I am planning a trip for 16 people from work to visit Portugal the last week of April. I last traveled there in 1984(!). I was planning on two nights in Lisbon, one night in Evora (fell in love with it on earlier visit), and two nights either in the Algarve or Porto. This is an active group (we work at a craft brewery) so outside activities (surf lessons?) are a positive as well as visiting port wineries, etc. We arrive very early on our fist day and I was planning to use that early morning time to either drive three hours north to begin our trip in Porto or three hours south to the Algarve. We would end with two nights in Lisbon. Any advice on Porto vs. the Algarve? I think the weather might be OK at the end of April so we might be able to enjoy being outdoors by the ocean in the south? If we do head to the Algarve, where would you recommend that we stay, Salema or Lagos? One or two nights? Any other advice is welcome. Thank you, Dan
With the amount of days you have, I would head to Porto on day 1. Park at an indoor garage near your hotel if they do not offer parking. You should do the "City Center Walk" that is in the book. If everyone has enough energy, visit the "Shopping Neighborhood" area as well. A great restaurant option for dinner is at the outdoor seating area near Casa Deolinda along the waterfront. I highly recommend ordering the Francesinha plate...one of the best meals I have ever eaten! The next day get breakfast at the Majestic Cafe...this will be a memorable experience for everyone. Check out the small courtyard in the rear of the restaurant before you leave. Now I would do the "Drive the Douro" which is also in the book. Definitely stop at the Sao Goncalo church for a quick visit. Tour one of the wineries that Rick recommends. I don't think it is worthwhile to drive to Pinhao. I would get back to Porto to rest and enjoy an evening dinner along the waterfront in Vila Nova da Gaia. Day three I would go to Coimbra (instead of Evora) and do the walk described in the book. A must see is the university and library! There are lots of restaurant options in the book as well. We stayed at a simple hotel called Hotel Domus...it has lots of character and is inexpensive, and includes a decent breakfast. There is a parking garage on the main road within a 5 minute walk.
The next 2 days would be Lisbon. I would use one day for Sintra and the next for Belem and walking around Lisbon. Again, all the details for these 2 days are in the book.
I have planned/organized many Azores and Portugal trips for my family, the latest group was for 30 of us this past summer. Here are some things I recommend for group travel that may lessen your stress:
1. Everyone Pack Light 2. Rent "People Carriers", not minivans. Minivans that we think of in the US are not the same there. Get the 9-passenger types with extra room for luggage. 3. Print out itineraries for everyone to read and understand prior to the trip. It gets tiring with people asking over and over "What are we doing and where are we going today?" 4. Either bring a gps with Europe maps or download offline maps to your smartphone. 5. Try not to please everyone with eating options, but offer suggestions beforehand. If everyone agrees to a restaurant, make a reservation!!! 16 people is a large group to handle in Portugal. 6. Tuk-Tuk tous are a great option if people don't want to walk too much in Lisbon. 7. Give yourself extra time for everything, especially picking up the vans and checking in at airports. 8. PM me if you have specific questions as I could go on and on :-)
I know I have not written anything about the Algarve or Evora. You have your hands full already so I would lessen the drive times and maximize the best in and around Porto and Lisbon.
The sea along the Algarve is glacial in July, but in April? No way! The weather is still likely to be mixed on the Algarve - mid/late May is then beach weather.
There is plenty to keep you occupied further north. I would you suggest that you take the train to Porto, as you shouldn't be driving immediately after a long transatlantic flight. The traffic isn't great in Lisbon and you don't need a vehicle in Porto. After 2 nights in Porto, then hire a people carrier or 2! Coimbra or Evora are both worth visiting, but just stay in one. End with 2 nights in Lisbon. Alternatively, do 3 nights each in Lisbon and Porto without a vehicle and take train day trips to Cascais, Sintra etc. This might work better for a group who may have different interests and want to see different things.
Carl and Jennifer,
Thank you very much for your thoughtful and helpful replies. Pretty clear that you both think we should north rather than south given time of year. I will be back, I am sure with more questions. Cheers, Dan
If I had 6 nights in April I would do Lisbon and Evora. There is enough to see for 2 days, and you could consider driving around the Alentejo to see Vila Vicosa, Estremoz etc if you felt you needed a busy schedule. It also was the warmest place we visited in April. There some wineries opening up in that area as well, and a great tasting center right in town.
With Lisbon you could easily spend your other 4 nights with a day in Belem and another in Sintra. Sintra has a lot to see that could easily fill 2 days on its own. If you wanted to overnight somewhere else you could finish in Obidos which is an easy drive to the airport.
Did any of you visit Nazare during your time in Portugal?
I have a few times, but I think Sitio is more interesting even though it it is compact and overlooks Nazare. Beaches do not impress me much. I would have everybody in your group watch Rick's shows he did many years ago about Portugal and see what interests them. It may help you design a better itinerary.