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.. Uncover the wonders of Sao Miguel on a day tour of the island, from plantations of tea and pineapples to an active volcano and some truly memorable viewpoints.
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. Make sure you also visit Mercado do Bolhao, Porto's market, one of the city's institutions since 1914. 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 an included port tasting. Oh, and in the evening, why not book yourself on a Rio Duoro cruise on one of the historic 'rabelo' boats to see the city from the water.
Porto / Coimbra
The morning 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 country, 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. Coimbra's version of the fado is linked to the academic traditions of its university and musicians wear the traditional academic outfit: dark robes and capes. The music is characterized by sombre tunes and lyrics, often about the life of the poor, and inspired by mourning and melancholia.
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. The villages experienced abandonment during the 20th century, as people left to look for better life opportunities in the cities. Thanks to a government project aimed at boosting the local economy through sustainable tourism they are experiencing a renaissance. 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.
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
Sao Miguel is home to some stunning scenery and by the end of the day, this should be more than obvious. 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. You’ll then skim along the south coast of the island towards Furnas. Marvel at the volcanic activity of the Furnas volcano and visit the great lagoon, then sit down to a truly unforgettable experience. Your lunch today is ‘Cozido das Furnas’ – a delicious stew cooked underground by the steam from the volcano – you’ll lava it! After lunch you’ll have the option to take a relaxing dip in a geothermal hot pool, then it’s time to hit the road again and travel to the fabulous Pico do Ferro viewpoint. Stop in at a local tea plantation for a tour and to sample some of the only tea grown in Europe – the only tea plantations on the continent are found in Sao Miguel! Finally, pay a visit to Miradouro de Santa Iria where you’ll soak in sweeping views of the north coast of the island.
Sao Jorge Island / Velas
The morning is yours to discover more of the magic of Sao Miguel. You may like to pay a visit to Lagoa das Sete Cidades, an emerald green lake in a volcanic caldera that would look right at home on another planet. If you’d like to learn about Azorean natural history then the Museu Carlos Machado is the place for you, and the building it sits in, a 16th-century convent, is as much of an attraction as the museum itself. This afternoon, board a flight bound for Sao Jorge Island (approximately 1 hour), one of the most scenic islands in the Azores thanks to its steep cliffs and narrow landmass. In the evening you may like to get to know Velas, the island’s capital, by visiting one of the many local bars or sampling some of the region’s famous (and strong) cheddar.
Sao Jorge Island / Velas
Start the day with a visit to a local bakery to pick up a tasty snack, or if the days line up, you may instead go to the local market. Then it’s time to discover the island’s beauty on foot during a hike to the spectacular Caldeira do Santo Cristo. Begin your walk at Serra do Topo and climb a wide trail upwards. You’ll have the option to detour to a beautiful waterfall, then continue along a cobbled path towards Fajã da Caldeira do Santo Cristo. The views you’ll come upon on this walk are simply unforgettable – each one more breathtaking than the last. Follow the trail to the natural debris field of Fajã dos Cubres and explore the lagoon while your leader fills you in on the flora and fauna of the region. Stop off at a scenic spot along the trail to appreciate the views and enjoy a picnic lunch. Return to Velas after your hike for an evening at leisure.
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.