Itinierary Advice for 2 week plus trip

Jan 6th, 2010, 08:08 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 169
Itinierary Advice for 2 week plus trip

I am planning our second visit to Portugal end Aug/early Sep. Last time we were in Portugal 3 yrs ago, was during June. Was great! This time, we are looking at 2 weeks or more if necessary. Haven't booked flight yet. Obviously it will be hotter and more crowded. On our last trip we did Lisbon and surroundings (up to Fatima) and the Algarve. This time we want to see the Middle and North. After taking a look here (replies to cindyjo's intinerary and Ireynold1's report etc.), at several guides and websites, I am not sure if it is advisable to include the south as well as there appears to be so much to do in the north - altho we liked the beaches and golf in the south.

I thought we would pick up our hire car on arrival and drive out of Lisbon, heading north towards Porto. But before getting there, we should overnight somewhere. Question is where? - Nazaré, Figuera da Foz, Coimbra or somewhere else?

Then after 1 or 2 days, head for Porto where we would spend a week - doing city, beach and day trips to Guimaraes, Braga, Ponte de Lima, Barcelos, Bom Jesus. Any other ideas? Should we visit the Douro from here or do a separate short visit?

Thought we should rent an apartment near the beach in Porto- any suggestions on areas. Ideally should be easy to get into Porto. Don't want to have any parking problems. For 5 people, we can't get a smaller car than an estate wagon.

After that, we will head downwards towards mid-Portugal - these towns seem worth a visit - Viseu, Marvao, Evora, Tomar, Estremoz altho we don't have to do them all. Which of these merit an overnight stay and which can be visited on a drive through? Actually, I prefer to base ourselves somewhere nearby and then do day trips. Means less unpacking and repacking of luggage.

If we still have time, we will go all the way down to the Algarve for about 4 days and then up to Lisbon to fly off.

I still haven't mentioned a stay in Lisbon yet. I'll tag it on either at the beginning or end of the trip. Since we spent 4 days in Lisbon last time, I think 2 days may be enough this time.

Have an 80yr old, a 70yr old and 12 yr old along and would like to be considerate. Might either have to lengthen the trip or drop Algarve.

Many thanks for an comments on above!
munich_madl is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 01:38 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
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What a fun trip!

I don't have time to answer in full but will think more and get back to you.

For now, first, the weather. August/September temps in the north are the same (or slightly cooler) than Lisbon in June. Pack sweaters for the evenings and prepare for rain. The beaches up north can be quite chilly/windy even in summer. The interior of Portugal is a different story; it may be quite hot, much hotter than Lisbon.

Heading north from Lisbon, you've listed some great options for overnight stays. I'd recommend Coimbra but that's because I've never connected with Nazaré. (But others seem to like Nazaré a lot!)

If your 12 year old cares about dinosaurs, you might also visit the world's longest sauropod trail just south of Fátima. A nice break. There are also some caves to visit in the area, very deep, quite touristy but our son really loved them.

For history buffs, the Roman city of Conímbriga (just south of Coimbra) is open to visitors while being excavated. I visit every few years and think it's fascinating: (Lots of room for a 12 year old to stretch their legs, too.) If you decide to stay in Coimbra, this is an easy sidetrip.

North of Porto you might also consider a visit to Viana do Castelo. It has a lovely historic center. (Viana is my mother's favorite Portuguese town.)

In order of preference, I'd visit Barcelos on Thursday (for the market; prepare for large crowds and consider the parking mayhem part of the experience), Ponte de Lima (it has a small market every other Monday, I believe), Guimarães, Viana, Bom Jesus.

Must run. Hope this helps. If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I lived in Braga for three years and know the north fairly well.
VisitingPortugal is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 03:08 AM
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Thanks 'Visiting Portugal' for your input and also your reply to the other post although you were pressed for time. Since I wrote them, I've been trying to figure out our day-to-day programme so that I know when to arrive and depart and may have just about finished. I've chucked out the Algarve as well as the mountainous regions in the north. My daughter gets car-sick so no point having a groaning kid in the back spoiling our day out as always.
I've also chucked out attending the Romaria in Viana do Castelo and Lamego. Timing just not right. Instead, we will just visit them on a 'normal' day.
To avoid changing accommodation so many times, we'll have a couple of bases. Let me run this by you or anyone else willing to comment:
-First, pick up rental car on arrival in Lisbon and head up the coast stopping at Nazare for lunch on the way. Stay 3 days in Coimbra or Figueira da Foz (beach for kid!) and visit Coimbra, Bussaco, Conimbriga.
- Next, move on to Porto. Along the way, visit Aveiro. Stay in Porto 8 nights. 3 day trips out of Porto a. Guimaraes, Braga, Bom Jesus b. Vila Real (Sao Mateus), Lamego and back thru Mesao Frio or Amarante c. Barcelos and Viana do Castelo on a Thursday. Maybe also Ponte de Lima. Rest of time, spent in Porto and beach
-Next down to Marvao, stopping by Tomar for lunch. Stay 1 night in Marvao.
-Then leave for Lisbon - drop by Castelo da Vide. 5 nts in Lisbon doing 1 day trip to Evora with either Estremoz, Elvas or Vila Vicosa (not sure which is the best). Return car after Evora trip and use public transport for rest of stay.

Have I missed out any exceptional places above? Hope not.
Glad to hear that the weather won't be scorching hot. Should I ensure that the accommodation has A/C.
munich_madl is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 01:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
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Wow. Lots of good planning! There are so many things to do in these areas, but your itinerary nicely minimizes the packing/unpacking and still provides a good variety of outings. If I mentioned more things, others would have to drop off the list... choices, choices.

In general, my biggest question is the allocation of time towards the end. I think I'd reduce the time in Porto to 7 nights and perhaps reduce the time in Lisbon, too, by a day since you've been there already. That would allow more time to have a base in the interior for the Tomar, Marvão, Évora portion. The problem with that, of course, is the packing/unpacking bit. Not sure if that is a good tradeoff for your family. Just something to consider...

A few other random thoughts:

* Every time I go to Tomar I wish I had more time. The Convento do Cristo is an obvious draw, but so is the aquaduct which has stairs so that you can climb and walk upon it across a valley. Very serene. There's a riverfront park in Tomar, too, which has an unassuming café that served one of the best meals I've ever eaten.

* fyi, the carsickness may prove problematic whenever you leave one of the "A" roads (A1, A3, etc). The smaller roads can be very beautiful but very very winding. Unpleasant if someone is prone to carsickness. That means that, although the backroads might be prettier, the freeways might be a better option when available.

* Last time I was in Amarante we bought some goodies at a café and then went down to the river and rented canoes. We didn't really "go" anywhere, just rowed around and enjoyed the very pretty view up towards the city/bridges. It was a nice way to relax from the drive into town.

* I haven't been to Marvão in almost 10 years but it was, at that time, a magical place. Only 100 habitants. Since then, it's been the subject of several major travel articles and probably changed quite a bit. But it's off the beaten track and hopefully still special. (We originally intended to stay one night, but the tourism office helped us rent a little house just inside/along the castle walls and we stayed for days. The owner's name was Tavares; I think she worked at the tiny Marvão Museum. Cool old home with deepset windows looking forever aross Spain.)

* AC: I'm a poor person to comment on this, as I don't like AC and much prefer to open windows and use a fan, but since you asked... I wouldn't worry about AC around Porto. However, it may well be very hot in the interior (Coimbra, Tomar, etc) and I'd definitely get AC for the car!
VisitingPortugal is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 12:22 AM
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These are very good tips. Many thanks. I'm going to fine-tune the programme.
munich_madl is offline  
Jan 11th, 2010, 08:55 AM
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Just a few observations, since you've gotten such good advice already.

I really love the north and think you can easily fill a week or ten days without venturing south. If it were me, I wouldn't take too many day trips from the city of Porto. I would spend a couple of days there (just parking the car in a garage or hotel lot), then move to a more rural place from which to do day trips. I stayed this past summer at Casa da Torre das Neves, and it was a great location for day trips to many of the places you'd want to see north of Porto.

I also think a day trip to the Douro Valley from Porto would be rushed and wouldn't allow you to enjoy the spectacular scenery. I stayed two nights at Casa de Canilhas a terrific place to stay, near Mesao Frio (a nice small town in itself with a very good tasca/restaurant).
Two nights here would give you one full day for a good valley trip. September is harvest time and it's just beautiful when the grapes are ripe on the vine.

About AC -- Adrienne's recent trip report describes some pretty scorching weather in September (I think), so it depends on your level of tolerance. At the last minute, I decided to get AC in a rental for a September trip and was VERY glad we had it.

lreynold1 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2010, 09:07 AM
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I would advise you against going down to the Algarve at that time of year. My husband and I have a place there and on 2 occasions took a niece and nephew along and they could only travel at in Aug....just horrible. All of Portugal heads there for their holidays. September is a bit better but but then everything has become "tired" and so dry. Spring, early summer, later in the fall are really a much better choices.

Stay away from the Algarve, travel in the north and upper part of the Alentejo.

There are some very lovely less visited beaches below Lisbon
though that would be a good choice at that time of year.
lowcountrycarol is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 11:42 PM
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Thanks so much for all the advice. We are now definitely going to concentrate only on the north and I am going to see how I can fit in Laurie's tips too! Absolutely great. Muitos Obrigados!
munich_madl is offline  

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