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itinerary help for trip in May

My friend and i are planning a trip to Portugal in May. We have about two weeks. Since we have already visited Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto, Braga, Guimaraes, Viana do Castelo, and much of the Minho, these other places are on our wish list:

Douro Valley --return trip for me, first time for my friend. Has anyone traveled east beyond Pinhao? Is it worthwhile?
Interior of Portugal--finally my chance to visit when it's not too hot.
Parque Natural da Serra da Estela?
Evora (first time for me, return visit for my friend)
coastal Alentejo?
Lagos and Sagres
Tavira (I know--opposite side of the Algarve from Lagos....)
Caldas da Rainha?

Please help with itinerary suggestions

My friend lived in Portugal in the 80s. Her daughter just got a job in Lisbon, and she will join us for part of the trip.

Recommendations for secret spots, or off-the-beaten- track destinations in Portugal greatly appreciated!

Posted by
2481 posts

May is a bit early for the Algarve but if there’s one place to hang out on the beach it’s Salema. This is where you can rent a straw umbrella for the full day for less than ten euro that comes with two chase loungers. It’s not built up nor is the beach crowded. Furthermore, it’s only a 30-minute bus ride from Lagos. You’ll mix with European families and I liked it more than Lagos.

Posted by
6113 posts

Sorry, but I 100% disagree about Salema! It was great 10 years ago, but its character has been ruined by over development. I have stayed there several times in the past for a beach holiday, but I never go to Salema beach! I head west to Figuiera, Zavial or the beaches up the west coast around Carrapateira, which are stunning and more off the beaten track. It’s very windy at this end of the Algarve and you are likely to get blown off the beach by early afternoon. You need winter clothing for the ever windy Sagres even in the height of summer.

Unless you want beach time, I wouldn’t bother with the Algarve and certainly not in a 2 week timeframe including the Douro.

Tavira is charming and the coast east of Faro is more off the beaten track and more popular with the Portuguese than northern Europeans. You can head to the charming but busy Cacela Velha and the traditional towns of Castro Marim and Vila Real or take a day trip to Spain.

The interior and northern national parks are on my must visit list. I liked Evora.

I stayed a week in Caldas da Rainha - it’s a good base for seeing the coast at Foz and the pretty towns such as Alcobaca, Batalha, (less keen on Fatima) and Obidos. It has a good food market. I was disappointed with Nazare on the coast.

I have also stayed in Melides - the beaches between here and Comporta are stunning and quiet compared to the Algarve. Comporta is beautiful but €€€€€. Popular with the Portuguese.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you so much for these suggestions!
You're right--taking the Algarve off the itinerary probably makes more sense. Or, if we do go, thanks for steering us to Tavira.

The Douro Valley may be a bit higher on the list.
We are thinking of renting a car in Porto, then driving to my favorite quinta to stay for a few nights off N222 near Pinhao. I am curious about the part of the Douro east of Pinhao, including the prehistoric rocks, etc. Is this worth pursuing?

Then, making our way down the interior of Portugal, suggestions?

I'm glad to hear you liked Evora. Evora is on my list, and my friend has graciously agreed to a repeat visit.

I will look into Melides (and Comporta.) These sound interesting.

Posted by
15365 posts

Going east, then south, from the Douro valley is an excellent idea. I did the opposite route in mid-May 4 years ago. This was my itinerary:
Evora 1N including tour at Corticarte Em Arte (cork factory a few km away)
Elvas 2N (lovely town, good restaurants. I liked it much more than Evora). visited Sao Pedro do Corval, Monsaraz, Vila Vicosa, Castelo de Vide, Marvao
Castelo Rodrigo 2N (stayed at Casa de Cisterna and took the night tour of the rock carvings). visited Monsanto, Belmonte, Guarda.
Regua/Quinta de Marrocos 2N. On the way I stopped at Vila Nova de Foz Coa for the rock art museum and took a slower scenic route to the Quinta.

Posted by
2481 posts

Sorry, but I 100% disagree about Salema! It was great 10 years ago, but its character has been ruined by over development.

What? I was there in 2018 and did not see any development. Salema is near lands-end on the western side of PT. Are you sure you don’t have it confused with another place?
Much of the Algarve is built up, not Salema.