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Appreciate Help with Portugal Itinerary

We are planning on a 2 week Portugal trip next September (since we're using FF miles and hotel points I have to book later on this month) and would like suggestions and/or advice on the rough draft of our itinerary:

Land in Porto and spend 3 full days, including a day trip to Douro Valley

Pick up AutoEurope car as we leave Porto and either drive to Nazare and base ourselves for 3 nights, seeing Obidos, Alcobaca, Fatima and Batalha or drive to Evora (monoliths, Elvas, Arraiolos and possibly Estremoz) and spend 3 nights there.

Drive to Lisbon, dropping car off and spend at least 6 nights, including trips to Sintra and Casais (sp?) Fly home from Lisbon.

We enjoy old churches and cathedrals and castles, but don't want to O.D. on them. We also like to immerse ourselves in the culture, enjoying the architecture and going to different kinds of museums. We are not "beach" people at all, so a city and small towns/villages appeal to us.

I appreciate any info you may have to share with me,

Posted by
21 posts

Hello pochola430,
I might suggest that you reduce your time in Lisbon and spend two days in the Douro Valley after leaving Porto. I recently returned from Portugal and had the following itinerary: Lisbon (4 nights), Douro Valley (2 nights) and Porto (3 nights). (DH and I) are not beach people per se, so we did not stop in Nazare. Also, we dropped the car upon arrival in Porto, no need for a car in the city. For us, 3.5 days in Lisbon was enough. We hired a walking guide for our first full day in Lisbon and also the next day for a trip up the coast to Sintra. We rented a car and headed north to the Douro Valley, long day, but well worth the effort. Two quite days in the countryside and then on Porto. We enjoyed all three of our stops, but Porto was probably my favorite. Just my two cents! Regardless of what you decide, Portugal is wonderful and I know you will enjoy your travels.

Posted by
921 posts

You could easily fill 6 days in Lisbon IMO, but I agree with the previous poster that 3 days in Porto might not be enough. You could add one day to Porto or add an overnight in the Douro valley. I have just done a day trip to the Douro and loved it. It really depends on what you want. There aren't activities per se in the Douro but the wineries and landscape is wonderful.

Regarding your middle few days - I would suggest you really research both areas before deciding. The central portion with Alcobaça, Batalha and Coimbra are very nice. But, Nazaré would not be my choice for a base. Tomar is another lovely place in the central region.

But, the Alentejo is also very unique with wineries, cork forests and Evora. If you decide on Evora, don't miss a guided tour of the Megaliths. It was the highlight of my first trip.

Narrowing down the places to visit is always a huge challenge, but do a bit more research before you make your decision. I agree that you will enjoy your trip no matter which places you decide upon..

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you for the info and input. The reason I wasn't including a night in Douro Valley is because we live close enough to Sonoma and Napa Valleys which are lovely...have done tastings all over CA and Oregon, Montelcino and Montepulciano and were in Beilstein for a few days where we also did wine tasting and enjoyed the lovely views. I guess I keep thinking, "How different or more beautiful can Douro be?" I've seen pics of Douro Valley and it reminds me very much of Beilstein area.

I am leaning more towards basing ourselves in Evora and skip Nazare. In Evora we could visit Elvas, Arraiolos and possibly Estremoz and then continue to Lisbon and drop the car off there.

Posted by
180 posts

The Douro Valley is absolutely amazing, the prettiest scenery I've ever seen. I'd definitely suggest staying longer in the Douro Valley. Our tour stayed in Pinhao at the Vintage House Hotel. It was fantastic. I would skip Evora and add the night in Pinhao.

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you for your input everyone.

My Honey has decided that he doesn't want to rent a car on this trip, so our itinerary now looks like this:

2 days in Porto

1 day in Douro (researched tons of companies who do the river cruise down to Pinhao and wondered if any of you did the day trip with a particular guide or company?) How long were you on the boat going to Pinhao? I'm assuming you took the train back to Porto.

1 day in Guimaraes

Train to Sintra from Porto

2 days in Sintra and onto Lisbon

3 full days in Lisbon

1 day in Belem

1 day in Obidos

The reason we're going to Sintra from Porto is because we'll be using Starwood points for the hotel in Lisbon and if we redeem 5 nights, we get the 6th night for free and the nights cannot be broken up.

Any more advice or suggestions?

Posted by
1878 posts

I did the original itinerary that you posted, more or less, with my wife in 2008. I think Portugal is a country where it's good to have a car, as much as I prefer to to not rent a car if I can avoid it. Nazarene and Obidos were highlights for us, and especially SIntra (definitely stay there a couple of nights). Lisbon is good for five nights (four full days). We stopped in Tomar for a night too and the monastery/castle there is really cool. Also, Marvao was awesome as a stop en route from Tomar to Evora. It was out of our way but so worth it. I am sure you will do fine with your revised no-car itinerary.

Posted by
110 posts

Given your stated interests, I suggest that you look into small museums in the Lisbon area. Although not well promoted, Lisbon has a large number of small, high quality museums (more than 90). Most of these collections can be seen in an hour or less. Your guide book will list about 10 museums, and I recommend that your do an internet search to find the others.
Your itinerary looks OK, but as others have mentioned, you will probably find that you could spend much more time in Lisbon. If you are looking for cultural encounters, you will probably do better to stay longer in one place than to keep moving every day or two.

Posted by
45 posts

I agree with the last poster about paring down the number of cities if you want to soak in the culture.

There's nothing wrong with visiting lots of sights in various cities. I do that on some trips as well. But I try to make a distinction when I'm planning my itinerary. Am I there to see the sights? Or am I there to soak in the culture? If the latter, I prefer to pick one idyllic spot after my big city visit and spend 2-3 days exploring little towns, getting lost, and talking to the locals.

Posted by
80 posts

Hello @pochola430,

As a Portuguese, I agree with all these places... However, not renting a car will limit you a little bit :( On the other hand trains in Portugal reach almost every important places.
Guimarães is a great place to start since it was here that it all began to the Portuguese in the middle of the 12th century. You can visit the castle (not one of my favourite but with a huge historic importance), the Royal Palace (Paço dos Duques) and more;
Porto area is where I live and it's a great place to stay. You can easily explore its historic centre on foot or taking public transportation. Make sure you visit the riverside, the cathedral, São Bento train station and cross Luis I bridge :)
Douro Valley is another great place with beautiful landscape and some wonderful viewpoints... If you already know this sort of landscape, maybe you should consider spending this day on another location...
Sintra is IMO one of the most beautiful places in Portugal and I believe two days are the best to get to know all of the most important places and admire the cultural landscape (listed by UNESCO as WOrld Heritage) - go to Quinta da Regaleira, Pena National Palace, Sintra National Palace, Monserrate Park and Palace and other places... You'll have the chance to buy combined tickets to some of these places in order to save some money;
I agree with some of the other comments, and if you like castles and old churches, then you should go Tomar and admire its beautiful and small historic and the amazing castle and Convent of Christ, built by the Knights Templar centuries ago (also UNESCO World Heritage) - definitely one of my favourite monuments in Portugal. This town is not as touristy as many of the other places in your list...
Lisbon is obviously another great location with lots of monuments and museums to visit apart from some historic quarters where you should spend some time as well.
The list could go on by mentioning places like Braga, Coimbra, Évora and others...
Enjoy your stay in Portugal!