The Ribatejo, the areas bordering the river Tejo, has been a producer of wine for 2000 years but it is only in recent years that it has come to the attention of a wider audience across Europe.
Estramadura is a region full of amazing historical sights at Tomar, Batalha and Alcobaca, World Heritage Sites, as well as a wealth of Gothic and Renaissance architecture in the towns of the region. Fatima is a centre of religious pilgrimage and the Sanctuary of Fatima is the largest religious complex in Portugal. In the centre of Estramadura is the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park, a fantastic range of limestone ridges riddled with caves, some of which are open as showcaves.
Fatima is world renowned for its shrine and the miracle of Fatima that happened in 1914. Today it is a centre of pilgrimage in May and October and it is the religious complex that dominates the town.
The town of Fatima is well placed to explore the gorgeous limestone countryside at the Serras da Aire e Candeeiros nearby as well as the fantastic UNESCO World Heritage sites at Tomar, Batalha and Alcobaca.
West of Fatima is Batalha and south west of that is Alcobaca. These small towns contain two of the three architecturally stunning religious monuments that together with Tomar make up just one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in this part of the country. If you like Gothic architecture and religious monuments you're in for a huge treat. Even if you're not you'll be amazed by these wonderful buildings especially when you consider they were built more than 900 years ago.
This region is also known for its rich cuisine and wines, ceramics, pottery and its cut-glass crystal.
Today Leiria is a relatively quiet town that combines some history with modern amenities. The landmark of the town is the hill-top castle above the River Lis that runs through the town.
Leiria is a good base for exploring the Alcobaca, Batalha, Tomar, Fatima and the coastal resorts of the Costa de Prata at Sao Pedro de Muel and along to Nazare.
The Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park is nearby for more outdoor pursuits and there are several touring routes around the area highlighting local produce for which the region is famed such as the Glass Route that explains the history to the production of intricate glassware using traditional methods.
There are plenty of hotels, cafes, bas and restaurants dotted around the various squares within the town to keep you occupied.
Tomar is the third in the religious marvels that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Batalha and Alcobaca. The Convento de Cristo is the masterpiece in question that was headquarters to the charismatic Knights Templar.
The town itself straddles the Rio Nabao and is worth a visit for its fine churches, Seven Hills National Forest, Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes next door and charming countryside alongside Castelo de Bode reservoir.
Santarem is the capital of the Ribatejo region of Portugal. It has had an important role in Portugal's early history but is today more famous for its festivals and bullfighting.
Santarem sits up high on a plateau looking over the Ribatejo agricultural plains and Rio Tejo river valley commanding some fabulous views over the region.
Attractions include several churches, monasteries and convents, a museum and the viewpoint of Portas do Sol. Today this whitewashed, terracotta tiled city houses a large student population which means there's a choice of good value cafes and restaurants, many around the Rua Cepelo e Ivens and Rua Dr Jaime Figueiredo behind the market. Santarem is a good base from which to explore the Ribatejo wine region.
Cartaxo is a modern town and a good stepping off point for exploring the Ribatejo wine region.
It houses the Museu Rural e do Vinho. This is housed in a quinta (a wine producing farm complex) and there are exhibits about farming and wine-making. You can also taste and buy the local, full-bodied, fruity wine.
The town also hosts a Wine Festival in April/May every year.