Over the past two decades, Portugal's southwest corner has increasingly come to resemble so many of the world's other overbuilt coastal destinations. Golf courses and "tatty concrete jungles with little or no authentic character" have proliferated. Luckily, "the quieter west coast still offers wild, undeveloped beaches where you can escape the crowds."
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"Suffers from overdevelopment along its central coast, where the focus is on mass tourism. In this area one can nevertheless find worthwhile cultural attractions, such as the Old Town of Faro. Less spoiled coastal stretches lie to the west of Lagos, which itself has historical interest, and to the east around Tavira, where natural preserves have been established."
"Mass tourism has spoiled certain stretches of the coast, but many areas remain largely unchanged. Conservation of urban areas requires attention. Quality of resorts varies greatly from low to high quality. Golf is a key tourism product and a study of the sustainable limits of golf development has been undertaken."
"The most scenic locations are in the west where soft cliffs and sand beaches alternate. Some steps are being taken to remove illegal coastal dwellings but in many locations buildings have encroached much too closely to the sea and are at serious risk from erosion."
"Blackpool or Margate with a warmer climate. Has suffered a huge loss of environmental quality, but the visitors and second-homers don't care because it's warm and relatively cheap. There are increasing pressures on land and water resources that will only get worse."
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.