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Touring Portugal then Salamanca - Why Change Itinerary Order?

In his book Rick Steves wrote, "If, after touring Portugal, you're continuing to the Spanish destinations of Salamanca or Madrid, it's better to visit Porto and Douro Valley before Coimbra."

Why is that? Assuming we follow his recommended two-week trip by car, we'd go from Lisbon to Salema to Evora to Nazare to Coimbra to Douro Valley, then to Porto. It seemed to me that if we wanted to add in Salamanca, we'd go from Coimbra to Salamanca to Douro Valley, then to Porto, where we would fly out to return home.

How would it make sense to visit Porto and Douro Valley before Coimbra?

Posted by
921 posts

It may have something to do with the roads from Coimbra to Salamanca vs. from Douro. I just drove from Salamanca back to Cascais last month and the roads are great. It would have been very easy to drive to Coimbra on the roads I took. I'm not certain the roads would be as good from the Douro or Porto. You might want to look at a good map to see. If it's not that, I have no idea of the reason for the recommendation.

I know you didn't ask this, but IMO driving to all the places you list in two weeks is much more than would be enjoyable. It would mean only a couple of nights in each place - or less. Lisbon and Porto alone deserve 3-4 nights minimum. And, if you are going to drive all the way to the Algarve, I highly recommend NOT staying in Salema. It has definitely lost whatever charm RS found a number of years ago. Lagos is much preferable and close to amazing rock formations and beaches. All that said, in only two weeks, I would skip the Algarve entirely if you want to hit the northern destinations - which are better IMO.

Posted by
17098 posts

I believe Rick is addressing travelers who plan to hit all their Portuguese destinations, then all their Spanish destinations. Doubling back across the border isn't usually an efficient path to take unless you are making a big circle that includes parts of both northern and central Spain.

Posted by
4041 posts

My advice would be to drop Salema and then you have a great paced trip.

RS's advice on Salema is out of date and it has become just another resort ruined by overdevelopment and has lost its character IMO in the past 5-10 years. It's the geographical outlier.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for the replies. I don't believe he was talking about seeing all the Portugal then all the Spanish destinations as he specifically said those going to just one city or another.

I'm not especially interested in Salema, but I'm hesitant to drop the Algarve region entirely. For one thing, it seems like we'd be missing out seeing an entire region that contrasts with other parts of the country. For two, I'm concerned about having too much time to spend in the other locations (yes, I know most people live much of their life in one town, but you know what I mean).

Rick's suggested itinerary already has 3 nights in Lisbon and 2 nights in Porto. We'll have 15 full days plus a late afternoon and evening.

Posted by
94 posts

dcginsberg...Hi, we will be in Portugal for 3 weeks in October and we have scheduled 5 nights in Lisbon. I am already thinking that we should add more time there, but I do want to spend some time up in the Douro Valley and close out our time down in Porto. After Lisbon we will drive up to Sao Do Martinho Porto for three nights and will be taking day trips over to Tomar, Batalha, Alcobaca and Conimbriga or however much we want to explore. There is more I would like to visit and see in this area but we decided to get ourselves up to the Douro Valley to spend 5 nights staying at a quinta located right on a hill overlooking the river above Lamego. We live in a beautiful agricultural valley here at home and I know that I will be craving some true country time.
We will finish up with 5 nights in Porto and fly home from there.
Early on in the process of planning for this trip we took the constantly stated advice on this Forum to Slow the Heck Down! We then decided to forgo Evora and points south. There is lots more of this country I would like to visit, but I enjoy getting a little feeling of 'home' by staying someplace for 5 nights.
Also, I had originally planned to stay in the Graca district in Lisbon and then decided that I wanted to be in an area that was a bit easier for me to access by foot. Then I planned on renting an apartment way down the hill next to the river in the Alfama district. I then realized that I wished to be more centrally located to the city center. Along with some great and thoughtful advice here on the Forum I finally landed upon a place in Santa Maria Maior parish (in the Chiado district). I think this is going to be a wonderful place to basecamp from for 5 nights.
I hope you have a great visit.