Explore Portugal’s highlights and lesser visited sights in the company of a
local expert guide
Once a powerful kingdom that dominated the world sea routes, Portugal today
is one of the friendliest and most laid back countries in Europe, though the
legacy of its former wealth can still be found in its historic cities.
Starting from the colourful Porto, the countrys second city and a UNESCO
site, our journey follows the verdant valleys and rolling hills of the Douro
wine region, before heading to the more undiscovered and rural regions of
Centro and Alentejo. Here we visit some remote villages and wonderful towns
full of culture and history, including Coimbra, Viseu and Evora, before
reaching vibrant Lisbon, Europe’s second-oldest capital.
* Discover Porto and the UNESCO Douro wine region
* Magnifcent heritage of Lisbon and Sintra
* Visit a small rural community and enjoy a cookery experience with locals
* Cover the most famous highlights and lesser-known sights
Day 1 Fly to Porto.
Fly to Porto; those arriving on the group fligth will be collected by the
leader on arrival and transferred to our central hotel by private minibus.
Porto the second largest city of Portugal and one of Europe’s oldest and most
beautiful towns. Time permitting, the tour leader will arrange a short
orientation tour after the group’s arrival to familiarise with the city and
take in the vibrant atmosphere of the ancient Ribeira district.
Day 2 Morning guided sightseeing in the UNESCO historic centre; free afternoon for
optional river cruise or wine tasting.
This morning starts with a guided tour through the historic centre of Porto,
a UNESCO World Heritage site. As we amble leisurely along the ancient streets
and mediaeval lanes we will visit some of the most important monuments such
as the St. Bento Station, a neoclassic jewel, and the cathedral. In the
bustling and colourful squares and the traditional, highly unique cafes, we
will discover the authentic heart of Porto. We also include a guided visit to
the majestic Bolsa Palace and discover one of Portugals prime gems, the
Arab Room. The afternoon is free for further individual sightseeing. Those
who wish can take an optional leisurely panoramic cruise along the Douro
River and/or visit the historic Port wine cellars. Overnight in Porto.
Day 3 Drive to the Douro Valley; visit the Douro museum, take a scenic train ride
along the river and visit a local winery; overnight in Sabrosa.
Today we travel to the heart of the famous UNESCO Douro Valley, the worlds
first officially designated wine region renowned not only for the excellent
Port wine but also for the postcard-pretty landscapes made of steep terraced
vineyards carved into mountains along the river. We start with a private
transfer to the town of Regua (approx. 1h 30 mins drive) where we visit the
interesting Douro Museum, an ideal place to learn about the history, culture
and identity of the UNESCO World Heritage Douro wine region. Regua also marks
the point at which the historic Douro Railway, built in 1887, turns from a
good route into a great one, sticking closely to the river and clinging to
the precipitous rocks as the river passes through the Douro gorge. We will
have the opportunity to experience this scenic landscape made of terraced
vineyards and olive groves as we travel by train to our next stop, the small
Port-producing village of Pinho. After some free time for lunch and
relaxation, we explore Quinta da la Rosa, a family-run wine estate dating
back to 1902, located in a stunning panoramic setting. We will have a guided
tour of the winery grounds and enjoy a wine tasting before we transfer to our
accommodation near the village of Sabrosa (approx. 1h).
Day 4 Transfer to the university city of Coimbra; stop en route in the charming
city of Viseu; overnight in Coimbra.
Today we head south into the central region of Portugal. Our final
destination is the mediaeval town of Coimbra (approx. 2 hrs) but we will stop
first in the pretty town of Viseu. Set on a plateau high in the hills of
Beira Alta, the regional capital of Viseu retains a fascinating mediaeval
feel within what was once a walled centre and an important crossroads since
Roman times. The citys name is believed to derive from the Roman term
‘viso’, which means ‘ good view’, and from its highest point Viseu offers
indeed some beautiful vistas. The cathedral dominates the town with its two
imposing towers and of special interest is also the Museum Gro Vasco,
housed in a beautiful 16th century building, containing a vast collection of
work by the great 16th century Portuguese painter Vasco Fernandes. We reach
Coimbra in the afternoon and enjoy some time at leisure to wander around the
town’s historic centre or to relax in one of the many delicious local
restaurants and cafes. Overnight in Coimbra.
Guided sightseeing of Coimbra and its UNESCO University; afternoon transfer
to rural mountain village; hands-on cookery experience with friendly locals.
This morning we set off for an interesting walking tour of Coimbra. Widely
known as ‘the city of students’, Coimbras history is closely linked to its
university, which was founded in 1290 and is the second oldest in Europe. The
city of Coimbra is divided into two distinct areas, the baixa (downtown) by
the river, where most of the citys commercial activity is concentrated,
and the ‘alta’ (upper town), the older part, which is entered through the
Arco de Almedina, a gateway that brings back memories of the Arab occupation.
The upper town consists of steep narrow streets, where the ‘republics’
(typical communal student residences) are to be found, as well as some of the
citys most important buildings S Velha (Old Cathedral), S Nova (New
Cathedral) and the UNESCO University of Coimbra which we will visit during
our tour. In the afternoon we transfer by private minibus to the rural
village of Penela (approx. 30 mins) where we have the special opportunity to
spend some time with a group of locals whose goal is to revive this small
communitarian village in the so called Schist Mountains. In order to get a
full immersion in some of the traditions of this village community, the group
will get involved in some hands-on activities such as cheese and bread
making. In the evening we will enjoy a convivial dinner and taste some of the
typical dishes and produce of this mountainous region of Portugal. Overnight
in rural guesthouse in Penela.
Day 6 Drive to the UNESCO town of Evora in the Alentejo region; guided city tour
including entrance to the famous Bones Chapel.
Today is the longest drive of the trip as we head south to the town of Evora,
one of Portugals most beautifully preserved mediaeval towns and capital of
the Alentejo region (approx. 3 hrs). After a leisurely lunch we take a guided
walk through the historic centre of town which is listed World Heritage by
Unesco. A true city-museum, vora has its origin in the period of the Roman
Empire and was marked by the Arabic occupation between the 7th and 12th
Centuries. The city extends itself over a hill at the golden plain of
Alentejo, and guards its historic centre with a vast outer wall. Walking
through the narrow, winding lanes we have the opportunity to admire some
striking architectural works: an elaborate medieval cathedral, a roman
temple, the famous Giraldo square and the Church of S. Francisco (Saint
Francis), one of the best-defined examples of the Gothic-Moorish style. Our
tour also includes entrance to the macabre but unique 16th Century Bones
Chapel, decorated with bones, skulls, and entire bodies hanging from the
walls – not for the faint hearted! Overnight in Evora.
Day 7 Morning easy walk in the Alentejo countryside and visit the impressive
megalithic site of Almendres Cromelech; free afternoon.
This morning we visit the impressive sight of Almendres Cromelech and walk
through the Alentejo countryside (approx. 5km easy level). Located in the
surroundings of vora, the Almendres Cromelech is one of the most impressive
testimonies of Iberian Megalithic civilization and one of the most important
megalithic monuments of Europe. It dates back to the Neolithic period, 5
millennium BC and consists of slightly concentric lines of dolmens, 95 in
total, drawn in a 70x40m land surrounded by olive trees and wheat fields.
Some of these dolmens still reveal vestiges of paintings or drawings that
archaeologists believe to be related with ancient star and earth cults. In
the afternoon we return to Evora where we have some free time for further
individual sightseeing or relaxation. Overnight in Evora.
Day 8 Transfer to Lisbon; guided city tour of the best sites and monuments.
After breakfast we drive the romantic capital city of Lisbon (approx.1hr
30mins), our final base of the tour. Europe’s second-oldest capital (after
Athens), and once home to the world’s greatest explorers like Vasco da Gama,
Magellan and Prince Henry the Navigator, this city was once the centre of an
empire spreading over all continents, from South America (Brazil) to Asia
(Macao, China; Goa, India). An afternoon guided tour will allow us to
discover and admire some of the best areas and monuments of the city
including Amoreiras, Belm Tower, the Monument of the Discoveries,
Alcntara and Praa do Comrcio. We will also walk through the oldest and
most picturesque quartes of Alfama and Restauradores. The tour does not
include entrance to the iconic UNESCO Jeronimos Monastery (which is closed on
Mondays; it can be visited the following day – optional) but includes a visit
to the fantastic Ajuda National Palace instead. The evening is free to enjoy
some traditional specialities in one of the many delicious restaurants in
town recommended by the tour guide.
Half day excursion to Sintra; visit the UNESCO National Pena Palace;
afternoon at leisure and farewell dinner with Fado music (included).
Today we take a half-day excursion to Sintra (30mins drive each way), the
ancient royal town of Portugal and old residence of kings, nobles, poets,
painters and artists. Sintra’s beautiful surroundings of forested hills are
the perfect frame to the town’s collection of elegant palaces, castles and
museums. Classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, Our guided tour will include
a visit to the iconic National Pena Palace, the most complete and notable
example of Portuguese architecture in the Romantic period. The palace lies in
a picturesque setting, perched on one of the rocky peaks of the Serra de
Sintra, and blends in a surprisingly fortunate manner with its natural
background of greenery and crags, testifying to the aesthetic potentialities
of the project. Fanciful to an extreme, the architectural fabric of Pena
finds much of its inspiration in the Moorish, Gothic and Manueline motifs of
Portuguese art. We return to Lisbon after lunch, where we have time for
further individual sightseeing or relaxation. In the evening we enjoy a group
farewell dinner accompanied by live Fado, the traditonal and world-famous
melancholic style of Portuguese folk music.
Day 10 End Lisbon and fly To London
The trip ends in the morning. Those travelling on the group flight will have
a very early transfer for their return flight to London which normally
departs Lisbon at 7am.