Vibrant cities, majestic UNESCO palaces and cathedrals, fortified medieval towns, cobblestone streets, the stunning Douro estuary, wild seascapes, sweeping hillsides covered in olive trees and fragrant pines are just some of the pleasures of Portugal. Highlights include Lisbon’s architectural wonders, and Sintra, a scenic city perched on a spectacular hillside, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic coast. Visit the Royal Palace, Coimbra’s ancient university and the walled city of Obidos. Discover the “Portuguese Riviera,” and experience Fatima, where three children saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, making it one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. Unveil the city of Porto located on the Douro, “the river of gold,” and go shopping on its tangled lanes or relax in a cozy café in this undiscovered valley.
Day 1 - Depart for Lisbon, Portugal
Arrive at JFK International Airport and check in for your overnight flight to Lisbon. Legend claims that Lisbon’s name has derived either from Allis Ubbo, meaning “safe harbor” in Phoenician, or from the pre-Roman name of the River Tagus, Lisso. It ranks as the world’s tenth oldest city that traces its roots back to the Phoenician Civilization, which settled it more than three millennia ago making this destination culturally and historically fascinating.
Day 2 - Arrive Lisbon
We arrive in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, and transfer to our hotel to check-in. After settling in, we get together for a welcome cocktail and meet and greet. The Portuguese people are known to be warm and welcoming and, you will experience this first-hand at dinner tonight in a local restaurant. Being the 9th most -friendly nation in the world, you will feel at home straight away.
Day 3 - Lisbon
After a lovely breakfast at our hotel, we set out to discover Lisbon’s highlights, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, on a half-day walking tour of this captivating city. Your guide will take you through the city’s historic downtown district, stopping at numerous monuments and sites along the way such as the modern Monument to the Discoveries, and its 16th-century counterpart, the Belem Tower. Next visit the Church of the Monastery of Jeronimos, one of the most magnificent in Europe, that contains the tomb of Vasco da Gama.
Another stop is to the impressive Terreiro do Paco Square, for breathtaking views of the Atlantic. While exploring the charming neighborhood of Baixa, with its cobblestone streets, you’ll have the chance to taste the country’s famous Pastel de Nata, a traditional custard pastry sprinkled with cinnamon. If you haven’t had one before, you may very well become addicted to these custard treats. After getting your sugar fix, we continue to three of the area’s most famous squares, Rossio, one of Portugal’s main squares since the Middle Ages. Known for its wave-patterned paving that is embellished by two Baroque fountains and the National Theatre, Figueira, Lisbon’s main market where you will find authentic goods as well as varied Portuguese food and drinks, and Comércio, with its iconic equestrian statue of King Jose I. You’ll find many more monuments, shops, and attractions in these squares as well as throughout the Chiado neighborhood.
Day 4 - Sintra & Roca Cape
Today you will enjoy a day trip to one of the country’s most beautiful destinations, Sintra located in the cooling hills of Serra de Sintra. Hidden in the pine-covered hills are whimsical palaces, beautiful villas, and even the ruins of a Moorish castle. Our journey begins in the old center of Sintra with its colorful buildings and winding, cobblestone streets. Wander through its tangled lanes, marvel at beautiful mansions and townhouses - some of them contain museums, take a peek inside a church, and enjoy the intriguing shops and cafes.
After exploring the town of Sintra, you will continue on your tour to the world-famous, Palacio Nacional da Pena Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a perfect example of 19th Romanticism. Pena Palace, built for Ferdinand of Sax-Coburg-Goth in 1839, is an amazing mix of vividly painted terraces, yellow towers, and decorative battlements painted in red and white. The palace is perched on a hill and nestled in the Pena lush green forest that surrounds it. Pena Palace is one of the most beautiful in Europe, which is as yet, often overlooked.
Our next stop is the Disney-like Pena National Palace and Park. The Pena National Park Palace has a fairytale setting replete with conical towers and a mish-mash of halls and ballrooms, where royalty lived off and on from the 1400s to the 1700s, with each successive occupant adding a bit of their own flourish.
Leaving Sintra we will take the most scenic route back to Lisbon along the beautiful Tagus River, the longest in the Iberian Peninsula, that empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Another highlight of this tour is when we stop at the westernmost point of mainland Europe, at the impressive Cabo da Roca (Roca Cape). On one side you’ll see dramatic, rocky cliffs, and on the other, the area of Cascais which is known as the “Portuguese Riviera.”
Day 5 - Obidos - Coimbra - Fátima
This morning after breakfast, we say goodbye to Lisbon and drive north through olive groves and wheat fields, past hills of gold to Obidos, a fortified town wrapped in a ribbon of imposing medieval walls. Inside the city walls, you will feel as though you have stepped back in time as you explore its cobblestone streets and narrow lanes teeming with whitewashed homes accented with bold stripes of yellow and blue embellished with bright red geraniums and peppered with bougainvillea. Other highlights include a stroll along the medieval walls for good views of the town and, a visit to the stone-walled medieval castle that is now an upscale hotel. Obidos is a UNESCO Creative City of Literature, a rare honor, that acknowledges the city’s number of books - there are more than half a million for a mere 3,000 residents.
Monastery of the Dominicans of Batalha - Our next stop is at the UNESCO World Heritage Monastery of the Dominicans of Batalha, which was built in 1385 to celebrate the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians. Highlights of this Gothic structure influenced by Manueline Baroque art include the lacework of stone of the arcades, the openwork decor of the Royal Cloisters, and the impressive two-story nave of the abbatial.
We arrive for Lunch in Fátima, the famous city where three children saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary, making this city one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Catholics. No matter what your religious views are, a visit to the extraordinary sanctuary complex is impressive. After lunch, you have free time to visit the Sanctuary of Fatima. Inside the shrine, visit the Chapel of Apparitions that marks the exact spot of the holm oak tree where the apparitions began, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Prayer Ground, and the Basilica of the Holy Trinity. The Valinhos Sanctuary traces the route the three shepherds took to the site of the apparitions at Cova da Iria. There is a shaded paved path with 14 stations of the cross.
Our final destination of the day is Coimbra, a city that was once the capital of Portugal in medieval times. One of the most striking attributes of Coimbra is its ancient Roman aqueduct that winds around the ancient city walls. After settling into your accommodations, take a late afternoon stroll to explore the labyrinthine streets of the old town area that is awash with gorgeous buildings dating from the 12th to the 18th century. A highlight is the University of Coimbra, established in 1290. This Baroque masterpiece is said to be one of the oldest universities in the world in continuous operation. It has a superb library replete with lavish interiors of Baroque gilt that houses more than 300,000 books.
Day 6 - Coimbra - Porto
The morning is at leisure to continue exploring Coimbra. If you haven’t visited the University of Coimbra, be sure not to miss this designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. For shoppers hit Rua Ferreira Borges, the main shopping area near the Old Cathedral, or look for Largo Da Portagem a square facing the Santa Clara Bridge where you will find many shops and cafes set amid beautiful Baroque buildings. Another hot spot is Praca do Comercio, a square famous for traditional crafts and much more. Don’t miss a photo op at the Arch of Almedina, one of the most visited attractions in the old city because it is the remnant of the defensive wall that once surrounded the city.
After lunch in Coimbra (included), we’ll start our journey to the beautiful port city of Porto. After settling into your accommodation you may want to venture out to enjoy your first glimpse of this beautiful city. Dinner at a local Portuguese restaurant.
Day 7 - Porto
Set on the Douro estuary and once a Roman settlement, this city’s wealth derived from its knowledge of sea routes to India. Today, it is the second-largest city in Portugal and is considered to be the “capital city of food” because of its large variety of seafood restaurants lining the Douro River.
After breakfast, it is time to explore bustling Porto! You’ll enjoy a guided walking tour of all the highlights this city has to offer. Our walk begins in Porto’s historic center where you will learn the history of the city and its main attractions. Our tour begins at the Cathedral of Porto, a 12-century church renowned for having Prince Henry the Navigator baptized here in the 14th century. Walking to the Praca da Ribeira Square, you will see impressive views of traditional tiled townhouses, the River, the bridges, the tangled lanes of the medieval quarter, and the wine cellars on the waterfront. Our tour works its way past many highlights to the unique Douro riverbanks. A highlight of this walk is eating like a local. The tour guide will take you for a very special lunch (petiscos-tapas) at three small, local restaurants to try some of the city’s favorite delicacies. Since 1966, all of historic Porto has been considered a World Heritage Site. As you stroll its winding lanes past amazing Baroque architecture, beautiful squares, monuments, churches, and fountains, it is easy to understand why so many people have been drawn to this intriguing city.
We return to the hotel and after a little rest and relaxation. After you freshen up, we will set off on another tour, one that promises to be the highlight of the day! No visit to Porto is complete without seeing one of the city’s famous wine lodges. You’ll enjoy one of the most iconic experiences in Porto: a guided tour and tasting at an exquisite port wine cellar. Here you will learn about the fascinating history of port wine production and get the chance to sample this wonderful drink that is made exclusively in this area of Portugal.
Day 8 - Douro River Valley
After breakfast, we depart on a full-day tour to the scenic Douro Valley Wine Region - the sinuous “river of gold.” The undulating landscape with its intricate vine-clad terraced valleys and bucolic villages seem lost in time. On our excursion, as we head away from the coastline, you will see the landscape change from the lush green of the Atlantic to sun-kissed golds and oranges of Portugal’s drier Mediterranean climate. This unique wine-producing area is one of the most undiscovered in all of Europe and is known for its demarcated wine, which was first developed here. Highlights of the tour include Galafura, where you’ll visit the São Leonardo de Galafura viewpoint. This is the highest point of the entire Douro Valley. On a clear day, you can see up to 40 miles in all directions. Here you’ll find amazing views of the Douro River Valley and the Marão Mountains.
Continuing on, we will stop for lunch (included) in this scenic area at an authentic country restaurant where we can sit back and take in the beauty of nature in this isolated valley. After lunch, enjoy a one-hour cruise along the Douro River, where you will see the magnificent landscape of the valley and its large, rolling hills from a different vantage point on the “river of gold.”
We will end the day with a wine tasting at a wine estate in the area, then return to Porto in time to settle into our hotel and enjoy the city for one final night. This evening, we will get together for a farewell dinner in a traditional restaurant (wine included) and share our memories of the pleasures of Portugal.
Day 9 - Depart Porto
It’s time to say goodbye to beautiful Portugal! Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and free time until we transfer to the Porto Airport.