of the cliffs. What we hadn't anticipated were all the friendly, wonderfully accommodating people, the rich and varied history of the country and the quiet, serene roads for bike touring. Highly recommended!