Discover Portugal on this comprehensive 16-day tour. Portugal has a remarkable history, from Roman colonies to medieval Moorish-influenced art and architecture, to a glorious Golden Age when Lisbon was the centre of the world’s first global commercial empire. Its history has left it with extraordinary cultural wealth, including prehistoric megaliths and rock art, World Heritage-listed cities, and fine medieval and Renaissance architecture. The great monuments of its past are situated among a striking landscape of turquoise coastlines, rugged mountains and picturesque towns, and are complemented by its vibrant modern culture and architecture.
Exceptional Old Masters at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
Exquisite palaces on rocky outcrops: a full day in fairytale Sintra
Technical skill and stunning colours in the National Tile Museum’s extraordinary azulejos
Walk in the footprints of dinosaurs alongside the Atlantic at Cabo Espichel
A full day cruising the Douro and two nights in Pinhao
Cutting-edge contemporary architecture: Rem Koolhaas, Alvaro Siza Vieira and Porto’s Fundacao Serralves
Days 1–4: Explore Lisbon’s Age of Discovery, admire the Museu Gulbenkian’s masterpieces. Enjoy an excursion to Sintra.
Days 5–7: In Evora, prehistoric archaeology at Cabo Espichel, megalithic Almendres Cromlech, and the ever-present Romans.
Days 8–9: Tomar’s World Heritage-listed Convento de Cristo.
Days 10–11: Coimbra, medieval capital; and 1st-century mosaics at Conimbriga’s Roman villa.
Days 12–13: Two nights in Pinhao and the Coa valley’s prehistoric rock art.
Days 14–15: Cruise the Douro to Porto, the City of Bridges. Discover Porto’s historic centre and colourful Ribeira district.
The tour begins at our hotel in Lisbon and ends at our hotel in Porto. The current Emirates flight schedule offer daily flights into and out of Lisbon from most Australian cities. A connecting flight from Porto to Lisbon is needed at the end of the tour with TAP Air Portugal. Alternatively, you can stay an extra day in Porto at the end of the tour and fly directly from Porto to Dubai, and on to Australia, with a six-hour connection at Dubai airport. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Sunday 3 October: Arrival in Lisbon
Passengers arrive and check-in at leisure. Our tour starts with a welcome drink in the hotel, followed by dinner in a popular restaurant nearby. Overnight Lisbon (D)
Monday 4 October: Alfama and Belem
After an introductory talk in the hotel we head up to the castle of São Jorge to enjoy its outstanding views of the city. From here we meander down through the labyrinthine Moorish bairro of Alfama, a truly emblematic part of the city. Alfama was largely spared in the earthquake of 1755 and is still a maze of narrow streets, steep steps, flower-laden iron balconies and small squares. After a break for lunch we visit one of Europe’s great unsung treasure houses, the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, a fine private art collection featuring works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Dyke and Renoir. To complete a fabulous day, we enjoy dinner and a fado performance. Fado is a distinctly Portugese musical style, usually with a melancholy theme. The importance of fado to the Portugese is illustrated by the death of the most famous fadista, Amália Rodrigues in 1999, when the nation stopped for a state funeral and a period of national mourning. Overnight Lisbon (B, D)
Tuesday 5 October: Sintra and surrounds
On our full day trip, we first visit the seventeenth century Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira, a former hunting pavilion with beautiful gardens and superb azulejos or tiles, followed by the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, in Sintra itself. Sintra is a unique combination of natural mountain beauty and fairytale palaces, and the National Palace is easily distinguished by its two large conical chimneys and architecture which combines Manueline, Gothic and Moorish styles. Inside, a series of interconnecting courtyards, galleries and corridors join a cohesive set of rooms decorated with magnificent tiles. On our way back to the capital we visit the Convent of the Capuchos: a stark contrast to the palaces, this austere Franciscan Monastery seems to emerge from the surrounding woodland, setting off the decorative simplicity of the tiny cells carved out of the rock with interiors covered in cork. We journey back to Lisbon along the coast via the seaside town of Cascais. Overnight Lisbon (B).
Wednesday 6 October: Art and Music
Today we pay homage to the Golden Age of Discovery and explore the bairro (borough) of Belém. Our touring commences at Belém Tower, a 16th century fortification commissioned by King John II at the mouth of the Tagus River, which formed a vital part of Lisbon’s defences. We continue up the river to the Discovery Monument, celebrating the location where explorers departed to the Far East to open important trade routes. After a coffee break and a Portugese tart, we move on to the Jerónimos Monastery with its superb Manueline cloisters. Here seafarers came to pray before leaving port. In the afternoon we make an excursion to the National Tile Museum to view its exquisite collection of azulejos, dating from the 15th century. The museum is housed in the monastic buildings of the Madre de Deus Convent whose interiors are amongst the most magnificent in the city. Overnight Lisbon (B)
Thursday 7 October: Setúbal Peninsula and the Alentejo region
Departing Lisbon, we travel south to the dramatic Setúbal peninsula. At Cabo Espichel we witness the ferocity of the Atlantic Ocean beating against towering cliffs. In this magnificently isolated spot with its barren outlook, it is possible to view two different, well preserved sets of dinosaur footprints, dating over 50 million years apart. We stop for lunch in Sesimbra, one of Portugal’s finest beach towns, where we suggest partaking of the local seafood. Our drive continues through the Arrábida National Park, before heading to Évora, capital of the Alentejo region. The Alentejo is famed for its wine as well as the cork oak forests, wheat fields and olive tree plantations which cover its rolling hills. Dinner tonight is in the restaurant of our hotel, in the centre of the World Heritage listed city of Évora. Overnight Évora (B, D)
Friday 8 October: Évora
We take a guided walk around the historic centre of Évora, starting with the city’s most iconic site, the Roman Temple, dating from the 1st century CE. This temple is one of the best preserved on the Iberian Peninsula; its base of huge granite blocks is still intact despite having been put to a variety of uses over the years, including as a slaughterhouse! Other highlights of our walk are the Igreja (church) de São João and attached Lóios convent (part of our hotel) dating from the 15th century and built over the top of Évora’s Moorish castle. We also visit the Igreja de São Francisco (Church of St Francis), best known for its lugubrious Chapel of The Bones, where a Franciscan monk decorated the walls with skulls during the Counter-Reformation era. After a break for lunch we take a ride through the semi-arid Alentejo countryside to the surrounding hill towns. We stop in picturesque Monseraz, a fortified hilltop town which has been occupied since pre-history and has hundreds of megalithic monuments. In the early evening we meet for a talk in the hotel. Overnight Évora (B)
Saturday 9 October: Monoliths and wine tasting
Our destination today is the unique site of Chromeleques dos Almendres, a megalithic stone circle pre-dating Stonehenge. The 96 standing stones, some of which are engraved, are in a spectacular hillside location among olive and cork trees, with views down to Évora. The exact use of this site is unknown but it has always been considered sacred. We continue on to a local winery for a tour, tasting and lunch. The afternoon is free for sightseeing in Évora. Overnight Évora (B, L)
Sunday 10 October: Tomar & the Knights Templar
Heading north to the Templar city of Tomar, we stop first at Almoural castle, situated in the middle of the River Tagus. We use boats to access this enigmatic castle, emblematic of the Christian Reconquest of the peninsula and which home to a Templar interpretation centre. After lunch we enjoy a tour of Tomar itself. This settlement grew from a site granted to the Knights Templar for a monastery, after they assisted with the reconquest of the region from the Moors in 1159. The Templar Convento de Cristo is a historical jewel. The oldest part is the 16-sided Templar church, or Charola which, like the castle, dates from the 12th Century. This church was then converted to a Chancel under Manuel I in the 16th century, turning it into one of the finest works of the Portugese Renaissance and giving it the World Heritage status, it enjoys today. Dinner tonight is in our hotel. Overnight Tomar (B, D)
Monday 11 October: Alcobaca Monastery
We venture out of Tomar for the morning to visit the unique monastic establishment of Alcobaça. After the Reconquest, the Cistercian monks started a settlement here, going from wooden houses in 1178 to a stone monastery and church in 1252. It was one of the first truly Gothic buildings in Portugal, and the church at the time was the largest in the country. The afternoon is at leisure in Tomar before we meet in the early evening for a talk in the hotel. Overnight Tomar (B)
Tuesday 12 October: Conimbriga
Leaving Tomar behind, we head to Coimbra via a viewing of the 180 arches of the nearby Acueduto de los Pegões. Designed by a distinguished architect in the 17th century to provide water to the Convento de Cristo from nearby springs, it is nearly 6 kilometres long and 30 metres high. Our main highlight today is the outstanding Roman site of Conímbriga. This is Portugal’s largest and most impressive Roman site, dating from the 1st century CE. The ruins are extremely well preserved and feature villas paved with magnificent mosaic floors representing hunting scenes, monsters, birds and animals, plus baths and a forum, which was originally surrounded by covered porticoes. After an extended stop here, we continue our journey to Coimbra and enjoy free time before dinner in our hotel, the 18th century palace, Quinta das Lágrimas. Overnight Coimbra (B, D)
Wednesday 13 October: Coimbra
In medieval times, the river-front city of Coimbra was the capital of Portugal. Declining in importance in the Late Middle Ages, the city remained a major cultural hub and still boasts the country’s finest university; one of the longest continuously operating in the world. Our walking tour covers the well preserved medieval core of the city, with the Old University and the pearl at its heart, the Juanina Library which was a gift from King John V and is adorned with ebony, jacaranda and rosewood tables and ceilings painted with frescoes. We see the well preserved Sé Velha, the best example of a Romanesque cathedral in the country, and at the heart of the city, the Praça do Comércio, or Commercial Square. This evening we meet for a talk in the hotel before free time for dinner. Overnight Coimbra (B)
Thursday 14 October: North to Pinhão
Today we leave the centre of Portugal and head north to Pinhão with stops to punctuate our route. We take time for lunch in Viseu where we can meander the cobbled streets and have lunch with a glass of some of Portugal’s finest red wines from the Dão region. Before arriving at our destination, we stop at São João de Tarouca to view the church and monastery. Founded in 1139, this was the first monastery to be erected by the Cistercian order on the Iberian Peninsula and has recently been carefully restored. The three-nave church is lavishly decorated in gilt, with carved wood and tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries. Dinner tonight is in our hotel. Overnight Pinhão (B, D)
Friday 15 October: Paleolithic rock art
Today we drive to Vila Nova de Foz Côa to visit the World Heritage listed Côa Valley Archaeological Park. Here we are treated to a guided tour in 4WD vehicles to view the best of the 5000 or so examples of rock art and engravings, dating from the end of the Paleolithic era (22,000 years ago) to 8000 BCE. This extraordinary site, in a rural and isolated spot, along with its outstanding museum where we have lunch, gives us an excellent window into the life of primitive man on the Iberian Peninsula. This evening we meet in the hotel for a talk prior to free time for dinner. Overnight Pinhão (B, L)
Saturday 16 October: Douro cruise
Leaving the roads behind, we pack our bags and embark on a full day private cruise downstream along the Douro river to Porto, the City of Bridges. As we navigate the various dams and locks of this stretch of river, which once transported port grapes to the coast, we enjoy lunch and a port aperitif. The views of the Douro valley are of steep terraced vineyards dotted with wine producing farmhouses or quintas, built with the wealth from the deal with British traders for port export in the 18th century and many now transformed into luxury hotels. Disembarking in Porto we settle into our final hotel. Overnight Porto (B, L)
Sunday 17 October: Porto
We discover Porto’s historic centre on foot, climbing the narrow streets behind the hotel where buildings are adorned with colourful tiles and stopping at the famous cathedral cloisters which have a superb tile collection. Moving on to the World Heritage listed Palácio da Bolsa, or Stock Exchange building, we take a tour of the interior and the celebrated Arabian hall before finishing at the train station with its vast display of over 20,000 tiles, representing battles and the history of transport in Portugal. We save the afternoon for contemporary Porto with a look at modern architecture like the Casa da Música, designed by controversial Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. In the late afternoon we enjoy a Port tasting followed by our farewell dinner. Overnight Porto (B, D)
Monday 18 October: Departure
The tour concludes after breakfast. It may be necessary to take a domestic flight to Lisbon before flying home. Airport transfers are included for those who booked flights through Academy Travel. (B)
Dr Jeni Ryde
A linguist and art history specialist, with a PhD focusing on Tourism, Heritage and Renaissance Studies.
Dr Jeni Ryde is a linguist and art history specialist with over fifteen years experience leading tours to Italy, Spain and Portugal. She is passionate about art, design and architecture both ancient and modern and particularly enjoys how both complement each other. Her special interests are the simplicity of the Romanesque and the breadth and depth of the Renaissance. When she is not traveling with Academy Travel she is able to indulge her interests in drawing, music and teaching the less fortunate.
Jeni holds two undergraduate degrees with majors in Anthropology and French and Interpreting and Translation with NAATI qualifications, two Masters degrees in Italian Linguistics and TESOL and a cross disciplinary PhD in Renaissance Art History, Tourism and Museum Management.
After an early career as an assistant director in film and television both for the ABC and BBC, she worked as an interpreter and translator and then as a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University with a focus on Italian language, history and culture. She was also head of the postgraduate programs in Languages and Interpreting and Translation. Teaching in Adult Education has included several courses in Renaissance Art History, the Italian language and Italian Cinema for U3A and other community organizations. Jeni speaks fluent Italian and Spanish and has an understanding of French and Portuguese.
Jeni first began designing and leading tours to Italy with her own company in 2002 in response to requests from travelers searching for small group tours with specific themes. She joined Academy Travel in 2009 and has since led many tours to various regions of Italy as well as Spain and Portugal.
We asked Jeni, what motivates you as a tour leader?
“I delight in being the catalyst for showing our travelers beautiful places and works of art and especially seeing their reactions – a tear in the eye before a moving painting, a sigh of wonder on entering a beautiful building, a gasp at the beauty of an exquisite landscape. This for me is the great privilege and reward of being an Academy Tour Leader.”
“Many travelers comment on my boundless energy and curiosity for paths less travelled. I like to think that people who travel with me are swept along by my waves of enthusiasm and are inspired to go beyond the obvious to explore and learn with me. I’m known for introducing many little surprises along the way! An added bonus for me is the shared experience of like-minded people enjoying each other’s company while traveling together.”
Academy tried and tested. A stylish quirky hotel on the river in Porto, in the historic Ribeira district. www.pestanaporto.com/
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity