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Getting around - Duoro Valley to Sintra and on to Evora

Getting around - Duoro Valley to Sintra and on to Evora

Old May 12th, 2019, 12:39 PM
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Getting around - Duoro Valley to Sintra and on to Evora

We are considering a day or two in Evora o our planned trip to Portugal next year. We will likely fly into Porto and spend 5-6 days in Duoro Valley drinking wine and doing little else (river cruise, winery visit or two. etc...). The point is to enjoy the food, views and wine.

We will take few days (2?) to re-visit Sintra (we missed Pena Palace, the Moorish castle and Montserrat when we were there before. We loved Quinta da Regaleira and would love to visit again. And I am thinking about also taking a day or 2 at Evora before we leave.

Overall we plan ~10 days (in May) in Portugal and will fly into Porto and out of Lisbon (or the opposite). We were thinking:
  • Fly into Porto and travel to Duoro Valley by car (6 days)
  • Travel to Sintra (2 days) - by car? We don't want a car in Sintra so maybe arrange a driver? It looks like a train would be time consuming and require us to go into Lisbon and then transfer to get to Sintra.
  • Travel to Lisbon and on to Evora (by train) Evora (2 days)
  • Back to Lisbon to fly home
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Old May 12th, 2019, 01:16 PM
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We did the opposite of what you are doing. We flew into Lisbon, rented a car and drove to Sintra. We spent two nights there and then drove to the Douro Valley (which we absolutely loved and hope to go back to next year) and then flew out of Porto.

Couldn't you just drive to Sintra and park your car at the hotel when you get there? Driving around Sintra wasn't that bad, it is driving right in Sintra that is difficult. Then you would be able to drive to Evora and return your car in Lisbon at the end.
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Old May 12th, 2019, 01:21 PM
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Yup fastest trains take 3 h 40 and require change at Lisbon Oriente. Check on buses - lots of nice ones in Portugal. How about driving to some city where you can return your car and take train or bus to Sintra. You can get discounts on long-distance trains by booking early at cp.pt - Portugal's national rail system = check www.seat61.com for help with that and understanding Portugal's limited but getting better, especially on Lisbon-Pprto trains rail network. General info Portuguese trains - BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteeves.com.

Consider driving to Obidos and then to Sintra.
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Old May 12th, 2019, 01:38 PM
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Even driving in Sintra isn't that bad. Finding parking in the centre is difficult.
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Old May 13th, 2019, 05:28 AM
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OK- good to know. Have read in other places that driving in Sintra is a pain but am wondering if it maybe lack of parking at the popular sites. Sberg we may do the route you did---have not decided but good to know we are on the right track.

We have not driven in Europe at all up this point but are getting to the point where doing some of the things we are interested will require us to bit the bullet. That said, I want to make sure we don't have a disastrous first driving experience by making avoidable mistakes.

PalenQ - I am on the fence about Obidos. Decisions, decisions...
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Old May 13th, 2019, 05:38 AM
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As I remember, better to take the bus rather than the train to Evora. The bus station is nearer the center.
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Old May 13th, 2019, 09:19 AM
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Driving in Sintra is very busy and the roads are very narrow. They are also hilly and if you are not familiar with driving a manual it could be tricky. I'm pretty sure you can take a bus to the sites within Sintra. Having a car was nice as we could drive where we wanted. We drove to Cabo de Roca from Sintra which was beautiful! We also drove out to the coast. Driving to Obidose was not hard either and you park outside so parking is not an issue. It could be a drive by as it does not take too long to go through Obidose. We had a lovely lunch there.
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Old May 14th, 2019, 03:33 AM
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In case you make it to Cascais, go see Boca do Inferno (only 16 km from Cabo da Roca.
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Old May 14th, 2019, 03:58 AM
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We had a car in Portugal, but took a private transfer to Sintra from Cascais, where we stayed at amazing Fortaleza do Guincho. It was not expensive at all, something around 20€ one way. It was so worth it!!! We had plenty of time in Sintra, even enough time to hike back from the Moorish Castle to Quinta da Regaliera. We enjoyed our walk in the gorgeous gardens of the Pena Palace (was very underwhelmed by the super crowded interior of the Palace itself). We also walked on the walls of the Moorish Castle and fell in love with Quinta da Regaliera.

I agree with Myriam that Boca do Inferno is something to remember...

Evora is so lovely and very easy to explore. But the best part was our hotel in the vicinities of Evora, Convento do Espinheiro. There was nothing like staying in the 15th century convent, completely renovated and amazingly preserved. Their website will describe it better than I.

https://www.conventodoespinheiro.com/en/

You can easily rent an automatic transmission car in Portugal. It costs more, but is worth it.
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Old May 16th, 2019, 02:11 PM
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denisea,
On one of our Portugal journeys, we began in Lisbon (flying in from the US), drove immediately to Evora for several nights (agree on Convento de Espinheiro!), then drove up to Coimbra (Quinta das Lagrimas), purposely avoiding Obidos, then on to the Douro for our 4-night stay at a wine estate to the west of Pinhão, then to Porto for another 4 nights, departing from Porto.
We've yet to spend 6 consecutive nights in the Douro but have made several trips there.

We've done Sintra as a day trip, but given the huge crowds now, I would want to return for a 2-night stay to enjoy my visit more and be there at night when the bus tours leave.

To add Sintra to the mix (staying perhaps at the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais, on the local circular bus 435 route), you could arrange a taxi transfer from Lisbon airport and begin your trip in Sintra or put it at the end and arrange a transfer to the Lisbon airport (not overly expensive).

Having a car these days in Sintra has become somewhat of an albatross unless you can leave it at your hotel outside of the center.
Vehicle traffic has now been banned in the Sintra center except for residents and hotels guests, parking at the sites is non-existent, and with the huge number of visitors that Sintra receives these days, I wouldn't want to have to deal in a car with the tuk tuks that now crowd the hilly roads.

To visit the sites we used the (very crowded) Scotturb loops buses 434 (Circuito de Pena) and the 435 (Villa Express 4 Palacios), or one can hire a tuk tuk (usually 5 euros/person) or summon an Uber.
The circular hop on/hop off Scotturb bus 434 goes from rail station to National Palace/historic center to Moorish castle to Pena Palace, then back to the castle, then back down town, then to the rail station.

The Scotturb loop 435 bus goes from the rail station to National Palace/historic center to the Quinta da Regaleira (or one can walk), then on to the Palácio de Seteais (Tivoli hotel), then Montserrate then back to the rail station.
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Old May 29th, 2019, 04:39 PM
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Thanks so much—great info. There is so much to do and see and not enough time/money.

i am also a little obsessed with Algarve and may be “forced” to add that and maybe cutting back on Duoro Valley. Choices, choices.
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Old May 29th, 2019, 06:36 PM
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When we've gone to the Douro we've spent 4 nights in the Cima Corgo, the most beautiful section housing the most prestigious quintas, just west of Pinhão, but have never spent 6, and we love wine touring. Three or four nights there might be enough.

In early November we also spent 8 days on the Algarve coast, moving from west to east all the way to the Spanish border, avoiding time in the very over developed ("party hub") mid-section. But we're not golfers so didn't stay at a luxury golf/spa resort in the Golden Triangle there,*like Pine Hills, Anantara, Vila Joya or Quinta do Lago.
We had two boutique quinta/villa bases, the first outside of Lagos and the second outside of Tavira.

The area we found the most scenic was the "wilder side", the Costa Vicentina northwest of Lagos, with its dramatic, massive, golden cliffs and expansive, almost deserted beaches.
The far eastern coast, around Moorish looking Tavira, is composed of wetlands and part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, which we found less compelling, beauty wise, less "stunning", but it was just our personal feeling. Beaches there are on islands, accessible by ferry.*
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Old May 29th, 2019, 10:58 PM
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Have just been in Portugal for 2 1/2 weeks. I agree that you will probably be happy with 4 nights in the Duoro. Loved our meal at DOC by the way.

We drove throughout Portugal. The rental of an suv was very reasonable so we just parked the car and walked when in the towns. We found it easy to drive into Sintra and parked in front of our hotel. Then we used Uber, super easy and the cheapest option to get to and from the sites.

We used google maps navigation as usual and had no problems.

If this is your our first time driving in Europe I would not recommend trying that though. In Sintra streets are very tight, windy, and most are one ways. The one caveat is that after 6 pm and before 9 am there is virtually no traffic.

The Fortaleza do Guincho has a wonderful view on the Atlantic as well as a very good one Michelin Star restaurant. We drove there from Sintra in half an hour and spent some time driving to Cascais nearby enjoying the ocean scenery.

Two other places we enjoyed, Coimbra, staying and eating at Quinta das Lagrimas. Very charming people and place.

Also, we made a visit to Tomar, where we loved the monastery and thought the town quaint and pretty, on the river.

So happy we didn’t just stick to Lisbon and Porto, both of which were mobbed with tourists.

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Old May 30th, 2019, 05:16 AM
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This is terrific info. We have found in some places that it's great to camp out and just enjoy the scenery and relax (original plan with Duoro). We've been to Lisbon so are not planning much time there (if any) but we did not get much time in Sintra so we really want to go back. We definitely are not interested in any party scene anywhere!

If we run short on time, what are your thoughts on Evora va Algarve?

I am thinking:

Fly into Porto:
Duoro Valley - 4 nights
Sintra - 2 nights
Algarve - 4 nights OR Algarve 3 nights and Evora 1 night
Fly out of Lisbon
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Old May 30th, 2019, 09:55 AM
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In case you haven't seen them, isabel has some truly gorgeous photos of her Algarve trip-
https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/p713635492

The western Algarve can be pleasant for a 4-day stay if you just want to camp out, relax, take boat trips out to see the grottos, arches and sea caves, take cliff walks along the spectacular, unspoiled Costa Vicentina, walk the beaches, dine on outstanding fish, maybe golf (if you're golfers), as the coast has some of Europe's most outstanding courses. In fact, the Algarve's greatest attraction for vacationers is golf.
But the Atlantic water is usually too cold to enjoy for a swim, at least for me.

As I mentioned, we didn't find the eastern section that enticing (abandoned buildings covered with graffiti, renovations in the process but half finished), the old quarter of Faro took just a couple of hours to see (with lunch at tile-filled Vila Adentro) and the eastern scenery underwhelming. I'd read Isabel's report after planning our trip and anticipated this. What we did love were our 2 special accommodations that made our visit memorable.

As to luxury spa resorts (like the Douro's Six Senses & Tivoli Palácio de Seteais) with Michelin star quality restaurants, they're found in the Golden Triangle, around Vilamouro-Vale de Lobo-Quinta do Lago, if that's what you're seeking. (I'm thinking of the Vita Vila Parc). There is no luxury resort of that calibre (LHW, SLH) in the western Algarve.

The area we much prefer and keep returning to for relaxation is the Alentejo region, around Evora, with its miles & miles of cork trees & olive groves, horse farms, megaliths, weekly markets, fine winery estates ("herdades"), castles and castle hotels, eagles' nests such as the white fortified villages of Marvão, Monsaraz, Castelo da Vide, the towns of Evora, Estremoz, Elvas, the marble town of Vila Viçosa, but that's just our personal preference.
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