There is one thing you need to know about Portugal, the westernmost country of Europe. This little coastal nation – about the size of the state of Maine – is surprisingly packed with big reasons to visit! The word that comes to mind is "Cornucopia" - definition: an abundant supply of good things. :) Prepare to be impressed!
Portugal used to take a back-seat in the shadows of its European neighbors, but it’s now fully becoming a travel destination in its own right. USA Today included Portugal on its list of 2019’s Hottest Destinations. And the country was voted “World’s Leading Destination” at the World Travel Awards - aka, the travel industry’s Oscars - and received a remarkable total of 17 awards in all! It's growing popular is mainly because of simple word-of-mouth accolades!
During our 11-night/12-day trip from Sept 17-27, we’ll be exploring mainland Portugal from the north region all the way to the southern coast, and from the western shores to the eastern border with Spain! There is an optional 2-day extension to the Azores Islands, where we’ll visit the main island, São Miguel (highly recommended – you’ll not want to miss if possible).
If you’re into culture & history, architecture, food & wine, active pursuits, water/beaches, natural beauty, and authentic, under-the-radar travel experiences, then this is the trip for you!
WHY GO ON THIS TRIP?
We have a lot of incredible experiences on tap for you! Including many unique exclusive experiences - such as private charter boats in the Douro River Valley and in the Algarve and a private group tour of a Douro wine estate - negotiated just for us! You'll be on a top-quality trip visiting in a way that is very uncommon for typical travelers. There are a TON of amazing things to see and do and learn about on your Portuguese adventure! There will be so many unforgettable moments! You are going to love it!
Portugal is chock full of fascinating history (as a powerful maritime empire all the back to the 16th century), rich culture, and impressive, diverse scenery. During our trip, you’ll be astonished as we explore incredibly varied sights & locales including 8 of Portugal’s 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites! You’ll be able to really get to know this wonderful coastal nation, as we’ll be visiting all of the different regions of the country – central, north and south!
From bustling coastal cities to historic medieval villages with ancient castles & palaces to sun-drenched beach towns, you’ll get a wonderful sampling of what Portugal has to offer. You’ll get to travel north into the less-visited interior of the country through urban city centers, the mountainous countryside, rural pastures, thick forests, winding river valleys, and terraced vineyards carved into mountain slopes. You’ll head south, which is home to world-renowned Atlantic Ocean beaches including 352 with Blue Flag designations, expansive rolling plains and traditional seaside fishing villages. The seemingly endless coastline spans more than 500 miles and features ocean caves, steep cliffs and picturesque sandy coves!
And there’s more… the Natural Parks and Reserves, Geoparks and Biosphere Reserves recognized by UNESCO have ensured that Portugal is also a premier destination for enjoying outdoor activities! We’ll have opportunities to do some relatively easy, but super scenic hiking, bicycling, kayaking, swimming and boating during our journey (all optional). You'll even have the option to do an exclusive caving excurion, which is very cool and quite unique. And don’t worry, while will be doing and seeing a lot, you’ll have some free time to relax & be on your own.
Also, let’s not forget the oh so delicious Portuguese gastronomy and excellent wine experiences that will be in your future. Being located on the Atlantic coast, seafood is plentiful and as fresh as it gets. Meat dishes are always available with local beef, pork and goat as the main ingredients. Many vegetables are produced organically. Portuguese olive oil is excellent and is part of every dish! Artisan cheeses are also a local specialty and consumed daily. You’ll quickly discover that the most popular Portuguese sweet delight is the egg custard tart, known as Pasteis de Nata, and is a must-eat. Make no mistake about it, Portuguese take their food quite seriously! And of course, there are superior quality Portuguese wines that are, bonus, available at very reasonable prices including the world-famous port wines from the Durou river valley, as well as local red, white and green(!) wines.
Top all this off with plenty of friendly locals offering up Portuguese warmth & hospitality along with a thoughtful, uncommon itinerary from must-see places to hidden gems.
As always, we’ve partnered with a high-quality, boutique local tour company who will take us around their country as their friends who are visiting. Our trip will adhere to sustainable/responsible travel principles such as only using independent, locally owned hotels, restaurants and other providers, so that they money we spend stays in the communities we visit; engaging in authentic experiences and supporting local heritage and culture; and following eco-friendly policies including reusing, recycling and minimizing our use of plastic.
HIGHLIGHTS – WHERE YOU'RE GOING & WHAT YOU'LL BE DOING
During your 11 night/12 day trip from Sept 17-28, you’ll be exploring mainland Portugal from the north region to the southern coast and everywhere in between. There is an optional 2-night extension to the Azores Islands, where we’ll visit the main island, Sao Miguel.
Historic Schist Villages of Lousã Mountain. Gain insight about Portuguese culture with a visit to these traditional villages hidden among the forest-covered mountain slopes & lowland valley of Serra da Lousã. These villages get their name from the abundant schist rock used to construct the houses. A unique outing and one of the best kept secrets of Portugal – once forgotten, now recovered.
Ecopista do Dão Bike Ride. Enjoy a scenic bicycle ride on an abandoned railway line, which has been turned into a bicycle & walking path called Ecopista do Dão - the longest greenway in Portugal! We'll bike a section of the ecopista, enjoying easy cycling on a flat paved path that passes through very beautiful landscape including vineyards and farming communities, with a large part running along the banks of the river Dão and surrounded by the Estrela and Caramulo mountains.
Coimbra. Visit this riverfront city in central Portugal, which used to be the country’s medieval capital for more than 100 years. Explore the well-preserved ancient old town on the banks of the Mondego River with its Moorish and Gothic architecture. Check out the historic University of Coimbra, one of the world’s oldest universities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And get familiar with classic Fado – the iconic, traditional folk music of Portugal.
Porto. Get to know Portugal’s “second city,” Porto. This medieval, yet modern coastal city is quite picturesque and full of cool history and culture. In fact, it's a UNESCO World Heritage site! Porto is built on two hills rising from the banks of the Douro River. Enjoy a walkabout including exploring both sides of the river, most notably the super scenic, riverside district of Ribeira, thie city's oldest neighborhood. Porto is home to the world-famous Port wine. So, of course you’ll visit one of the port wine cellars along with a tour and tasting.
Douro Valley. The slopes of the Douro valley are home to the vineyards of the world-renowned, sweet dessert known as Port, which is protected like Champagne (“Port” can only come from the Douro Valley). These wine-producing farms (quintas) are best viewed from a water vantage point. That means you’ll be doing a boat ride... an exclusive, private one at that - which is definitely not the norm! Travel along the river for the most beautiful section where the landscapes are spectacular – dramatic, steep hillsides covered with grapevines. Enjoy a stop at one of the quintas to learn about wine growing & production... and do a tasting of course! Another exclusive, private experience!
Lisbon. Portugal’s picturesque coastal capital – the largest city in the country and the second oldest in the world – is spread across the top of seven hills and stretches along the banks of the Tagus River, providing amazing views all over the city. While sophisticated and vibrant, Lisbon preserves its cultural heritage giving it a blend of trendy ambiance, yet historic feel. We’ll explore the maritime capital to see why Lisbon was voted as the “World’s Leading City Destination” by the World Travel Awards and called the “coolest city in Europe” by CNN.
Sintra. Located off the coast of Lisbon and tucked in the mountain foothills, the gorgeous Portuguese town of Sintra has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Enjoy the beautiful natural scenery, stroll through the historic village center and check out the fascinating historic buildings. You’ll be in awe of Palácio da Pena, one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is one of the most unique architectural buildings in the country and quite the spectacle!
Estrela Mountain. Hike in the rugged mountainous landscape of the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela. Coming across a shepherd with his trusty mountain dogs tending to a flock of sheep is a quite common experience while trekking. This is Portugal’s largest protected area of countryside overflowing with rock-strewn meadows, rivers and waterfalls, forested slopes, terraced fields, rocky gorges, and icy lakes. This is also where you’ll find Portugal’s highest peak. You’ll be mesmerized by the natural beauty around you!
Tomar. Discover this small charming town on the banks of the Nabão River, surrounded by forests, fields, and neighboring rural villages. Tomar has some intriguing history – in the 13th century it was the home of the secretive and powerful religious order, Knights Templar. We’ll make our way to the hilltop to tour the 12th century medieval Tomar Castle and Convent of Christ, an expansive religious complex where the Knights Templar was based and considered one of Portugal’s top national monuments.
Mértola. This peaceful riverside walled village in the Alentejo region near the Spanish border is strikingly located on a rocky cliff over the Guadiana River, at its confluence with the smaller Oeiras River. Mértola is unique in that the influence of its Islamic occupation has remained intact, so much so that the entire town is considered a vila museu (open-air museum)! Wander the historic center and be dazzled by the imposing Mértola Castle that dominates the landscape.
Algarve. Visit the beautiful, sun-drenched southern coastline of Portugal. The Algarve, Portugal’s famed southernmost region, is known for its stunning Atlantic beaches (more than 150) and glorious climate, and has proven to be very Instagram worthy due to its impressive natural scenery. We’ll enjoy an exclusive, private boat ride just for us along the Algarve coast to view its iconic towering rocky sea cliffs, sandy coves, and hidden caves. The Algarve has repeatedly been named “Europe’s Best Beach Destination” by the World Travel Awards. This year’s winner is the Algarve’s scenic resort town of Carvoeiro, where we’ll be overnighting. :)
Port Covo. Spend time in this traditional seaside Portuguese fishing village perched on the low cliff on the western Alentejo coast. Relax on one of the many sandy beaches and coves. Explore the village with its main square and bright white-washed cottages and the little fishing harbor that clings to the side of a deep natural inlet. Optionally, hike part of the famous Fisherman’s Trail, a marvelous coastal walking trail along the Atlantic Ocean with spectacular scenery en route. Condé Nast Traveler magazine named the Fishermen’s Trail among the 6 most beautiful coastal trails in the world.
Azores. Floating in the Atlantic Ocean, some 850 miles from mainland Portugal, are the nine volcanic islands of the Azores Archipelago, a magical place of amazing natural beauty. We’re doing an optional 2-day extension to São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores, that is a nature lover’s delight with postcard-perfect scenery at every turn from crater lakes, valleys, hot springs and volcanic cliffs, and dramatic coastline!
By the end of this trip, you'll be shaking your head in disbelief about all of the incredible, unforgettable things you've seen and done in this little country! Join us in September to experience this yourself on our grand Portugal adventure! Woot, Woot!
Nights 1 & 2 - Palácio da Lousã
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.0
Palácio da Lousã is a unique 18th century palace. Formerly Viscondessa do Espinhal Palace, the building has been transformed into a four-star hotel, the country’s first boutique hotel and is classified as a World Heritage site. The hotel is centrally located in the small town of Lousã , yet surrounded by nature offering a warm atmosphere with its beautiful gardens, peaceful courtyards, picturesque views of the Lousa Mountains, and outdoor pool. The 46 rooms are spread out between the original Palace building and a brand-new wing, which combines the charm of a historic property with updated, modern comforts.
Night 3: Porto Royal Bridges Hotel
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.0
Porto Royal Bridges Hotel, a 4-star boutique hotel transformed from an emblematic building from the 1970s into one of the nicest hotels in the city center of Porto. Designed by a prestigious, internationally awarded interior designer, the décor uses the essence of Portuguese cork and the iron of the bridges crossing the Douro River, which makes the hotel design so special. The hotel consists of 70 comfortable rooms carefully furnished and designed for superior comfort. The staff is known for its high standards of customer service and attention. The location can’t be beat, walking to just about anything you need – restaurants, bars, shops, the riverfront, and the city’s most popular sights.
Nights 4 & 5: Hotel da Fábrica
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5
Surrounded by peaceful mountain landscape in the heart of Estrela Mountain and under the view of the Glaciar Valley, Hotel da Fábrica offers a unique stay in a building full of history. The hotel highlights the region's traditions and the history of weaving, as it occupies the former Ecolã wool fabric textile factory, which produces 100% organic sheep’s wool clothing, rugs, and bags etc still made using the oldest craft in turning wool to fabric. We’ll do a tour.
With a sustainable and ecological view, the three-story the hotel has 18 rooms, an indoor heated pool, a massage room, a sauna and a terrace with breathtaking views.
Night 6: Hotel dos Templários
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5
The riverfront Hotel dos Templários is centrally located in the historical city center of Tomar walking to many points of interest, but has a relaxing environment as it’s surrounded by majestic gardens and overlooks the river Nabão. The hotel features a total of 177 spacious guestrooms. All rooms have a balcony with a panoramic view of the river, gardens or castle. Being a larger property, Hotel dos Templários is able to offer more amenities for your enjoyment such as a heated indoor swimming pool, fully equipped gym, dry & wet saunas, Jacuzzi, game room with pool table, tennis court on site, and a wide range of spa treatments.
Night 7: Casa da Tia Amália
No website – see TripAdvisor site
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5
Casa da Tia Amália is located across the Guadiana River from the Mértola historic district in Além Rio, a small fishing village and offers stunning views of the river and the ancient Moorish town & castle. This small, renovated guest house offers a total of 10 accommodations from rooms to apartments with common areas for the group to hang. Each accommodation is individually furnished and decorated. The same family has run the establishment for generations. We just may end up having the entire guesthouse to ourselves!
Night 8: Monte Santo Resort
TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5
This is a 5-star luxury resort located near the historic fishing town of Carvoeiro on Portugal’s Algarve, just a few minutes away from the Algarve’s wonderful beaches. Located on 19 green acres, a waterway winds through manicured lawns and gardens, helping to create a tranquil, secluded atmosphere making this a popular choice in the Algarve. The 133 suites and townhouses are spread across the grounds, which are really more like apartments or condos. The property is full of amenities including spa, sauna, Turkish bath, wellness center, gym, multi sports court, bike hire, outdoor swimming pools, heated indoor pool, and endless gardens.
Hotel Açores Lisboa
TripAdvisor Rating: 4
Hotel Acores Lisboa has a modern interior that evokes zen-like calmness with its eco-friendly Azores-themed design. Lush greenery that peppers the exterior of the property including shrubs and trees growing over balconies and rows of potted plants enclosing the outdoor deck. The 128 modern guest rooms are bright and sleek with large windows fill the spaces with natural light. One of the hotel's top features is its chic Atlantida Restaurant and Bar, which offers an top-quality Azorean menu. The hotel is walking distance to the metro, dining options, and El Corte Ingles shopping mall.
Late morning arrival into the Lisbon International Airport (LIS). The group will be picked up at the airport and we’ll drive to Serra da Lousã to visit the historic Schist Villages. Approximate 2-hour drive. Lunch box will be provided.
You’ll get some insight about Portuguese culture with a visit to these traditional rural villages hidden among the forest-covered mountain slopes & lowland valley of Serra da Lousã. Settlers in medieval times lived here isolated & independently in the 12th & 13th centuries. But the area was abandoned in the 20th century as younger generation opted for a more modern, easier, prosperous life in the cities. The villages, which get their name from the abundant schist rock used to construct the houses, have been restored to preserve the history and culture. We'll walk around and explore the villages and enjoy dinner at this magical place where time seems to have stopped to a few centuries ago. Immersed in nature and mostly disconnected from the rest of the world, this is a unique outing and one of the best kept secrets of Portugal. [L,D]
Overrnight: Palácio da Lousã
Since you just arrived in Portugal yesterday with a pretty full day and maybe somewhat jet lagged, sleep in and relax a bit in the morning. Our driver & guide we’ll pick us up at the hotel late morning :) and we’ll journey to Coimbra (approx 45-minute drive).
The riverfront city of Comibra was the country’s medieval capital for more than 100 years. On the banks of the Mondego River, its well-preserved ancient medieval old town showcases its Moorish and Gothic architecture. We’ll do lunch in Coimbra and a guided tour of the historic University of Coimbra. Established in 1290, it is one of the world’s oldest universities, the oldest university in Portugal, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
After our visit to Coimbra, we’ll head to Tondela (approx. 50 min drive) to do our scenic bike ride on the Ecopista do Dão, an abandoned railway line that is now a bicycle & walking path - the longest greenway in Portugal, stretching 30 miles! We’ll get our bicycle rentals and bike a section of the ecopista. Enjoy easy cycling on a flat, paved path that passes through very beautiful landscape including vineyards and farming communities, with a large part running along the banks of the river Dão and surrounded by the Estrela and Caramulo mountains.
After our bike ride, its back to the hotel to relax and enjoy dinner on our own. Our hotel, Palácio da Lousã, is located near the town center walking to restaurants. Viscondessa Restaurant at the hotel, where the Duke of Wellington and General Ney were during the French invasions, serves up delicious local cuisine in a historical atmosphere. [B,L]
Overnight: Palácio da Lousã
We’ll be picked up from the hotel this morning and drive to our next destination – Porto! It’s an approximately 1hr 50min drive. We’ll stop for lunch at an amazing local restaurant with a great story behind it that serves up delicious organic, regional fare - with whatever ingredients are fresh & in season. Fit for foodies. :)
After lunch, it's a visit to Caves Poças, a local independent family-owned port wine cellar, where you’ll enjoy a unique and authentic experience getting to learn about Douro DOC wines and Port Wines. We’ll do a guided tour of the wine cellars followed by a tasting. Porto is home to the world-famous Port wine, so this is definitely an activity to do! Most visitors go the more touristy route, but we’ll be patronizing this local Portuguese business owned by the Pocas family that is off the main strip where all the wine cellars are located.
Next we’ll be off on a walkabout of Porto to get to know Portugal’s “second city” and a UNESCO World Heritage site! This medieval, yet modern coastal city is very walkable and quite picturesque and full of cool history & culture. Porto is built on two hills rising from the banks of the Douro River. Our walking tour will explore both sides of the river – Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia – including the riverside district of Ribeira, Porto’s oldest neighborhood. The city’s iconic bridges are famous attractions themselves. Porto is the only city in Europe with six bridges. Most notably, there is the double-decker Dom Luis I bridge and D. Maria Pia bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel, as in the Eiffel Tower in Paris. [B,L,D]
Overnight: Royal Bridges Hotel Porto
After breakfast, we start our drive to Régua (approx. 1hr 30min), where we meet our boat, as we’ll be doing an exclusive, private boat ride along the Douro river on the most beautiful section from Régua to Pinhão, where the landscapes are spectacular – dramatic, steep hillsides covered with grapevines. Lunch will be on our boat. The slopes of the Douro valley are home to the vineyards of the world-renowned, sweet dessert known as Port, which is protected like Champagne (it can only be called “Port” if it came from the Douro Valley). These wine-producing farms (quintas) are best viewed from a water vantage point, which is what we’ll be doing. :) We'll aslo enjoy a stop at one of the vineyards – Quinta do Panascal – to learn about their traditional wine growing & production, and do a tasting of course. Another exclusive, private experience!
After our adventure in the Douro River Valley, we’ll drive to our next destination, Serra da Estrela (Estrela Mountain) – the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal! This is an absolutely goregous drive overlooking the Douro Valley from up high. We’ll get checked in to our hotel in Manteigas, one of the main villages in the region and then enjoy dinner in town. [B,L,D]
Overnight: Hotel da Fábrica
In the morning, we’ll tour the Ecolã Factory that produces Burel – 100% wool from the sheep in the Serra da Estrela mountain range. For centuries, there was a large Portuguese wool industry, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, with many large manufacturers based here. When synthetic fabric was developed, the demand for this labor-intensive wool dwindled and most of the factories closed. Ecolã Factory, three generations of family-owned wool experts since 1925, preserves this Portuguese wool tradition of Burel production. They sell their products around the world including to the most discerning clients including the Ritz Carlton and top hotels in Dubai who want the world’s best to decorate their rooms and buildings.
In the afternoon, we’ll do some hiking in the rugged mountainous landscape of the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela with options including Route of Faias and Lagoa da Torre. We’ll have lunch packed for us, so we can eat at a scenic spot along our trek. This is Portugal’s largest protected area of countryside – more than 1,000sqm of granite-strewn meadows, rivers and waterfalls, forested slopes, terraced fields, rocky gorges, and icy lakes. The remarkable U-shaped, glacial valley was formed more than 20,000 years ago. Torre, Portugal’s highest peak (6,538 ft) is also here. Below is the Zêzere River where small shepherd huts dot the shore. We’ll maybe even come across a shepherd with his trusty mountain dogs tending to a flock of sheep. You’ll be mesmerized by the natural beauty around you! [B,L,D]
Overnight: Hotel da Fábrica
In the morning, we’ll be picked up from the hotel for our drive to Tomar (approx. 2hr 40min). When we arrive, we’ll do lunch and then head out to explore Tomar, a small charming town on the banks of the Nabão River, surrounded by forests, fields, and other rural villages. Tomar has some fascinating history – in the 13th century it was the home of the secretive and powerful religious order, Knights Templar, and as a result, one of the most influential cities in the region. We’ll make our way to the hilltop to tour the 12th century medieval Tomar Castle and Convent of Christ & Gardens, an expansive religious complex where the Knights Templar was based and considered one of Portugal’s top national monuments. You’ll learn about the beginnings of the kingdom of Portugal and the role then played by the Order of the Templars.
Free evening on your own to relax at the hotel, explore town, and enjoy dinner at one of the local restaurants. [B,L]
Overnight: Hotel dos Templários
This morning we’ll have our longest drive of the trip, because we are making our way from the north of the country to southern Portugal – very exciting! Our destination is Mertóla (approx. 3hr 40min drive), but we’ll of course have coffee/snack/stretch/bathroom breaks along the way as needed. Once we arrive, the day consists of lunch, kayaking, and walking tour of this historic and very picturesque village.
We’ll get our kayak rental from the concrete pier where it will be easy to get into our kayaks. The river is flat and calm with only a very small rapid near “Azenhas” (ancient watermills). Paddle at your leisure along the river as you take in the beautiful natural landscape around you including getting a fantastic view of the city from the water!
Mértola is a peaceful, riverside walled village in the Alentejo region near the Spanish border, strikingly located on a rocky cliff over the Guadiana River, at its confluence with the smaller Oeiras River. Mértola is unique in that the influence of its Islamic occupation has remained intact, so much so that the entire town is considered a vila museu (open-air museum)! The historic center is beautiful with its narrow, cobbled streets and jumble of bright white houses and the imposing Mértola Castle that dominates the landscape. Mértola was once one of the most important river ports in the Mediterranean.
Dinner is on your own. This a great place to just wander around (because it’s compact and so pretty & scenic) and check out one of the local restaurants. We’re staying at a small unique guesthouse (10 rooms) with common areas for the group to hang, which we just may end up having to ourselves! [B, L]
Overnight: Casa da Tia Amália Guest House
After breakfast, we’ll head to the Algarve – the southernmost region of continental Portugal! We’ll drive to Portimão (approx 1hr 40m) to meet up with our boat, as we’ll be doing a private boat tour along the famous Algarve coast! (Most visitors go on a bigger type of boat with lots of fellow passengers, which is not as enjoyable and difficult to get a photo of the scenery without someone in it!) You’ll enjoy an exclusive, super scenic boat ride to view the iconic towering rocky sea cliffs, sandy coves, and hidden caves. We’ll have a packed lunch during the boat ride. Afterwards, we’ll head back on land to do a walking tour. Later in the evening, its dinner & relax on your own.
Our boat ride includes making our way towards Benagil, between Carvoeiro Beach and Armação de Pera, a small fishing village on the South Algarve coast that has gained fame in recent years due to the amazing grotto that formed there. This cave appears in the "top destinations to see" all over the internet, and thanks to the photos shared by visitors, it has taken its place as a must visit activity.
The Algarve is the beautiful, sun-drenched southern coastline of Portugal. This famed southernmost region is known for its stunning Atlantic beaches (more than 150) and glorious climate, and has proven to be very Instagram worthy due to its impressive natural scenery. Though the area is quite developed with numerous resorts, villas, hotels, bars, marinas, and golf courses. The Algarve has repeatedly been voted “Europe’s Best Beach Destination” by the World Travel Awards, and this year’s winner is the Algarve’s scenic resort town of Carvoeiro, where we’ll be staying overnight. :) [B, L]
Overnight: Monte Santo Resort
This morning we’re off to Port Covo on the western coast of south Portugal (approx 2hr drive). This is a free day to enjoy however you’d like. Now that we are situated at a beach town, this is the ideal place to pass the time as you wish.
If the traditional Portuguese fishing village still exists, it could arguably be Porto Côvo, perched on the low cliff on the western Alentejo coast. We’ll enjoy time at this seaside village, which is much more relaxed than the Algarve. Relax on one of the many sandy beaches and coves. Explore the village with its main square and bright white-washed cottages. All roads in the old village lead to the little fishing harbor which clings to the side of a deep natural inlet. Optionally, hike part of the famous Fisherman’s Trail, a marvelous coastal walking trail along the Atlantic Ocean with spectacular scenery en route. Condé Nast Traveler magazine named the Fishermen’s Trail is among the 6 most beautiful coastal trails in the world. [B]
Overnight: Porto Covo
Today we head back to Lisbon. First, we’ll drive to Almada (approx 2hr) located on the south bank of the River Tagus (Tejo) on the opposite side of the river from Lisbon, which undoubtedly has the best view of the city! We’ll enjoy lunch with fresh local fare, and then cross the river in a traditional ferry, called "Cacilheiros." Once on the other side, we’ll begin our walking tour of the historic city center including the Chiado neighborhood. Afterwards, we’ll head to our hotel. You can walk to one of the restaurants nearby and have dinner wherever you’d like.
Lisbon is Portugal’s picturesque coastal capital – the largest city in country and the second oldest in the world – is spread across the top of seven hills and stretches along the banks of the Tagus River, providing amazing views all over the city. While sophisticated and vibrant, Lisbon preserves its cultural heritage giving it a blend of a trendy ambiance, yet historic feel with its magnificent mosaic plazas, historic cathedrals, and cobbled alleyways, balanced with modern architecture and art, world-class shopping and award-winning restaurants. We’ll explore the maritime capital to see why Lisbon was voted as the “World’s Leading City Destination” by the World Travel Awards and called the “coolest city in Europe” by CNN. [B,L]
Overnight: Hotel Açores Lisbon
This morning we’ll explore Belém, the historic waterfront neighborhood that is home to some of Lisbon's most important monuments – most notably, Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower, and the Discoveries Monument – as well as the most popular Portuguese pastry shop in the city, the Pasteis de Belém. We’ll visit all of these iconic places during a beautiful, scenic walkabout.
Jerónimos Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site and showcases Portugal's unique Manueline style – a highly ornate fusion of architectural styles from the Mudejar to the Moorish, the Gothic to the Romanesque, reflecting the cultures encountered by Lisbon’s explorers. The monastery was built during the Age of Discoveries – during the trip you will be hearing a lot about this important & influential period.
Belém Tower looks like a mini castle on the edge of the Tagus riverfront. It was originally a fort serving to protect Lisbon's port in the 16th century and was the departure point for explorers looking to travel the world during the Age of Discoveries. Today, the Manueline structure is a monument to that period and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Monument to the Discoveries, is just a short walk away, and equally stunning. The waterfront structure was built in the 1960s in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator's death. The sail-shaped statue is lined with notable Portuguese figures throughout history, including other navigators, artists and King Manuel.
In the afternoon, we’ll be off to Sintra (approx 35min drive), located off the coast of Lisbon and tucked in the mountain foothills. This gorgeous Portuguese town has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. We’ll enjoy the beautiful natural scenery, stroll through the historic village center and check out the fascinating historic buildings. We’ll have lunch in one of the many local restaurants. You’ll be in awe of our visit to Palácio da Pena, one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. With its 19th-century Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance architecture mash-up, it is one of the most unique architectural buildings in the country and quite the spectacle! Other points of interest include Castelo dos Mouros, a 8th & 9th century Moorish castle and Palácio Nacional de Sintra. We’ll end the day with a farewell dinner! [B,L,D]
Overnight: Overnight: Hotel Açores Lisbon
Today is sadly, departure day. However, you'll have a ton of amazing experiences and memories to take with you back home! Pick up at the hotel and transfer to the Lisbon International Airport, which is only a 10-15 minutes drive.
For those doing the optional 2-day extension to the Azores, transfer to the airport for your domestic flight to João Paulo II Airport on the island of São Miguel.
Itinerary as described with all entrance fees to monuments and costs for all activities including:
Duoro River - Private group boat charter
Algarve - Private group boat charter
Quinta do Panascal (Douro wine estate) - Private group tour and tasting
Caves Poças wine seller - port wine tour and tasting
5 dinners (we'll keep a mix of included group dinners & opportunities to try restaurants of your choice on your own)
11 nights accommodations (all hotels 4 star or higher)
Private ground transportation for the group (mini-van)
Private local guide accompanying the group throughout the trip and local guides as needed
Exclusive travel canteen (stainless steel water bottle) + free daily water refill
Exclusive Burel travel day bag
Exclusive travel toiletry bag with local sustainable products
Any meals or beverages not listed in Inclusions
Although we are going to Europe and to a country with the Euro as their currency (relatively expensive for Americans), we were able to keep the trip reasonably priced... even while traveling all over the country and keeping our high-quality features - minimum 4 star hotels; always private guides, driver & van; traveling sustainably, and with lots of exclusive, private activities just for our group!
Early Bird Trip Price (double occupancy): $3,874 (only $352/night)
Early Bird Booking Deadline: April 7, 2019
Regular Trip Price - starting April 8, 2020 (double occupancy): $3,974
Regular Trip Booking Deadline: May 16, 2020
Single Room Supplement: $865 (This is to have your own room without sharing/having a roommate, not for upgraded rooms.)
Deposit: 30% of trip price due at booking
Final Balance Due: July 16, 2020 (60 days before departure)
$800 (From the DC area, nonstop flight from Dulles Int'l Airport. Price varies depending on your departure airport, flight quality, etc)
$1,000 with 2-day Azores extension (From DC area, one-way nonstop from Dulles to Lisbon and one-way flight San Miguel Island-Lisbon-Washington DC)
Cancellation policy: Only 100% refundable only within two weeks of paying your deposit.
We recommend a premium Trip Insurance policy via a reputable company like TravelSafe, which can be booked easily from our website. Premium trip insurance policies include the 'cancel for any reason' benefit. These premium policies must be paid for within 10-14 days of your initial trip investment.
While a 30% deposit is due at booking, the balance can be paid over time up until the booking deadline using our self-service payment feature. You can make payments of any size at anytime by logging into your account on the Gen X Travel Club website. This is a great way to finance/budget for the cost of a trip - instead of paying a larger single lump sum payment for the balance, you can make small monthly payments over time.
The itinerary official starts on Thu, Sept 17, so you'll need to depart the U.S. on Wed, Sept 16 for an overnight flight that arrives in the morning.
You can opt to come in a day earlier if you'd like to get some additional rest and get a bit used to the time difference (Portugal is 5 hrs ahead of Washington DC - EST).
For travelers in the Washington DC / Baltimore MD area, below is the suggested flight (estimated cost $800) – nonstop flight from Dulles International Airport to Lisbon International Airport:
Another nonstop option from the U.S. is the nonstop flight from Boston Logan International Airport to Lisbon, so you'll first need to get to Boston.
Please make sure the flight you choose on arrival day, Wed, Sept 16th arrives into Lisbon no later than 11:00am on Thu, Sept 17. (The group needs to meet our guide & driver/van to begin the itinerary).
If you are doing the optional 2-day Azores extension, the suggested flight is below (appox $1,000).
Note: this option can be booked on Expedia so that you can do multi-city flights on different airlines on the same itinerary, which is better than booking separately - best to have all flights on a single ticket.
You'll get to travel all over Portugal on this trip - from the Central region to the North as well as to South coast including Alentejo and the Algarve!
Useful information to know for our Portugal trip...
-A visa is not necessary for U.S. citizens entering Portugal (for up to 90 days). Your passport should be valid for at least six months.
-English is widely-spoken particularly in the main areas like Lisbon, Portugal and the Algarve; and in restaurants etc. In smaller towns and rural area, English may be more limited - not spoken or basic conversations only.
-The official language is Portugeuse, not Spanish - though somewhat similar.
-Like the rest of the European Union, Portugal uses the Euro. (Exchange rate lately has been about 1.08 - 1.11 Euros to the USD.)
-Credit cards are accepted pretty much everywhere. Good to have some euros on hand for small purchases (e.g., coffee, soda).
-ATMs are called "multibanco."
-Don't forget about your VAT refund (23%!) on items costing more than €50 from participating shops which participate (Tax Free Shopping). Details on the ANA website: https://www.ana.pt/en/lis/services-shopping/essential-services/vat-refund
-Electrical outlets use the round 2-prong adapters (Type C & F)
-Internet & wi-fi is widely available throughout the country.
-The timezone in Portugal is Western European Time and Western European Summer Time. It is 5 hours ahead of New York, 8 hours ahead of San Francisco and the same time as London.
-At restaurants, if the waiter puts bread/olives etc on the table (as starters when you first sit down) and you eat it, they will charge you - not complimentary, like we are used to in the U.S.
-If you order coffee, just know you will get an espresso shot. No American coffee here really, only espresso based drinks.
-Tipping is not necessary, but nice to leave a little something. At restaurants, 5 to 10 percent of your bill.
-Portugal is a safe country with a low crime rate.
-It’s safe to drink the tap water in Portugal.
Basic words to know that you;ll use regularly:
Olá - Hello
Adeus - Goodbye
Sim - Yes
Não - No
Por Favor - Please
De nada - You're welcome
Obrigado (male) - Thank You
Obrigada (female) - Thank You
Bom dia - Good morning
Boa tarde - Good afternoon
Boa noite - Good night
Gail: Travel Planner / Trip Leader / DC Chapter Meetup organizer / Founder & CEO
I’ve always loved to travel. There is something exciting and even humbling about going to new and different places – there are SO many places! Taking in the unique scenery of a destination whether that’s a man-made cityscape or a nature-made landscape or waterscape. Meeting people… I’m a people person and I love meeting people & learning their stories. Its always a reminder that we’re not really so different and we’re all in this together - Team Planet Earth as it were.
And just as important, I’m a stickler for the details and excel at comprehensively pouring over all pertinent info for a trip from the destination itself, possible activities, places to stay, things to do, and the logistics that tie it all together. And dwindling it down to the best plan/itinerary. I think that’s just my normal, natural personality. Then its hammered home by being a research analyst by education & work experience. But the secret sauce is not only having the ideal skill set - passion for travel, personable people-person, and analytical & detail-oriented – but also just really enjoying ALL of it and finding it all to be a ton of fun! It’s exciting to put together awesome, super cool trips. And doing so in a non-touristy way that follows principles of sustainable and responsible travel, which is very important to us. It’s all about having only positive impacts on people and the planet.
I’ve been to just about every continent. My more recent adventures include countries such as Nepal, Morocco, Iceland, Cuba, Kenya, Tanzania, China, Philippines, UAE, Croatia, Montenegro, Nepal, Peru, France, Greece, Italy, Mexico and a number of Caribbean islands. And it never gets old. In fact, it just reminds me of the incredibly short time we have on Mother Earth and how many places there are still to explore and learn about.
Fun facts about me:
My favorite past-times include: hiking, volleyball, biking, kayaking/SUP. I’m not a hard-core adventure person. I just love being active outside… with a strong preference for doing so on warm, sunny days. Cold weather is not my thing.
My favorite travel experience: too many to pick from. My most top of mind memories tend to be of the people I’m traveling with & the people I meet - the shared experiences of enjoying some spectacularly beautiful place with them.
Travel goals: Just to continue to explore the world and find those more non-touristy, hidden gems to expose our travelers to – places & experiences they probably wouldn’t have found on their own. And to promote traveling the right way – sustainably/responsibly… with each passing year, it becomes more & more important.
My favorite song: Probably Purple Rain… and When Doves Cry -Prince
My favorite adult beverage: Moscow mule with Reyka Icelandic vodka in a copper mug. Otherwise, Prosecco and red wine (that’s not too oaky.. so no Cabs).
My favorite food: ice cream! (vanilla base, no chocolate), pizza (thin crust, veggie), tater tots. Pretty basic. But yum!
My favorite phrase: “Take the time to give a sh-t” I made that up… I tend to say to myself as I go about my day… I wish people would remember that. I think it would really make for marked, noticeable improvement in the world.
My favorite quote to live by: I have many… two of my top favorites that come to mind: “Life’s most persistent & urgent question is ‘What are you doing to help others?’” –MLK “The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” –Oprah
We always recommend trip insurance & suggest TravelSafe insurance - a reputable company with competitive pricing and great coverage options.
Here are a few reasons to get trip insurance:
● Reimbursement for cancellation penalties (which can be 100% of your investment) in the event of an unforeseeable illness, injury or death of you, your travel companion or a family member.
● Reimbursement for cancellation penalties if you are called for jury duty, your home is damaged due to fire, windstorm, flood or vandalism or military leave cancelled.
● Reimbursement for unused portion of your trip if it is interrupted.
● Medical evacuation/repatriation expenses to an appropriate medical facility or back home in the event of a serious illness or injury while traveling.
● 24-hour help line for any travel emergency, such as medical, lost tickets, lost passports, and other travel documents.
We recommend a premium Trip Insurance policy via a reputable company like TravelSafe. Premium trip insurance policies include the 'cancel for any reason' benefit. Note: The 'Cancel for Any Reason' premium policy must be purchased within two weeks of your initial trip deposit.