My partner and I are going to Portugal May 5-20th. We are heading straight to Coimbra for the festival, and then following the Rick Steves intinerary (North from Coimbra, then south past Lisbon, saving Lisbon for last). Any tips, suggestions, great places to stay, things to see?
You may not have time for this but if you do have extra time, go further north into Spain to visit Santiago de Compostela. Are you renting a car?
Rick's Portugal book is one of his most on the money as far as where to go, based upon what we experienced in our 2008 trip. A couple of nights in Sintra are essential, and Lisbon is good for four full days, or even more. Nazare is fantastic, with Obidos as a day trip assuming you have a car. Four or five hours in Obidos is fine. Two places that Rick omits, which are very worthy for a stop of a few hours: Tomar and Marvao. I advise to be careful about hotels in Portugal. The standards seemed lower to us than elsewhere in western Europe.
Yes, we have rented a car.
We agree, the RS book was a wonderful "tour guide" for us. The freeways in Portugal are awesome...traffic is usually not a problem. Press "enter" twice when using your US Visa to buy gas at the self service stations on the freeways/tollroads. Your cost for using the tollroads is based on the time that you spend on them...it sure encourged me to drive like H**l. Our GPS was a godsend; and it always warned us about the many fixed radar units. When the locals "clamp on the binders' you should too! We loved the Algave and had a lot of fun Port tasting in Porto. Watch out for pick pockets in Lisbon...they are just as good as the ones in Italy! I don't know of another EU country that gives you as much value for your money. Have fun!
My husband and I spent 8 nights in Portugal 5 years ago and absolutely loved it. We'd definitely go back, but new travel adventures keep winning out. We started in Porto for a night (stayed in a hotel right on the plaza by the river). One night gave us a taste of Porto, had time to wander the city, and visited a couple port houses. If we had more time, I would have spent at least two nights in Porto. We then rented a car and headed up the Douro for two nights. Stayed at Qinta Nova outside in Pinhau which was extremely relaxing and took walks up/down/through the vineyards and dinners at the resterant at the Qinta. After the Douro, we took our time driving south with some sightseeing to a Pousada (a Castle!) in Alcacel duSol, not mentioned in any tourist books that we had. Very small quaint village, that was just fun to wander around far off the beaten tourist path. The town is situated along a river with a lot of outdoor cafes. This was the only place in Portugal where we came across a restaurant without English speaking servers. I forgot RS pocket translator, so we just pointed at the menu for a surprise meal. From there we headed to Sagres and spent two nights at another Pousada. This might have been our favorite place and also included a little beach time. Our last night was spent in Lisbon. We marched all over the city seeing so much and again, had we had more time, I would have spent another couple nights. Sintra was also very cool, but get there very early to beat the crowds. We used RS for the majority of the trip and also referred to the AAA Spiral Guide to Portugal.