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Portugal and Northern Spain itinerary: feedback sought

Portugal and Northern Spain itinerary: feedback sought

Jan 10th, 2019, 05:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2019
Posts: 2
Portugal and Northern Spain itinerary: feedback sought

We are a couple in our mid fifties and will have 4 1/2 weeks to spend in Portugal/Northern Spain (end May-end June 2019). We are renting a car in Lisbon and will drop it back Bilbao. After reading a bit I have come up with an itinerary that I would like to submit to the community of travellers (both on Portugal and Spain forums): is it feasible, have I missed some good stuff or or have I gone to or spent too much time in places not that interesting, should I set it up differently? We especially like quaint, typical villages and also beautiful natural scenery. Happy to do some day walks but we are not trekkers. We are tourists but like to avoid touristy places (!) as much as possible. We are less interested by beaches having lots of them in Australia but love fishing villages. Here is the draft itinerary:

Lisbon (3 nights), Sintra (2n), Nazare (1n) (via Ovidos), Coimbra (1n) (via Bathala, Lousa, Aldeia de Casal Sao Simao), Piodao (1n), Monsanto (1n) (via Manteiga), Almeida (1n) (via Sorthela), Viseu (1n) (via Trancoso and Sernancelhe), Aveiro (1n), Porto (3n) and day trip to Guimaraes, Quinta Nova (2n) to see Douro wineyards, Rio de Onor (1n), las Medulas (1n), Leon (1n), Oviedo (2n), Llanes (2n), Poncebos (2n) and day walk on Cares Gorges, San Sebastian (3n) (via Comillas) and finish in Bilbao (2n) where we fly from.

For central Portugal we are pending 4 nights moving form villages to villages. Would it be better to base ourselves somewhere central (maybe Manteigas?) and do day trips from there to the different villages? Also what would be the nicest base in the Douro valley for spending a couple of nights (which village or more specifically a nice hotel/winery, we don't mind spending a bit more for a good/charm hotel in that area)?

For the Spain part, we would love a couple of days rest on the coast and I have picked Llanes that fits well in our itinerary. Any other/better recommendation? Also 1 night in Leon and then 2 in Oviedo, is that too much? I have picked a place in the Picos de Europa for a day walk in the Cares gore - any other recommendation? Any other recommendation?

Thank you for your comments
samcha is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 06:25 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I'm a firm believer that one night stays can be a good thing, especially on a driving itinerary. But you have almost a whole month of one and two night stays and I think that's a bit much. I would try to group some things that you can do from a base. For example, I would probably do 5 nights in Lisbon with a day trip to Sintra instead of 3 + 2. I have not been north of Coimbra but 5 one nighters in a row I would re-think.

For the Spain part - it looks like you are skipping Santiago which I thought was one of the highlights of our trip to that area. Also, have you looked into the drop fee for the car for picking up in one country and dropping in another. Sometimes they can be significant. Just something to look into.

Here's my trip report from our northern Spain trip - Criss-crossing the Camino: 5 weeks in Northern Spain (and a bit of France)

Here's one that includes Lisbon: 6 days on the Algarve and 3 in Lisbon, March 2018
isabel is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 06:46 PM
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I haven’t been to Portugal yet, and am sure you’ll have a wonderful time in northern Spain!

For my tastes, it could be a challenge to visit all of the things you want to see in Leon with just one night. Two nights in Oviedo seemed about right to me. There’s a set of walks in the Picos de Europa near the Lakes of Covadonga that enticed me.

If you haven’t already seen it, you might find some useful information in my trip report:
Four Awesome Weeks in the North of Spain and Catalunya

You’ll see that I don’t have a problem with one-nigths stays (while acknowledging that many people do).

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 08:40 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2019
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Thanks for your feedback and report.It is very useful to have other people views as I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture.
I agree that I have too many one nighters and I am already redesigning the itinerary. I noted your comment re Santiago. I dropped it because we are crossing into Spain from the North Eastern corner of Portugal and it was tracking back a lot. We could change things and cross through the North West and go up to Santiago but then, time wise, we would have to skip Leon and go straight to Oviedo and the coast and it would also be longer driving wise. What do you think Santiago or Leon?
Also I see in your report that you went to Santillana del mar, Comillas, Cudillero: any favourite for laid-back relaxing couple of days? I had picked Llanes but happy to hear about other places.
Re car hire, it was difficult but I finally found a good deal with Avis - this is the only thing I have booked at this stage.
Thanks again
samcha is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 01:09 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Not many fishing villages in your itinerary, the Spanish part is mostly inland, as I can see...
mikelg is online now  
Jan 11th, 2019, 05:22 AM
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For the time you have, you aren’t trying to see too much, but I agree that I would find a few more bases. Having said that, although Lisbon is a wonderful city, do not give up on staying in Sintra. That was a special place away from the city crowds that are bolstered by cruise ship crowds. The palaces of Sintra are exceptional. Our all time favorite is the quirky Quinta da Regaleira and its park. Maybe it was that we had virtually the whole place to ourselves for half a day there, but it will make you smile.

Obidos is a great medieval walled city, but it also gets crowded with day-trippers and cruise ship groups, so see it in the morning or evening. Maybe a good base, with day trips to Nazare, Bathala, Coimbre and Peniche when the crowds are visiting.

Another special place for us was Fatima, a significant religious site due to the claimed apparitions there 100 years ago. Maybe it was being a kid when we first saw the three Portugese kids in that film the Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima. Tour buses crowd the cathedral there, but our thrill was when our private driver took us down a nearby alleyway to the tiny homes of these kids, all kept the way they were when the kids lived there, and the old guy who showed us the homes claimed he was a cousin of these kids.

You may want to check pricing at AutoEurope, a highly rated broker, just to see if you are getting the best price on your renal. They often have better prices including full insurance. Consider downloading google offline maps to your phone to save on GPS and data costs.
whitehall is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 06:48 AM
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I agree with seeing Sintra as a day trip. Less moving around and there is just so much to see in Lisbon. I would not base in Obidos, which is just worth a couple of hours.

I am in favor of Leon rather than Santiago, especially now the stained glass in the cathedral has been cleaned, and I would give it two nights. This is what I wrote about them in 2004 (I went back to Leon a couple of years ago, but went on to Salamanca instead of Santiago - just loved Salamanca).

" [Leon] has a lot fewer tourists - Santiago was chock-a-block with people, some genuine pilgrims, but many not. Second, I found all the baroque glitter in Santiago cathedral totally obscured the original Romanesque majesty of the building, while Leon cathedral´s soaring austerity was enhanced by walls of stained glass (admittedly some in dire need of cleaning). Finally, Leon is also home to St. Isidore´s Basilica, where I gazed in awe at the 12th century frescoes spread across the walls and ceiling of the royal burial vault. An 11th century wood and ivory casket and 16th century silver chalice also held my attention."
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 09:01 AM
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You may be interested in my trip report for Portugal--we traveled north of Lisbon, starting in Porto and including a few days in Galicia from the border to Santiago de Compostella. Last summer we were in the Asturias and I did write a trip report. If interested you can find both reports by searching for them under my name.

A cost note: It might be cheaper to drop off your Portuguese rental near the Spanish border, take a bus to the close4st town in Spain that prides rental cars (all this arranged ahead of time) to avoid a steep cross-border drop-off fee.
Michael is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 09:37 AM
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From Porto I would head north towards Vigo and stay on the coast at least until Fisterra, ( we went as far as Ferrol) then head through Ourense and the Sil River canyon to Ponferrada.

We did the western Galician coast last September; 3 nights in Vigo, 1 in Fisterra, 3 in Ferrol and 1 in Ponferrada (Las Medulas).

Last edited by cdnyul; Jan 11th, 2019 at 09:53 AM.
cdnyul is online now  
Jan 11th, 2019, 10:13 AM
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correction: take a bus to the closest town in Spain that provides rental cars
Michael is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 12:09 PM
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I also wonder why you are not visiting Santiago de Compostela as it was a highlight of Northern Spain for us. Try to include a srive theough the Rias Baixas on your way north.
Also, in Portugal you ahould visit Alcobaça, the burial site of Portugese royalty including King Pedro and his Inès. Quite a love story. It is near Bathalha and we much preferred it. If you are interested in
Portugese pottery I will look up my source which is in that area. The day we visited the pottery workshop the owner/potter was preparing a shipment to Bloomindale’s in NY.
Otherwise your itinerary looks good.
A tip to save you a high drop off fee picking up car in one country and dropping it off in another. Our hotel in Porto arranged for a taxi to take to take us across the border to Vigo where we picked up a Spanish car rental. The cost of the taxi was around ten per cent of the drop off fee.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 08:34 PM
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In Portugal also take a look at Braga and Amarante, a beautiful small town. And one day in Sintra is enough and you can go by train from Lisbon.

There are many things to see been the Portuguese frontier and the Basque Country. As some have noted Rias Baixas are beautiful, Lugo is a walled city, there are some beaches and unspoiled fishing towns like Tui and Malpica. There are the Picos de Europa.

As noted the drop off fee for the car rental could be high. Be sure to have an IDP for Spain and if you wear glasses be sure to have a second pair handy if stopped by the police.
IMDonehere is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 05:08 AM
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I disagree with Sintra as a day trip. Was glad I spent the night. Two would have been better, yes it was busy but Lisbon was worse. Took the train and used their buses and taxis when there.

I stayed at Casa de Pendoa (deluxe double mtn view is a good room).

mlgb is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 06:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17,460

This was where I stayed.. you can walk to the National Palace and to Regaleira as well as the train and the center of town. For the Pena Palace, you take the town bus.

I'd recommend downloading the Regaleira ap to follow..it was fun!

Go as early as possible to the Pena Palace... the other two weren't as bad. I personally didn't think Monserrate was worthwhile, and agree that you don't necessarily need to go through Pena Palace, I bought a combo ticket by mistake and it was okay but not as interesting as Regaleria and the National Palace. I don't care for heights so didn't go to the Moors Castle.

The lines to buy tickets at the Jeronimo Monastery were horrendous. There apparently is a hack that involves buying a combo ticket at the Archaeology Museum. And don't bother go to the Pastais de Belem place, more horrendous queues...Basically Lisbon seems full of lemmings ...where everyone has to go to the same places listed in all the guide books. I was glad I stayed in a somewhat less popular neighborhoods and had some decent food at unlisted cafes (and a nice final dinner at the top floor of Corte Ingles which is one of those food hall models.

I followed the Rick Steves free podcast for downtown Lisbon and enjoyed doing that walk. Alfama Palace, more horrendous queues there and walking through the district.

I wonder how bad Porto is, it seems to be a mandatory stop. and has a big list of cruise ships that visit.

PS the lady at Pendoa said the crowds start to dwindle in November...Unfortunately they were still there in October.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 16th, 2019 at 06:56 AM.
mlgb is offline  

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