Take a walk through the idyllic coastal city of Porto and understand why the birthplace of fortified wine is renowned for its narrow lanes, charming buildings and delicious cuisine.. Explore the country’s oldest university when discovering the historic riverfront city of Coimbra – once the capital of Portugal.. Walk through the secluded Schist Villages, hidden between the mountain slopes, and consider the option of an authentic cooking class run by local residents.. Admire beautiful green pastures as you drive along roads bordered with flowers on your excursion to Capelinhos volcano.
Take in the different sides of Portugal and its sun-kissed splendour on a 14-day exploration of the highlights and some lesser-known outposts. Taste port in its birthplace, explore riverfront Coimbra and its historic university, and weave through the verdant countryside all the way to the capital, Lisbon. Venture far into the Atlantic to see the rolling blue hydrangeas of Faial, the steep cliffs of Sao Jorge and the black volcanic soil under the vineyards of Pico in the Azores, offering a delightful insight into both island and Portuguese living. Discover some new sides to ancient Portugal on this diverse adventure.
Welcome to Portugal! Stretching along the banks of the River Douro, Porto is one of Portugal's most romantic cities. Known for majestic bridges, medieval riverside district with its cobbled streets, merchants’ houses and cafes, Porto is also well known for one more thing; surprise surprise – Porto is the birthplace of the fortified wine, port. Today, there’s an important welcome meeting at 6 pm where you’ll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. After your meeting, why not get the crew together and head out to an optional dinner – your group leader will know of some great spots to go.
Take a leader-led orientation walk with your group this morning to get your bearings. Otherwise, the day is free to do as you please. The city's World Heritage-listed Ribeira district is packed with twisting alleys, staircases, and baroque churches, and is great to explore on foot. Sao Francisco church is known for its lavish interior with ornate gilded carvings. The palatial 19th-century Palacio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors. For a sensational view of the whole town head to the Torre dos Clerigos (Clerigos Tower), or head down Allies Avenue to see the French-inspired buildings. Late afternoon, meet your leader and the rest of the group again to test out Portugal’s famed wine on included port tasting. Oh, and in the evening, why not book yourself in to a Rio Duoro cruise to see the city from the water.
Porto / Coimbra
Today is free for you to explore Porto at your own pace. As you’ll be traveling over to Coimbra in the late afternoon or early evening, there will be a place to store your luggage for the day. If you’d like, you could head out of the city into the Duoro Valley, where the river weaves around hilly landscapes and past vineyards and small villages. There are a number of ways to discover the valley, including by boat or train, but make sure to check in with your leader to organise a trip that gets you back in time for the train to Coimbra. With a late arrival at your hotel, have a relaxing night in Coimbra.
Enjoy an easy day in Coimbra at your leisure. Sitting dignified on the banks of the River Mondego, Coimbra was once the capital of the county, and its royal heritage can be felt in its historic streets and buildings. Join your group leader on a wander through the lanes and squares of the Old Quarter and be sure to pass by the University of Coimbra – the oldest in Portugal. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy as you please before meeting with your group again for an evening Fado show.
Travel to the so-called Schist Villages, an amazing part of Portugal, yet a well kept secret, with friendly locals eager to welcome you to their villages. The area consist of 26 villages nestled between the hills and riverbanks, seamlessly merging into the surroundings due to the stone used to build them, schist, a metamorphic rock. Once arrived, enjoy a beautiful walk in the hills surrounding the village you will be staying at. In the afternoon, consider joining a traditional cooking class and dinner. It will take place in one of the villages and is a perfect way to discover the local cuisine. Prepare a full meal using products grown locally, and you’ll get shown the ropes by local people. After the class, take a seat, have a glass of wine and enjoy the fruits of your own labour.
Travel back to Coimbra in a private vehicle and from there transfer to Lisbon by train. After a brief orientation walk, you are free for the afternoon. Much of Lisbon’s character and charm lies in its beautiful renovated buildings, grand boulevards, impressive castles and churches. Maybe visit one of the most symbolic buildings in the city, Lisbon Cathedral, which was built on the site of an old mosque in 1150 by Lisbon’s first bishop, Gilbert of Hastings. Inside are nine chapels, each with their own story to tell, and the wonderful Gothic cloister. Another option is to visit the medieval citadel of Sao Jorge Castle. The citadel dates back to Moorish times and sits on the highest point of the Old Town. Although much of the original castle has been destroyed throughout history, some sections of walls and 18 different towers remain today. Look down on a city swarming with endless angular white houses and buildings with distinct red terracotta rooftops.
Make some further discoveries of Lisbon in the morning at your own pace. Roam through the charming narrow streets of local neighbourhoods do a spot of people watching, visit Belem Tower (a wonderful building originally designed as a lighthouse) and the vast, spectacular Monastery of the Jeronimos. Otherwise, head out for a day trip to Sintra – a royal sanctuary full of pastel coloured Romanticist buildings. In the evening, regroup and experience more of Portugal’s way of life by enjoying a sunset walk with your group and a wine and cheese picnic. Afterwards, perhaps head out and grab yourself some dinner with your newfound friends.
Sao Miguel Island / Ponta Delgada
At some stage today you’ll board a flight from Lisbon Portela Airport to the Azores, arriving in Ponta Delgada on San Miguel Island (flight time approximately 2.5 hours). Sao Miguel Island is treasured as the vibrant garden of the Atlantic thanks to its lush surrounds – hopefully you get a glimpse of this through the plane windows on the way in! Please note that today will be without a leader, and you will be on this flight by yourself or with other travellers who have booked the combination trip. Once arrived, you will be transferred to your accommodation and meet your group for the next stage of your Portuguese adventure at a group meeting tonight at 6pm.
Sao Miguel Island / Ponta Delgada
San Miguel is home to some stunning scenery and by the end of the day, this should be more than obvious. Take a day trip to the central parts of the island, wandering over lagoons and volcanoes in this stunning green landscape. Take a visit to Arruda’s Pineapple Plantation located at Faja de Baixo. These glass greenhouses often take two years to grow the delicious fruit within, and there might be an opportunity to snack on some during the visit. Next, travel past three black beaches along the south coast before arriving at the city of Lagoa for a pottery demonstration. Depart for the other side of the mountain and the Fogo Volcano, enjoying spectacular views of the west-facing landscape. Stand in awe at the top of Pico da Barossa as you look down at Fogo’s caldera, home to a lake of the same name. After romping through a few more calderas and volcanic landscapes, stop at picturesque Ribera Grande for lunch (optional). Head back to Ponta Delgada in the afternoon. Try some Azorean cuisine in the evening, looking out for cozido if you can get it. This is a stew consisting of pork, beef, chicken, sausage and vegetables, and is typically cooked underground by volcanic steam – you'll lava it.
Sao Jorge Island / Velas
Fly into Sao Jorge Island (approximately 1 hour), one of the most scenic islands in the Azores thanks to its steep cliffs and narrow landmass. Enjoy a free day exploring the island. There’s plenty to do, and Sao Jorge is home to some of the best walks in all the Azores, taking you for views off abrupt cliffs, steep descents and, of course, the glistening sea. If you’d rather kick your feet up, simply soak in the sun in Velas, the island’s capital. Take time to visit one of the many local bars, try your hand at birdwatching or sample some of the region’s famous (and strong) cheddar.
Sao Jorge Island / Velas
Make the most of a second day on Sao Jorge Island with a guided hike along the Pico do Pedro trail, an intermediate-level, 17-kilometre walk along the island’s stunning mountain range. Begin at the foot of Pico do Pedro and pass by Pico da Esperanca,the highest point on the island, then wander the outskirts of the underlying crater and enjoy spectacular views of the lake below. You’ll then pass by Pico Areiro, Pico Pinheiro and a series of woods and roads before arriving at Faja do Ouvidor’s lava formed landscape. Don’t worry too much about food on the trip, as a picnic will be provided along the way.
Faial Island / Horta
Today you'll travel to Faial Island by ferry (approximately 2.5 hours), sometimes referred to as Ilha Azul (Blue Island). Raul Brandao, the Portugese poet, famously made note of the iconic blue hydrangeas that bloom on Faial during the summer months, quipping 'the man that had the idea to border the road with these plants should have a statute on the island.' Visit the island's resident volcano, Capelinhos, or rather the volcano centre as the climb up is not considered safe. Capelinhos last erupted in 1957 and changed the island permanently, adding an extra kilometre of land mass and blanketing the surrounding area in five metres of volcanic ash. The rest of the day is free to explore the local port town, Horta, and discover its long maritime history.