We are planning a 3 week trip to Portugal in April 2014. My plan is start with Rick's two-week itinerary and go from there. My question is this: would you stick with his basic 2-week itinerary and just add days to certain stops? If so, which areas would you add more time? If two weeks is enough, would you suggest adding Sevilla, Morrocco or even Madrid? I'm leaning towards just doing a full 3 weeks in Portugal. Thanks, Josh. Link to his 2-week itinerary: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/port/portitin.htm
For more information on us we are 29, active, love food and wine, walking historic districts. We plan on driving.
We enjoyed Portugal, for two weeks, including a few days in Madeira (didn't get to the Azores). But I question three weeks, unless you plan to (lifetime ... ) visit most of the countries in Europe. I would at least hit Western Spain, especially remoter places like Santiago. I do recommend Madeira if you can afford it and if it isn't a rainy season (?) I'm sure we didn't go anyplace mentioned in Rick, even though we only did two weeks. The car is a good idea, and I'd buy a cheap Euro GPS if you don't have one. An obscure but not unknown stop, the faded Busaco Palace Hotel, if it's still in business. Kind of like Last Year at Marienbad, but more pastoral. Stop for any Roman mosaics or monuments you might pass.
Since you will have a car, please obtain an international drivers license from AAA for $15, I strongly recommend at least a one night visit to Seville.
Josh - IMO your plan sounds terrific; of course, knowing a bit more about you an your traveling partner would be helpful but nonetheless I endorse a focused 3 week trip in Portugal with short excursions into Spain (versus a long schlep to Madrid). Full disclosure: by no means am I a Portuguese nor Iberian travel expert - two trips to Spain (4 weeks) and one to Portugal (~ 3 weeks); and, please note that we always travel in the summer, never have taken a Spring trip. We've taken nearly 20 trips to Europe and each one of them use the RS tours or itineraries from travel guides as a foundation. OK, here are my quick "ratings" and additions/extensions to the RS plan/routes (Nazare, a great base for day trips) *, Tomar (not a RS stop) *, Coimbra **, Aviero (not a RS destination) *, Oporto *, Guimaraes (not a RS destination) **, Duoro * (scenic but few sights), a small hill top village Marvao , Evora *, Sintra *, Lisboa *. In the north, you'll be very close to Santiago de Campostela (I've never been but hope to try part of the walk soon (my prayers to those poor souls in last weeks train accident), Salamanca *** isn't too far, and Sevilla **** would round out my Spanish excursions (Madrid, etc. is just too far). Hope this helps; additional details are available - just let me know.
Thanks for the replies. Craig - I am curious why you only rate Lisboa and Evora one stars. I was planning on four nights in Lisboa and two in Evora. Here is my current plan: Lisboa - 4 nights (day trip to Sintra) Sagres/Salema - 2 nights Tavira - 1 night Evora - 1 night Marvao - 1 night Nazare/Obidos/Tomar - 2 nights Coimbra - 2 nights Aveiro - 1 night Porto - 3 nights Douro Valley - 1 night
Guimaraes/Ponte de Lima - 2 nights The areas with "/" means I have not yet picked which area to make the home base. I'd welcome any suggestions. I'd be curious if you thought this was too many places to see or not.
Josh - we've been to Portugal 7 times, most times for 4 weeks, and it seems your itinerary is great. We love Nazare and would recommend you use it as your base. Check out Adega Oceano, a small family run hotel across the street from the beach. You can check them at booking.com and tripadvisor.com. Tomar might also be a good base but Nazare is on the coast and while it will not be beach weather, the view from Adega Oceano's breakfreast room/restaurant is beautiful. In the Douro we have stayed in Pinhao which is a small town on the Rio Douro. You might check out Hotel Douro on tripadvisor. Wherever you stay, we hope you will enjoy Portugal as much as we do.
We were in Portugal in May and really enjoyed it. We stayed to 3 nights in Lisbon with a day trip to Sintra. That was excellent. 3 nights in Lisbon is lots. We did 3 nights in Nazare and did day trips from there. We visited Tomar, Obidos (both really good) Fatima and Alcobaca. Porto was much better than Lisbon also. We spent 2 nights in the Douro region and it was also very nice. In Spain we visited Santiago (only so-so) and really enjoyed the north where we stayed Comillas. We did not go to Madrid by choice but really liked Segovia.
Josh, I lived in the Azores for 18 months, and it is spectacular. I'm sure there is plenty to see on the mainland. However, if you can squeeze in some of the Azorean islands, you will not be disappointed. SATA and TAP both offer pretty reasonable deals from Lisbon, and you can take ferries between the islands during the summer (likely would be running in April, but I would double check that). The views and scenery on the islands is stunning, and you'll see more rainbows there than you'll see anywhere else. Furthermore, there are numerous hiking opportunities, and there are plenty of opportunities for water activities. It's not overly touristy, so you can really relax. There is a US Air Force base on Terceira Island, so you'll find a lot of English spoken especially on that island but on the others as well. One of the most impressive sites I saw was the Gruta Algar do Carvao (on Terceira). It is the only extinct volcano in the world you can go inside of, and you can go pretty deep into it. Quite an experience. Also, since you like food and wine, the islands have excellent cheeses (especial the Sao Miguel), good wines (including a "green wine" that is pretty interesting), and (like the rest of Europe) plenty of fresh breads. Furthermore, if you're a seafood fan, the islands are about as good as it gets. You'll get amazing fish that was swimming around in the ocean just a few hours ago. Whatever you choose to do, have a good time!
I'm taking an RS tour in Portugal next month and plan on a weekend trip to the Azores after the tour ends. Everyone I talk to about it says the scenery there is spectacular and unique and the people are friendly. Just trying to figure out the details of that trip as I'm traveling solo.