Big bus tours not your style? Move up to Portugal.com’s Exclusive Expeditions. Designed to pamper you, these feature-rich journeys were created for customers seeking a deluxe and “almost private” alternative to large group tours. Each tour accomodates a maximum of 12 clients on a personalized itinerary to experience the country’s most fascinating destinations and overnight in its very finest properties. It is the perfect solution for family members or friends who want to see Portugal together in style but don’t have time to plan an independent vacation. You’ll move around the country in a Mercedes minibus that can enter historic areas that large buses only dream of reaching. And a Turismo de Portugal professional guide will offer insightful and individual attention to each traveler in your group. Every night, you’ll sleep peacefully in historical hotels, many of which began life centuries ago as a monastery or palace. Again, these properties cannot accommodate large groups of tourists so your party will enjoy intimate hotels that celebrate the spirit of the day’s itinerary – not to mention restaurants that showcase the unique tastes of Portuguese food and wine. The one-week itinerary delivers the heart of Portugal - the rural countryside, the mountain villages and the coastal towns – and the price includes six buffet breakfast, seven gourmet meals with wine, and entrance fees to all of the sites mentioned below. And consider adding two nights to experience more of the wonders of Lisbon to complete your Exclusive Expedition of Portugal!
“The small group tour was fabulous - absolutely the most fantastic tour I have ever experienced! Our guide Tiago and our driver Victor made this a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The hotels were first class, the small van was very comfortable, and the people were delightful…” -- Mary Beth, USA
Day 1 – See Coastal Resorts & Lisbon Landmarks
Lisbon - Estoril - Cascais - Cabo da Roca - Sintra - Lisbon (95 km|60 miles)
Meet your fellow travelers, board your Mercedes Minibus and depart Lisbon heading north to the sunny coastal towns of Estoril and Cascais. You’ll think “Côte d'Azur” when you lay eyes on the jetsetting clientele of the beaches, hotels, casinos and shops in the area, which was formerly the summer residence of Lisbon’s aristocratic set. Move on to the famous Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca), the westernmost point of continental Europe, and then to one of Lord Byron’s favorite spots: Lovely, wooded Sintra. You’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch with wine in this UNESCO World Heritage town before visiting the Pena Palace. Perched high above Sintra, the 19th century castle incorporates a fanciful mix of architectural styles, including Romanticism, Moorish, Bavarian, Gothic and more! The palace terraces offer almost-360-degree views that extend from the botanical masterpiece Pena Park surrounding the castle out to the Tejo River and the Atlantic Ocean. Return to Lisbon and spend the rest of the day marveling at one of Europe’s oldest capital cities, from its fishing village-origins to its cosmopolitan present. Your guide will show you the most illustrious sites: the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries. Check in to Lisbon’s famed Pestana Palace, the elegantly restored 19th century manor Valle-Flôr, with luscious tropical grounds and spectacular views of the Tagus River.
Day 2: Journey from Alentejo Country to Beiras Mountains
Head east to the sweeping plains of the Alentejo today. The famed agricultural region of Lisbon is known for its cork trees, wheat fields, vineyards and almond orchards. You’ll see walled cities and castles on hills standing guard over their fields as they have for centuries. The most famous of these is Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you will have time to get lost in its narrow, medieval streets. Continue to Marvão, an 8th century walled city set atop a 3,000 foot peak near the Portuguese-Spanish border that has played a key military role during centuries of border disputes. Your final destination today is Belmonte, a Beiras village near the Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest mountain range. Dine and overnight at the Pousada do Convento in Belmonte, the 13th century Nossa Senhora da Esperanca convent that has been reborn as a luxury property offering original architectural details, gourmet cuisine and expansive views of the valley from its pool deck and amphitheater.
Day 3: Get a Taste of the Douro River Wine Region
Belmonte - Viseu - Lamego - Wine Estate, Solar de Mateus - Amarante (232 km/ 145 miles)
Explore the historical village of Belmonte, home to the largest community of Portuguese Jews (marranos). Wander the lanes and visit the castle before heading toward the famed winemaking region of the Douro River. Your first stop will be in Lamego for a visit to the sacred sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. Then, you’ll enter the official Douro Wine district where grapes for Port and many other wines are grown. Meet a wine maker at his or her "quinta" (estate) for a private tour of production methods followed by a wine tasting and lunch at the vineyard. Cross the Douro River at Peso da Regua and drive on to Vila Real for a visit to Casa de Mateus, an exquisite 18th century Baroque manor house. Head west to the Romanesque town of Amarante on the Tâmega River where St. Gonçalo arrived in the 12th century and the locals battled Napoleon’s army in 1763. Your hotel for tonight is the charming Casa da Calçada, overlooking the old bridge over the River Tamega in a 16th century palace. Magnificent gardens, gold colored walls and elegant lounges welcome you at this beautiful manor house where you will eat dinner before an evening stroll on the town’s cobblestone streets.
Day 4 – Wonder at the Spiritual Braga
Amarante - Braga - Ponte de Lima - Guimaraes (169 km/106 miles)
After a visit to the center of Amarante, continue your historic expedition of the Minho region in Braga. Marvel at Bom Jesus do Monte, a spectacular Christian pilgrimage site with an extraordinary Baroque staircase cascading 381 feet down a hillside. Move on to Ponte de Lima, home of Portugal's Vinho Verde (green wine) for a stroll through the town center and a glimpse of its wealthy past. The town is known for its intricate embroidery. The day ends in Guimarães, one of the most historic cities of Portugal. Tonight you’ll taste Northern Portugal cuisine in a fine restaurant before adjourning for the night to the Pousada de Santa Marinha, one of the most spectacular pousadas in Portugal. A former 12th century Augustine convent replete with gardens, fountains, cloisters, balconies and exquisite tile work, this hotel is situated on a wooded hillside overlooking Guimarães.
Day 5 – Get In-Depth Up North
Guimaraes - Porto ( 51 km/32 miles)
Your day begins where modern-day Portugal did, in the “Cradle City” of Guimarães. Henry of Burgundy named the town the administrative seat of the County of Portugal in the 1000s, the nation’s first proclaimed king was born here in 1109, and the area’s Battle of São Mamede in 1128 led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Portugal. Tour the medieval center, including the Castelo de Sao Miguel (St. Michael’s Castle) that appears on the Portuguese national coat of arms, and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, home to the illegitimate branch of the royal family who ascended the throne. Travel on to Porto, Portugal's "second city." Your guide will escort you to Porto’s UNESCO World Heritage center to see the Church of Sao Francisco with its intricately carved, golden interior and the Arabian Hall in the Stock Exchange. In the afternoon, you will privately tour and taste the fruits of labor of a Port Wine Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river where the namesake wine is aged and bottled. Relax and take in the beauty of the Douro on a river cruise to wrap up your day. Dine on the world-class cuisine and wines of Porto before sleeping soundly at the five-star Intercontinental Porto-Palacio das Cardosas, a property that originated as a palace two hundred years ago.
Day 6 – Study the Beauty of Coimbra
Porto - Coimbra (122 km/78 miles)
Savor time to independently explore historically rich Porto this morning then continue to Coimbra, home to one of Europe’s oldest universities founded in 1290. See its legendary buildings – including a Baroque clock tower, a tile-covered chapel and the fabulous Joanine Library – that dominate the town’s hilltop. The ancient city center is home to Roman ruins, Romanesque cathedrals and the old maze-like streets of the Moorish quarter and the church of Santa Cruz, where the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, is buried in an elaborate tomb. You’ll spend the night at Quinta das Lagrimas, a 1329 palace surrounded by magnificent gardens, bedecked in traditional Portuguese colors and enshrouded in legend: It is rumored that Portugal's Prince Pedro lost his lover, the noblewoman Ines, to his father's assassins here – hence the name of the estate (quinta) commemorates her tears (lagrimas).
Day 7 – Appreciate Portugal’s Pilgrimage Sites
Coimbra - Fatima – Batalha - Alcobaca - Obidos - Lisbon (256 km/160 miles)
Wake ready for a spiritually enlightening day that starts with a journey to Fatima, one of the Catholic world’s greatest pilgrimage sites, drawing hundreds of thousands of followers each year. Nearby, you’ll visit an exquisite 15th century masterpiece of Portuguese Gothic “Manueline” architecture and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Monastery of Batalha. Continue to the Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal’s largest church and home to the tombs of King Dom Pedro I and Ines de Castro, the star-crossed lovers of the 14th century, mentioned above. Your last stop before reaching Lisbon is picture-postcard Obidos, a walled, medieval village of whitewashed buildings and cobblestone streets clinging to a hillside. Conclude your expedition with a short hour’s drive back to Lisbon. Consider celebrating with an optional traditional fado musical dinner and show to mark your triumphant return to Lisbon.
Days 8-9 – Extend Your Love for Lisbon
Immerse yourself further in Portuguese culture by extending your stay for two nights in Lisbon, either before or after your Exclusive Expedition around the country. The days will be yours to wander historical neighborhoods, visit world-class museums or sample the unique taste of Portugal’s many specialty food and wine specialties – there is no shortage of things to do! You will stay two more nights at the luxurious Pestana Palace hotel as well as enjoy a private airport transfer upon arrival and departure. You won’t miss two more days at home but you might regret leaving Lisbon too soon!
“We had a great time in Portugal and returned home with many fond memories. Our guide and our driver were both outstanding… The itinerary, accommodations and food were all of an excellent standard. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and we will recommend it highly to our friends.” -- Adele & Jeff, Australia