This fast-paced trip crams in so much in just eight days. In the traditional Explore mould we use a host of forms of transport such as jumping on a ferry for a fish meal on the docks in Lisbon. You'll see the highlights, but also places not normally included by travel companies. We do most of our exploration on foot, including walking up through the gardens in Sintra to see the Moorish Castle and Palacio de Pena and exploring the backstreets of Coimbra. We'll even try Ginjinha - a local sour cherry liqueur.
Lisbon and Tejo Estuary - Explore by ferry, metro and on foot and try the local produced Ginjinha brew
Sintra - Train into the mountains and wander up to the colourful Pena Palace
Coimbra - Discover the medieval capital of Portugal
Porto - Visit a port lodge and explore the old town on foot
Douro Valley - Visit Lamego among the picturesque hillside vineyards and wine tasting in Peso da Regua
Why Book this Tour
On this trip, we get an introduction to Portugal in just 8 days. From the centuries of history and trams in Lisbon to the rolling Mediterranean hills and landscapes, traditional music to wine tastings, this varied and fast paced trip has much to offer.
- Douro Valley
- Jeronimos Monastery
- Palacio da Bolsa
- Small Group
Day 1: Join trip in Lisbon; evening orientation walk
Arriving in Lisbon, we settle into our hotel and after an initial briefing with our Explore Leader, there will be the opportunity to head out for a short walk to get our measure of this remarkable place, boasting over twenty centuries of history - indeed, legend states that it was founded by Ulysses himself! Resting on seven hills overlooking the estuary of the River Tejo, Lisbon has gazed down upon centuries of change - the Phoenicians and Romans both inhabited the city, but it did not become the capital of Portugal until its conquest from the Moors in 1147. It was the hub of global trade and the heart of the maritime 'age of discovery' - boats from every nation would dock here, and riches from trade and exploration worldwide would pass by the city's harbours. Indeed, Lisbon was described as the eighth wonder of the world. Today Lisbon has all the looks of an elegant and carefully planned 18th century city.
Day 2: Day trip to Sintra by train
Today we take a metro to Lisbon's Rossio Station for the short train ride to the hills and palaces of Sintra - inspiration to poets, artists and travellers alike. Lord Byron claimed the village of Sintra 'perhaps in every aspect the most delightful in Europe; it contains beauties of every description… palaces and gardens rising in the midst of rocks, cataracts and precipices; convents on stupendous heights, a distant view of the sea and the Tagus'. The air is noticeably cooler and the views dramatic. We walk for two hours between the ornate palaces and marvellous manor houses that sit amongst the lush and ornate vegetation in this stunning setting. We'll visit King Ferdinand II's very creative and colourful Pena Palace and have time for a picnic lunch in the gardens before we return to Lisbon in the late afternoon.
Day 3: Explore Lisbon on foot; ferry to Cacilhas for lunch and chance to hear 'Fado' this evening
Our morning walking tour takes us through the different bairros (districts) of the town, and those we are unable to visit can be explored later during our free time this afternoon. Old trams negotiate the undulations of Lisbon's cobbled streets, and the varied and interesting buildings throughout the city never fail to impress, both architecturally or for the history they contain. We walk up Alfama Hill where there is time to nip into local neighbourhood shops for a snack. In the course of the day your Explore Leader will also find a place to try Ginjinha, a very local liqueur made from sour cherries, which is an acquired taste. We then jump on a local ferry across the Tejo River to Casilhas which has a working port feel and excellent views back across to Lisbon proper. Here we include a traditional slow paced fish lunch (vegetarian options are available) near the docks before returning to the city at around 14.00.
The rest of the afternoon is free to explore, particular highlights are the churches and Se de Lisboa Cathedral, as well as the galleries and museums which offer insights into the art, history and society of Portugal. The Baixa District is well worth a visit and is linked to the equally interesting Bairro Alto by a 32 metre wrought iron lift named Elevador de Santa Justa. Tram 15 along the waterfront takes you to Belem where you'll find the Discoveries Monument - remember that Lisbon was the centre of the age of discovery, and the starting point for many early explorers' great voyages around the world including Vasco de Gama. You may also choose to visit the 500 year old Jeronimos Monastery and the Tower of Belem, whilst here.
This evening you'll have the opportunity to experience a live performance of 'Fado' music. Stemming from the word 'fate', the music of Fado can be deeply personal in its expression. Said to have been born from the songs of African slaves, the sentiments behind this soulful music are deeply linked to the heritage and hearts of the people, and as such is quintessentially Portuguese. Enjoying this performance after dinner (at around 22.30) we come a little closer to feeling a sense of 'saudade', a sentiment of nostalgia which, it is said, that only the Portuguese truly understand.
Day 4: Visit Alcobaca and Batalha Monastery; arrive in Coimbra
Late this morning we leave Lisbon and drive to Alcobaca, a gem of a small Medieval town in the centre of the country featuring one of Iberia's great monasteries. Hiding behind the imposing Baroque facade is an austere monastery with a forest of unadorned 12th century arches. But make sure you visit the rest too: the atmospheric refectory, vast dormitory and other spaces bring back the Cistercian life, which, according to sources, wasn't quite as austere here as it should have been. After some free time for strolling around we continue to Batalha. We take time to see its splendid Gothic monastery, Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitoria, built to commemorate the Battle of Aljubarrota, which was fought just south of here. The construction of the monastery was never fully completed and we'll see the unfinished chapels. In the evening we reach the old university town of Coimbra.
Day 5: Walk in Coimbra and wine tasting in the Douro Valley
Coimbra was once the medieval capital of Portugal and sits on a hillside rising from the River Mondeg. Although it has a beautiful historic centre it also has one foot firmly planted in the present. It has an attractive modern riverside park and is home to a large university. Our Explore Leader will take us through the backstreets of this unsung town. Time permitting; the old university area is worth a visit with a startling collection of centuries old buildings and its famous old library.
Later this morning we will drive into the Douro Valley to Lamego. This picturesque Baroque city is nestled among the terraces of the wine growing region of the Douro Valley. After free time here for lunch we will continue to Peso da Regua for an included wine tasting at a local wine estate.
We arrive into Porto this evening in time to have dinner.
Day 6: Walk of Porto and enjoy a port tasting; free afternoon
This morning our Explore Leader will take us on a walk of Porto. We'll stroll down the cobbled streets to Cais da Ribeira - undoubtedly the most picturesque spot. This characterful quayside is dominated by the tall outline of the two tiered Dom Luis I Bridge, built in 1886 by an assistant of Gustave Eiffel. Here, ancient houses with laundry-draped balconies stand high above the waterfront looking out over the river, where several old boats lie moored at the water's edge. Despite the decline in the use of this harbour, with its fish market and restaurants, it continues to have character and bustle reminiscent of its lively past. Following our tour we include a visit to a port lodge. The history and processes involved in making these white, ruby and tawny delicacies are most interesting, and we'll get to enjoy a port tasting.
The rest of the day is then free to further explore the city that has a surprise around every corner - churches clad in finely illustrated blue and white 'azulejo' tiles; bustling food markets selling everything from fruit and vegetables, to 'bacalhau' (traditional salted cod), fresh chickens' feet and tripe; and peaceful squares with small friendly coffee bars hidden away, where you could sit back and watch the world go by.
This evening there's the opportunity for you to dine in a locals home and try a traditional home-cooked meal using produce from the area.
Day 7: Free day in Porto
Today is free for you to further discover Porto. There are a number of fascinating buildings to visit whilst walking in the heart of the city. You may choose to climb the tower of the 18th century Baroque Igreja dos Clerigos, which affords superb views across the city or see the Palacio da Bolsa - built to house Porto's stock exchange. The interior design is outstanding - particularly the building's Arabian room, inspired by Granada's Alhambra Palace. You may consider venturing further afield and taking the train or a local bus the short distance to the attractive towns of Guimaraes or Braga.
Day 8: Trip ends in Porto
Our trip ends at our hotel in Porto after breakfast.
Touring with Explore
Explore have been creating award-winning adventures for over 35 years and are experts when it comes to unique travel experiences.
Their small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981 and today, Explore are one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 600 trips to more than 130 countries. At Explore, they are passionate about travel and have developed a wide range of unique activities and experiences which gives their customers an unforgettable adventure with a team of award-winning Explore leaders .
With Explore, you'll get to see your destination from a whole new perspective that takes you away from the typical well-trodden tourist track. You'll have the chance to meet, dine and stay with local people, rest in authentic accommodation with other like-minded explorers and travel to must-see destinations with a unique Explore twist.
From family trips to holidays for solo travellers; cycling tours to wildlife safaris; trekking on mountains or exploring miles of scenic coastline; self-guided holidays or small group trips; there is something for every kind of traveller with Explore. They will provide their expert knowledge, exciting itineraries and outstanding service as part of their sustainable travel experiences which take you under the skin of the country you're visiting for the adventure of a lifetime.