by , SmarterTravel Staff
Portugal: Pena National Palace in Sintra (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on February 21, 2011. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: all-inclusive resort, arts and culture, Aruba, Austrian Airlines Group, beach, destination, Drury Inns, Inc., Expedia, festival, guided tour, history, Hyatt, Istanbul, Jaclyn Liechti, KLM, low season, Marriott, Orbitz, Portugal, Radisson, Red Roof Inn, San Antonio, seasonality, shopping, spring, Stowe, Travelocity, Turkish Airlines, Vermont, weather, Westin.

With 400 miles of beaches, 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and four airlines that fly directly from the States, it's no wonder Portugal is getting noticed by more U.S. travelers. In fact, American tourism to Portugal skyrocketed 26 percent in 2010. The country's reputation as a budget-pleasing destination is already well documented: According to the Hotel Price Index, Portugal is the sixth most affordable country in Europe, with an average nightly hotel rate of €84 per night (about $114, see for current conversion rates) per night. Best of all, spring is the low season in Portugal, meaning savvy travelers can save even more.

To illustrate the trend of lower prices during off-peak season, I compared peak and off-peak airfare to Lisbon and found savings up to $415.

Route Off-Peak Rate Peak Rate
Boston to Lisbon $754 $837
Chicago to Lisbon $860 $1,190
Los Angeles to Lisbon $973 $1,388

Off-peak rates are based on round-trip travel from April 12 through 19; peak travel prices are based on round-trip travel from July 12 through 19. All fares were found using Expedia and include taxes and fees.

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Travelers who head to Portugal this spring will find a wealth of cultural events, from the Lisbon Fish and Flavors festival in April to the Madeira Flower Festival and Serralves em Festa, Europe's largest contemporary arts festival, in May. Those interested in the country's history can stay in 12th-century monasteries in Coimbra or Crato, or in one of the dozens of new hotels opening in Lisbon, Algarve, or Porto.

Deals and packages can also be found in Portugal this spring. At press time, SATA is running a promotion from Boston to Lisbon from $665 round-trip (including taxes and fees), and from Boston to Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, from $493 round-trip (including taxes and fees). Pousadas de Portugal is offering three- or five-night circuits, providing visitors the chance to stay in several different regions in the country, from €285 (about $385). Individual pousadas also have value packages available. For example, Pousada Convento de Belmonte has a special two-night escape from €47.50 (about $64) per person per night. And the Pousada de Condeixa is offering a special through March 31 that includes accommodations, breakfast, museum entrance, and dinner for two from €100 (about $134).

For more information about Portugal, visit our Portugal Travel Guide.

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