iExplore Portugal

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  • Privately Guided
  • Starting Price: $4,279
  • Length: 9 days
  • Operator: iExplore Exclusive
  • 1-800-267-33479am - 5:30pm Eastern
    Destinations: Europe, Portugal
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Tour Description

Welcome to Portugal! Come and explore Portugal on our exciting 9-day Portugal Experience program. Begin in Porto, a World Historic Heritage city and without a doubt the main city in Northern Portugal with all the charms of a riverside community, keeping traditional values alive. Explore Minho Province and visit the Portuguese Rome. Visit Guimaraes, considered by many to be the cradle of Portuguese civilization. Explore the most beautiful area of Portugal- the Douro River Valley- another World Heritage Site, see Lamego with its medieval visigothic church, believed to be the oldest in Portugal, and see the old Roman fort and road system at Viseu. Proceed south across the Dao wine producing area to the Bussaco National Park, considered one of the most important and beautiful in Portugal. Visit the famous Marian Shrine of Fatima, a place for pilgrims and private thought and personal reflection. Cross the Alentejo Plains to the museum city of Evora, once the residence of Portuguese Kings, and explore the capital city of Lisbon.

Itinerary

Day 1: Porto, Portugal

Today when you arrive at Porto International Airport, you will be met for a private transfer to your hotel in Porto, where you will check-in, have lunch (not included) and have some free time to unpack and relax.

The Hotel Infante de Sagres is located a few meters from Porto's most famous thoroughfare, the Avenida dos Aliados, and right in the heart of the city's main shopping district. A first choice among visiting royalty and other dignitaries, it offers an unparalleled level of service for its 70 sumptuous rooms, which are all equipped with satellite TV, mini-bar, stylish traditional furniture and double-glazed windows. The hotel's most notable features are the unique and very intimate Boca do Lobo Bar offering a wide variety of original cocktails, and the Boca do Lobo Restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a fine mix of traditional and international cuisine. O' Patio, likewise, is one of Porto's best known places for outdoor dining and romantic candlelit dinners during summertime.

In the afternoon get acquainted with Portugal's second largest city on a city tour of Porto.

Porto, appointed World Historic Heritage, is without doubt the main city in northern Portugal, with all the charms of a riverside community and keeping alive traditional values.

Visit: the Cathedral, built in the 12th and 13th century in Roman style suffering some changes in Baroque era; the Clérigos Tower and church, Porto's ex-libris from the 18th century; the Church of São Francisco, a convent constructed in gothic style during the 14th and 15th centuries. The interior is made up of three naves with a noteworthy covering of gold carving from the 17th and 18th centuries (100kg of gold leaf).

On the way back to your hotel, you will stop by an old port lodge at Vila Nova de Gaia, in the south bank of Douro River, for a visit and a tasting of the famous Port wines.

Hotel Infante de Sagres

Day 2: Porto- Viana Do Castelo- Braga- Guimaraes- Porto

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before departing for a full-day tour of Minho Province. We drive along the coast towards Viana do Castelo, a marvelous small town in the mouth of the Lima River. Here we have a panoramic tour of Viana. There is a good deal to see here, starting with the 18th century Palacio dos Tavoras, now the main tourist office. In the central Praca da Republica there's a beautiful 16th century fountain and the remarkable Misericordia Hospital, with its three-

tiered façade supported by caryatids. Nearby stands the handsome 15th century parish church with a Gothic portal and Romanesque towers. The town is dominated by Monte Santa Luzia, the baroque church, and site of a popular pilgrimage each August.

Continue then to Braga, which some people still refer to as "the Portuguese Rome". We will visit Braga, including its cathedral, built in the 11th century on the site of an earlier structure destroyed by the Moors. The interior contains some fine tombs, a fine granite sculpture of the Virgin , an 18th century choir loft and organ case, and richly decorated chapels and cloister.

There are many other churches and chapels of interest, but the best known is Bom Jesus, set on wooded Monte Espinho, about 3 miles outside the city. This popular pilgrimage center is remarkable, not so much for the building but for its grandiose stairway and view from its terrace of the valley and the mountains in the distance. Chapels, fountains and often startlingly bizarre figures at each level representing the Stations of the Cross flank the double flight of stairs.

A stop will be made for lunch (not included), perhaps at Pousada de Santa Marinha da Costa near Guimaraes.

After lunch we will continue to Guimaraes, considered by many as the cradle of Portuguese civilization. Here we will visit the well-preserved city center, the 10th century castle and the Dukes of Braganca Palace.

We will return to Porto by mid-afternoon and the remainder of the day is free for independent activities or to mingle with the locals at the Ribeira Quarter, one of the most popular in the city.

Breakfast

Hotel Infante de Sagres

Day 3: Porto- Amarante- Vila Real- Mateus- Pinhao

Following breakfast at your hotel in Porto, depart driving inland to one of the most beautiful areas of Portugal, the Douro River Valley- a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. From Porto, we will drive towards Penafiel and Amarante and then up the Marao Mountains towards Vila Real, for a panoramic tour of the city.

An ancient settlement in the Terra de Panoias, Vila Real was founded and renamed by Dom Dinis, the 6th king of Portugal, in 1289. Its name, literally "royal town" is appropriate as Vila Real once had more noble families than any other city than the capital. We will visit the Diogo Cao House, an Italian Renaissance style building that was the birthplace of Cao, the Navigator who discovered the mouth of the Congo River in 1482. The Se (cathedral) was originally the church of a Dominican convent. Although much of the present building dates from the 14th century, Romanesque columns still remain from an earlier structure. Vila Real's oldest church is the ancient Capela de Sao Nicolau, on a promontory of high land behind the municipal hall.

There will be some free time for lunch (not included) in Amarante or Vila Real.

After lunch we will continue on to Mateus, with its celebrated palace and gardens. Visit the Mateus Manor House, a marvelous countryside noble house of the 17th century, built by the famous Italian architect Nicolao Nasoni in baroque style.

Continue then to admire one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world driving through the Port Wine vineyards area on your way down the mountains bordering the Douro River to Sabrosa and Pinhao. Perhaps visit a port wine farm for wine tasting and dinner.

Check into your hotel, the Hotel Vintage House. With its stunning riverside setting, deep in the heart of Port wine country, this is the perfect place to find total peace and relaxation. Built on the site of an 18th century wine estate, the hotel offers 43 rooms and suites, all are fully equipped with air-conditioning, telephone, satellite TV with built-in video, hair dryer and a large balcony with breathtaking views of the majestic River Douro. Guests have access to a wide range of facilities such as an outdoor pool, tennis court, gardens, game room and library bar, but the hotel's main features are the upscale Rabelo Restaurant with its regional specialties and the Vintage House Wine Academy where courses and tastings are available.

Breakfast

Hotel Vintage House

Day 4: Pinhao- Lamego- Viseu- Bucaco-Curia

We will depart today after breakfast continuing driving south to Lamego, a city of historical importance. Our visit to Lamego will feature the medieval Chapel of Sao Pedro de Balsemao, a Visigothic church believed to be the oldest in Portugal and the second oldest in Europe. We will also see the cathedral, a 12th century gothic structure, and the 18th century Senhora dos Remedios Sanctuary, founded by the Bishop of Lamego in 1361 and dedicated to St. Stephen.

Your next stop will be Viseu. In the 2nd century BC the Romans built a fortified settlement here and some of their road system, along with a number of Latin inscribed stones, can still be seem here. A site not to be missed is the 13th century cathedral; the ribbed vaulting is beautifully carved to look like knotted cables, and the ceiling of the sacristy is extravagantly painted with animals and plants. The twin-towered Misericordia Church across the square is whitewashed granite and pure baroque. Then visit the Grao Vasco Museum- many of the works here represent the fine school of Portuguese Primitive painting that flourished here in the 16th century, and of which Grao Vasco was the acknowledged master. We may also visit the Santar Wine Estate with its spectacular 17th century manor house and gardens and have a taste of its splendid wines or have lunch.

Proceed south across the Dao wine producing area to the Bussaco Forest for a visit to the Bussaco National Park, considered one of the most important and beautiful in Portugal, not only for the diversity of the botanical species but also for its historic importance.

Then we will continue to Curia, an important thermal spa area north of Coimbra. Here you will check into the Curia Palace Hotel. This impressive hotel is one of the last examples of art noveau in Portugal, re-opened in 2008 after deep reconstruction and careful remodeling, preserving its magnificent architecture and the spirit of the time. All rooms are pleasantly equipped with soundproof windows, telephones, air-conditioning, satellite TV and all other modern comforts. There is a spa magnificent leisure facilities including an indoor heated pool. There is also an outdoor pool, gardens and park areas, which permit a calm and peaceful stay.

Breakfast

Curia Palace Hotel

Day 5: Curia- Coimbra- Fatima- Batalha- Tomar- Marvao

Today we have an early departure after breakfast at the hotel, to Coimbra. Perched on a hill overlooking the Rio Mondego, Coimbra is surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful countryside. One of Europe's oldest university towns, it kept its secular academic traditions as seen in the black-caped students, in the soulful tones of the "Fado de Coimbra" (traditional song sung to the sound of guitars by the students). Here we will discover the city on a sightseeing tour, featuring the city center, the Santa Cruz Convent and the university complex.

We will proceed next to Batalha, where we will visit the Batalha Monastery, a masterpiece of gothic architecture in Portugal and one of Portugal's most beautiful monuments and another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Your next stop will be the famous Marian Shrine of Fatima. Fatima is a place for pilgrims- of which there are up to 2 million a year. On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children had a vision of the Virgin here. Thereafter, she appeared before the children and, on one occasion, as a shining light to townspeople who gathered with them on the 13th of subsequent months. The two younger children died shortly after the apparitions, but one, Lucia de Jesus Santos, lived well into her eighties in a convent near Coimbra. A vast white basilica, consecrated in 1953 was built in recognition of the importance of this site to the pilgrims; inside lie the tombs of the two children who died, Jacinta and Francisco Marto. You will have free time for private thoughts and personal reflections.

Stop for lunch (not included) before proceeding to Tomar, a small town where once stood the headquarters of the Knights Templar. We will have a short visit of Tomar including its famous Christ Convent. Then we will drive along the Tagus River to Abrantes and Castelo de Vide for a panoramic visit of Castelo de Vide, a delightful town built in the shadow of an elongated medieval castle. Castelo de Vide is a spa town; you can drink its curative waters from bottles that are sold in the supermarkets or sip from one of the numerous fountains. We will also visit the gothic quarter and the medieval synagogue before continuing on to Marvao, a medieval town within the walls of its castle built on top of a huge rock formation.

Then check into your hotel, the Pousada de Santa Maria. The small traditional houses of Marvao, a medieval town with walls dating back to the 13th century, seems to squeeze the narrow little streets that wind between them. Two of these village houses have been comfortably converted into the Pousada de Santa Maria, a small charming hotel. The hotel boasts many features, which make this a special place to stay. The cozy ambience of the bedrooms and reception rooms is echoed in the simple decoration and almost family atmosphere. The rooms offer two completely different experiences: some (only a few) offer views of the stunning mountain landscape surrounding the hilltop town, while the rest face inwards into the lanes and alleyways of the old town, immersing visitors in a medieval world of granite and whitewashed houses.

Breakfast

Pousada de Santa Maria

Day 6: Marvao- Estremoz- Evora

Enjoy breakfast at the Pousada before departing for Portalegre for a sightseeing tour of the city. The lush countryside which surrounds Portalegre is rather different from that in the low-lying lands. This area is in the foothills of the Sierra de Sao Mamede and the cooler and slightly more humid climate makes it much greener. Portalegre is unusual in that it is not built on top of a hill, but on the site of an ancient ruined settlement called Amaya. The lofty 16th century interior of the cathedral is late-Renaissance style. The side altars have fine wooden retabulos and 16th and 17th century paintings in the Italian style. The sacristy contains lovely blue and white azulejo panels from the 18th century depicting life of the Virgin Mary and the Flight to Egypt. The cathedrals façade is 18th century and is dominated by marble columns, granite pilasters and wrought iron balconies.

Now we cross the Alentejo Plains to the museum city of Evora, whose origins date back to the times of the Roman Empire, reached its golden age during the 15th century when it became the residence of the Portuguese Kings. Noble families wishing to live near the court ordered the construction of palaces and brought with them architects, painters, sculptors and other artists who embellished the town and transformed Evora into a unique town.

Check into your hotel, the Hotel Convento do Espinheiro: Opened in June 2005, this luxurious 5-star hotel is part of the prestigious Starwood chain of luxury hotels. Converted from a 15th century building, the Convento do Espinheiro is conveniently located just 2 km from the center of Evora- a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The hotel has an extensive range of on-site facilities including an upmarket restaurant, piano bar, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a modern spa and 8 hectares of gardens.

In the afternoon leave for a city tour of Evora featuring the Romano Gothic Cathedral, the Roman Temple, the historic city center, St. Francis Church and its Bones Chapel.

Enjoy some free time in Evora for shopping or to taste the marvelous Alentejo cuisine.

Breakfast

Hotel Convento do Espinheiro

Day 7: Evora- Lisbon

After breakfast at your hotel in Evora, depart driving through cork oak forests towards Setubal, Palmela and into Lisbon via the 25th of April Bridge.

Check into your hotel in Lisbon. Located in Alto de Santo Amaro, one of Lisbon's quietest residential areas, the Pestana Palace is pleased to receive its guests in a stylish 19th century building, former residence of counts and marquises now reborn after a long and careful restoration. Classified as a National Monument and located only 10 kms from Lisbon International Airport, the hotel boasts unparalleled views over the River Tagus. Each of its 177 classically designed rooms and 17 suites are fully equipped with cable TV, air-conditioning, mini-bar and in-room safe. Non-smoking rooms are available. Overlooking the hotel's magnificent private park, the Valle Flor Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. During the milder months of the year you can enjoy al fresco dining in the garden restaurant. The bar adjacent to the palace restaurant offers a light menu and live music on weekday evenings. The serene atmosphere of the gardens is ideal for relaxing, while the health club offers a wide choice of activities for keeping fit, either in the gym or in the indoor or outdoor swimming pools.

In the afternoon, leave for a city sightseeing tour featuring the Marquis de Pombal Square, Avenue of Liberty, the D. Pedro IV Square more commonly known as Rossio (downtown), Commerce Square, the cathedral built during the 12th century on order of the first King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques.

Walk down the Alfama Quarter to wander the old Jewish Quarter of Lisbon, and continue along the river to the monumental Belem Quarter to visit the Royal Coaches Museum and the Hieronymus Monastery, the most remarkable monastic construction of the 16th century, built on the order of King D. Manuel I to commemorate the discovery of the maritime way to India by Vasco da Gama- a UNESCO World heritage Site.

Before returning to your hotel stop for a photo opportunity at the Belem Tower, built in the shape of a caravel, in the middle of the river, to serve as a fortress to defend its mouth and to honor the departure place of the Portuguese ships off on maritime discoveries.

The evening is at leisure.

Breakfast

Hotel Pestana Palace

Day 8: Lisbon- Queluz- Sintra- Estoril

After breakfast at the hotel, depart from Lisbon driving west to the small town of Queluz for a visit to the beautiful 18th century Queluz Palace and Gardens, a rococo palace fully refurbished which served as the official Royal Residence after a fire at the Ajuda Palace.

Continue on then to Sintra for a visit to this marvelous small town in the surroundings of Lisbon, and to its National Palace, a royal residence with origins in the 14th century but later enlarged in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is considered a National Monument.

You will have some time for lunch on your own in Sintra.

Then proceed to Colares and to Cape Roca, the most western point of the European Continent- a photo stop, Cascais- a former fisherman's village nowadays a tourist resort. Return to Lisbon via Estoril and the coastal road.

Breakfast

Hotel Pestana Palace

Day 9: Depart Lisbon

Departure transfer to Lisbon International Airport.

Breakfast

Every effort will be made to adhere to the itinerary as stated; however, due to schedule changes beyond organizers control, we reserve the right, without prior notice, to change the routing.

Departures

Depart any day! Contact an iExplore Adventure Consultant for details.

Pricing Information

2011 Prices:

April 1 to July 15 and September 16 to October 31:

$4,279 per person double occupancy.

$7,129 solo traveler.

$929 single room supplement.

July 15 to September 15:

$4,469 per person double occupancy.

$7,429 solo traveler.

$979 single room supplement.

Prices for your dates of travel may vary- please contact iExplore for an exact quote. Quoted prices are based on current rates of exchange, tariffs and taxes as of November, 2010. iExplore reserves the right to increase tour prices to cover increased costs, tariffs and taxes received after prices are published, and to reflect fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. iExplore is under no obligation to give breakdown costs involved in any package.

Inclusions:

· Accommodations on a bed & breakfast basis throughout the tour.

· Private car/transportation during the entire stay for all services.

· English-speaking driver/guide during the program.

· All visits and services per the itinerary.

· All entrance fees on visits stated in the program.

· Luggage porters at the hotels.

Exclusions:

· International airfare and airport taxes

· Meals, other than breakfast

· Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, room service, alcohol etc.

· Gratuities

· Travel insurance

· Visas (if required)

· Holiday surcharges

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

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