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December - Jan Trip

We are trying to plan a trip to Portugal leaving December 23 from Chicago and returning Jan 4. I enjoy driving overseas and we will rent a care if needed. I tend to over plan and always try to see too much, but when we are fleeing Wisconsin at the beginning of six months of winter; I get a little over zealous.

I really wanted to try learning to surf at a surf camp but my wife is not thrilled about rental wetsuits for Christmas, and I don't think there is a surf camp for beginners with daily easy access via public transportation to Lisbon or towns with cultural sights. But If I am wrong about that, please please advise. (That would be my ideal vacation)

So if there is not a perfect surf town, second choice would bean itinerary that offered at least a chance at some sun, some culture, and something new. Several years ago we visited Toledo, Cordoba, Seville and a few hill towns of Andalusia - I thought it was great, others on the trip objected to the pace/distances, but everyone loved Seville and Arco de Frontera. Cramming in Toledo and Cadiz and flying out of Madrid lead to some whining. I have been accused of packing in one extra side trip too far on several more recent European Christmas vacations.

So looking for: a slightly less shorter car rides; hopefully better food, at least one day of some Roman history and non Baroque architecture. Based on reading to date, some likely itineraries might be:

1) Lisbon, Evora, Coimbra, and out through Sintra
2) Lisbon and Evora then a little north into the hill towns of Beiaras and return to Sintra and out
3) Lisbon and down south into the into the Alentego or Algarve, and then back out through Evora
4) Lisbon, Obidos, Alcobaca, Coimbra and back to Sintra and out

In the spirit of full disclosure, you would make my wife immensely happy if we went to just Lisbon and either Evora or Coimbra, and then out through Sintra. So given the time of year - my willingness to drive every three days for a couple of hours, balanced by my wife's need to actually enjoy the trip and get some sun - your suggestions for a great trip?

NW, NE, E, or SW Portugal trip? and based on your direction - your top 3 "must sees" in your favorite direction?

Posted by
3488 posts

I fear that you maybe being optimistic about the amount of sun that you are likely to have in December! It’s as likely to be raining than sunshine. Daytime temperatures are around 15- 17 degrees and it will be cold at night.

The sea is cold even in summer here and would feel glacial in the winter. Many of the surf schools don’t operate in winter.

Is that 10 or 11 nights in Portugal? Easier to think of nights there rather than how long you will be away from home. Lisbon is worth 4-5 full days of your time. Given the time of year, don’t head to the Algarve, which is a half or more days drive in each direction. If you don’t want too much driving, take a loop encompassing Evora, and a selection of Tomar, Fatima, Batalha and Alcobaca. Pick up Obidos for a couple of hours if you have time on the way back south.