12 day/11 nights. Begin any day. Itinerary can be customized to add extra days for a more leisurely tour and/or extend your stay in lively Lisbon. A self-drive tour through the coastal southern Algarve, sunny plains of Alentejo, the mountains of the Beiras, the vineyard-terraced slopes of the Douro River Valley and the historic and tradition rich Minho. Visit the small villages and towns to experience the soul of Portugal and sample the local cuisines and wines. A choice of accommodation levels offers the experience of local pousadas and small, charm hotels and a less expensive option for more budget minded travelers.
Day 1 - Lisbon
Transfer service from Lisbon airport to hotel. Overnight in Lisbon this evening to rest before beginning your self-drive tour.
Day 2 - Lisbon-Lagos
Pick up your car rental this morning and, proceeding east, cross the Vasco de Gama Bridge to the Alentejo region of Portugal. After Alentejo enter Algarve the southern-most region of Portugal known for its sunny climate, history and beautiful beaches. Stop in Silves. The town is situated on a hill above the Arade River. Silves Castle (Castelo dos Mouros, Moorish Castle) is located on the top of the hill. It occupies ca. 12,000m². Archaeological excavations have shown that the oldest buildings date back to the 8th century, the stratigraphy is almost 6 m deep and contains Iron Age remains as well. After Silves drive to Lagos. Within walking distances of some superb beaches and offering a lively nightlife, Lagos is also an interesting historical center. It was a favored residence of Henry the Navigator, who used Lagos as a base for the new African trade.
Day 3 - Lagos
Full day to explore Algarve's western side. Suggest driving to Sagres in the morning and Albufeira, Vilamoura and Faro in the afternoon.
Day 4 - Lagos - Evora
The Alentejo, almost 1/3 of Portugal yet only home to 10% of the population, is a vast area of wheat fields, olive groves, orchards, vineyards and cork oaks. Whitewashed towns of the southern plains give way to walled hilltop villages among the rocky terrain of the north and east. Neolithic sites including dolmens, stone circles and menhirs are very common in this area. The walled city of Evora, UNESCO World Heritage Site, is your destination. Within the old walls lies a city of historic importance. Roman occupation is evident in the ruins of Diana’s Temple. As you walk Evora’s narrow streets, Moorish, Medieval and Renaissance architecture are testament to the city’s long history. There are many local craft shops and restaurants to enjoy. Overnigh in Evora.
Day 5 - Evora - Marvao
Leave Evora to Estremoz, a hilltop town overlooking groves of olive trees. This area is famous for its fine marble quarries, second only to Italy in exports. On to Marvao, perched on a ledge overlooking the border with Spain, one of Portugal’s most charming villages and your home for the night. From its ramparts, enjoy the heady view of the countryside. Overnight in Marvao.
Day 6 - Marvao - Castelo de Vide - Sortelha - Belmonte - Guarda
An entire day to explore the charming villages along your route as you head north. Be sure to stop in Castelo de Vide, a spa town enjoyed by the Romans, to visit the mazelike old Jewish Quarter with its whitewashed houses and pots of bright flowers. En route to Belmonte is the gem-like 12th century village of Sortelha. Its fortifications offer panoramic views of the wild countryside. Belmonte is the ancestral home of the Cabral family whose famous son, Pedro Alvares Cabral, discovered Brazil in 1500. Much of this charming town displays their family crest: Goats. Continue to Guarda. Overnight in Guarda.
Day 7 - Guarda - Viseu - Lamego - Amarante or Guimaraes
The ancient city of Guarda (meaning “protector”) is situated in the Serra Estrela (Star Mountains). This area is the Beira Alta, home to many castles and walled cities crowning the hills overlooking the border with Spain. Continue to Viseu, a crossroads since the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, and home to the Dao wine growing region. Drive to the pretty town of Lamego to see Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, a popular pilgrimage destination. Cross the Douro River at Peso da Regua to Villa Real for a visit to Casa de Mateus, an exquisite 18th century manor house in the Portuguese Baroque style. It’s immediately recognizable as the label on Mateus wine bottles. Head west to the postcard pretty town of Amarante. Overnight in Amarante (Package A) or continue to Guimaraes (Package B).
Day 8 - Amarante or Guimaraes - Braga- Ponte de Lima -Viana do Castelo-Porto
Historic Guimaraes is the birthplace of Portugal’s first proclaimed king in 1139. In the city’s center is Castelo de Sao Miguel (St Michael’s Castle). It appears onthe Portuguese coat of arms. The castle’s huge keep and crenellated walls are worth exploring for the fine views they afford. Drive to Braga, a town with a long history as a religious center. Just to the east of Braga, is Bom Jesus do Monte, the country’s most spectacular religious sanctuary. Its extraordinary Baroque staircase cascades 381 feet down a hill. Another option is visiting the scenic towns of Ponte de Lima and coastal Viana do Castelo. The best way to explore the winding streets of Viana do Castelo's historical center is by foot. Continue to Porto for the next 2 nights.
Note: For superior hotel package, stay at the Pestana Porto Vintage hotel is upgraded to Superior Plaza room for the 2 nights.
Day 9 - Porto
A full day to explore Porto. This colorful city, on the north bank of the Douro River, and close to the ocean, has a long history influenced by Romans, Moors, crusaders, Portugal’s overseas colonies and Port wine. On the south bank of the river is Vila Nova de Gaia, home to the Port Wine Lodges where the wines are aged and bottled. Many of them are open for touring and tasting.
Overnight in Porto.
Day 10 - Porto-Aveiro-Coimbra
Drive south today with a stop in Aveiro, a city of canals, colorful, seaweed collecting boats and home to the famous Vista Alegre china factory. Then visit the Forest of Bussaco (Bucaco) for a walk among its trails laid out by monks centuries ago. In the middle of the forest stands a unique hotel, The Bussaco Palace, once a royal huntinglodge. Continue to Coimbra, site of one of Europe’s oldest universities founded in 1290. Its historic buildings dominate the hilltop. The ancient city center is home to Roman ruins, Romanesque cathedrals and the old maze-like streets of the Moorish quarter.
Overnight in Coimbra.
Note: For superior hotel package, stay at the Quinta das Lagrimas hotel is upgraded to Palacio/Spa room
Day 11 - Coimbra-Fatima-Batalha-Alcobaca-Nazare-Obidos-Lisbon
From Coimbra head south on the A1 motorway. Allow for a stop at the Roman ruins of Conimbriga where evidence of a large and prosperous Roman town is being excavated. Continue to Fatima, one of the Catholic world’s greatest pilgrimage sites, drawing hundreds of thousands each year. Nearby is the exquisite 15th century and UNESCO World Heritage Monastery of Batalha. It’s a masterpiece of Portuguese Gothic known as “Manueline”. Then to the Monastery of Alcobaca (also UNESCO World Heritage), Portugal’s largest and of a completely different architectural style from the monastery at Batalha. Continue to Nazare, a fisherman’s town with many wonderful seafood restaurants. Then to Obidos, the charming walled village encompassing whitewashed houses decorated with colorful flowers. It’s about an hour’s drive on the A8 motorway from Obidos to Lisbon. Return car rental at your hotel (fee may apply) or at the airport.
Overnight in Lisbon.
Program ends at check out this morning. Transfer service is included from the hotel to the airport. Let us know if you wish to extend your stay in Lisbon.