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Portugal for the First time! 4 locations within 16 days?


I am looking forward to seeing Portugal for the first time this May (May 22-June 8). Similar to others on the forum, I am a bit overwhelmed as to how to organize my trip. I am 50 & traveling with my Mom.

Any thoughts on my approach to our trip?:
I plan to spend 4 days in 4 locations:
1. Lisbon (including Sintra and perhaps Cascais)
2. Porto (including Duoro River)
3. Coimbra? Evora ??
4. Algarve

We have a direct flight, RT from SFO to Lisbon.

Thanks so much for any feedback and advice!!!

Happy travels,

Posted by
64 posts

Hi Maureen,

I'm probably the last person who should be giving advice on visiting Portugal, as I haven't been there yet. But we'll be there around the same time you will, and I thought I would share this: after much online research and guidebook perusing, we decided to drop the Algarve area from our itinerary for this trip. Beaches aren't that important to us, and it seemed to consume a lot of time and energy to go down there and then return to the north. We'll hit a few beaches NW of Lisbon and that should be our beach fix on this trip.

I think if you did a bit more research on this site and others, as well as consulting a few guidebooks, you might come to the same conclusion. But maybe not! It's really what is most interesting and important to you and your Mom.

For what it's worth, we're focusing on 1 through 3 on your list, with a little time in Tomar (between Évora and Coimbra) and the Obidos/Casa da Rainha area as well.

Good luck on your planning, and I hope you two have a great and memorable trip!

Posted by
914 posts

I agree with Sammy and having lived here for over four years, have a bit of experience.

With sixteen nights, IMO you will enjoy your trip more if you skip the Algarve and focus on central and northern Portugal. One of the great things about Portugal is the slower pace of life. If you can slow down a bit, you will get a better feel for the country.
Lisbon, Porto, Évora and Coimbra are all very nice with a lot of unique things about them all.

Posted by
4777 posts

Well, we will be there later this week for two weeks plus. February is probably not the best time for the Algarve, but we will spend a couple nights in Loule. However, the attraction for us is Carnival, but that is unique to this time. We are doing much the same distribution, doing a night in Lisbon to start, Driving through Evora, staying overnight in Monsaraz, then loule, a couple nights in Central Portugal, a couple in the Douro valley, Porto, and back to Lisbon. We are renting a car for about a week, pick up in Lisbon, drop-off in Porto.

If not for Carnival, we would have stayed North, probably more time in the smaller towns of central Portugal. However, since this is our first time there, we wanted to get a good cross-section, with the idea that a trip back some day will focus on areas that we have some knowledge about.

Posted by
3942 posts

Another vote for dropping the Algarve! If you have 2 day trips from Lisbon, I would add another night there. Four nights in Porto/Douro sounds about right, although you could manage with three.

I would focus your time on the area between Porto and Lisbon, as there are many towns worth visiting such as Aveiro, Coimbra, Tomar, Evora etc. Hiring a car would be the easiest option to getting around as driving isn’t difficult in Portugal.

Posted by
16583 posts

There are lots of interesting cities in central and northern Portugal, such as Guarda, Viseu, and Guimaraes. Pick up a guidebook dedicated to Portugal and see what sounds interesting to you. I agree with all the others that the 4 days penciled in for the Algarve would be better used elsewhere.

If your landing point is Lisbon and you plan side-trips to both Sintra and Cascais, you may want an extra day for the capital, since your arrival day may be pretty worthless due to sleep-deprivation and jetlag. I know some folks have recommended more than one full day in Sintra, though I haven't spent that much time there myself.

Posted by
568 posts

I agree with everyone who has recommended spending more days in Lisbon if you plan to visit Sintra and Cascais from Lisbon. There is so much to see and do in Lisbon, and it has some wonderful neighborhoods for wandering and exploring, and lovely miradouros (viewpoints) where you can relax with a drink and enjoy the views. I plan my trip by nights. So I would spend 5 or 6 nights in Lisbon, to include a daytrip to Sintra and another one to Cascais.

Another choice would be to spend 4 nights in Lisbon and 1 or 2 nights in Sintra. We visited Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon; however, I can certainly see the merits in staying 1 or 2 nights because there are quite a few palaces and castles to see. And it will be quieter at night after the tour buses leave.

BTW, how old is your mom? Keep in mind that Lisbon is very hilly and the cobblestones can be slippery. Make sure you have skid-proof, good quality walking shoes!

I haven't been anywhere else yet in Portugal so I can't comment on the rest of your itinerary.

Posted by
6 posts

I enjoyed and appreciated the responses I received. I now have 4 nights booked in Lisbon! I have dropped the Algarve and told my Mom to bring some non-slippery shoes. Many thanks for your time!

Posted by
4053 posts

We have done it all except the Algarve, we don't need to go to the beach in Europe, we live near one in the USA.

Lisbon and Porto are great. Consider visiting the Douro Valley. Do a cruise or take the train up the valley to Regua.

Posted by
759 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Evora was a nice place to spend several days. But Viseu was a most unusual city. I am not sure why, maybe the hill in the center of the city. Certainly the lack of tourists was a plus.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
24 posts

we stayed in Viseu for 2 nights and agree that it is an interesting city, with plenty of small towns in the area to wander through.