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Seeking Portugal itinerary advice (April, 2014)

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Feb 27th, 2014, 01:04 PM
  #1
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Seeking Portugal itinerary advice (April, 2014)

I need advice on how to allocate our time outside Lisbon, in a season that may be rainy.

We will spend 11 nights in Portugal in the period April 8-19, 2014. We have reserved 2 nights (Sunday and Monday April 13-14) at the Pousada de Santa Marinha outside Guimaraes. We will drive direct from Guimaraes to Lisbon, where we spend the 4 nights of April 15-18 inclusive.

From our arrival at Lisbon airport (where we rent a car) on April 8, we have FIVE nights to book before we arrive in Guimaraes

We like architecture and fine scenery. We are indifferent to vineyards. We prefer small towns to large, modern cities. (We've eliminated Porto for that reason.)

Here are my questions:

1. I would like to see the sights near Guimaraes, including Braga, Braganca, the Douro landscape and the Casa de Mateus. But are we at risk from heavy spring rains? Should we perhaps re-think that part of the trip and stay further south?

Specifically, is it realistic to plan a day trip (car or train) along the Douro in that season?

2. In the central region, I am attracted by Batalha, Alcobaca, Tomar, Viseu and Coimbra. Can you suggest a single spot to base ourselves for 2 nights, to see these sights?

3. Will we have time to see Evora, Estermoz and perhaps Elvas? Or should we delete these from our itinerary? I don't quite see how we'll get from these easterly points to the parts further north.

Any suggestions on how we might organize, re-package or re-think this itinerary?
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Feb 27th, 2014, 01:27 PM
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I stayed in Tomar and visited Fatima and Batalha from there. I liked Tomar as it's a large town but not what I consider a city. There's a monastery there as well and the pedestrian part is pretty with tiled building facades. The Jewish museum/synagogue there was very interesting. I didn't stop in Alcobaca as I'd already seen the monastery in Tomar and Batalha, and planned to see the monastery in Belem (by far the best of the three).

At least one day should be spent in Sintra, my favorite town of the ones I saw in Portugal. You could stop there overnight on your way back to Lisbon as there is enough to see and do in Sintra for 1.5 to 2 days.

If you do spend time in Sintra you won't have enough time for Evora and that area. If you're concerned about rainy weather, Evora has several small sights but you would spend time walking to them. And the car park is outside the walls, about a 10 minute walk from the square.
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Feb 27th, 2014, 01:53 PM
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Thanks. Our nights in Guimaraes and Lisbon are fixed, so we have to drive in one day from Guimaraes to Lisbon: no overnight is possible.

Is it feasible to see some (not all) of Sintra in a few hours, during that trip southward? Or would that just be a frustrating experience?
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Feb 27th, 2014, 01:56 PM
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(I should explain that we got a special rate at the pousada in Guimaraes. We can cancel but we cannot alter the reservation.)
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Feb 27th, 2014, 02:32 PM
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Heading out from Lisbon, as far as the central area we based in Evora, Obidos,and Coimbra. We did day trips to those places you have in Option 2 plus Nazare and Aveiro. I do not recommend staying in Obidos, tiny with many tourists, pretty but crowded,visit for a few hours and leave. The cathedral in Alcobaca was a highlight for us. We also stayed in Guirmares and loved the whole Minho area. I also recommend you include Santiago de Compostela,Spain as well, quite unique with the pilgrims returning.
Porto , at least where we stayed, was filled with historic buildings and atmosphere. It didn't feel modern to us at all and was a delightful surprise. Don't skip it.
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Feb 27th, 2014, 03:01 PM
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<< Is it feasible to see some (not all) of Sintra in a few hours >>

The best thing in Sintra is the Pena Palace. You'd need about 2 hours there plus time for the bus from town and then the shuttle to the palace. Depending on bus schedules, at least a half hour on each side of the palace visit. You can't drive your car to the palace as there is very limited parking so need to take the bus that leaves from in front of the TI.

If you have less time you could visit the National Palace which is right in town and then look around the main area for a bit. The National Palace takes about an hour.

You have April 8 through 13 free so you could go up the western part of Portugal, visit Sintra, Obidos (2 hours is more than sufficient here), Tomar, the monasteries, perhaps Coimbra (I didn't get there) and then head to Guimaraes.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 10:15 AM
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Thanks for the tip about Obidos. I think we should plan 2 nights in that immediate area, as Obidos, Alcobaca and Batalha cannot be fully seen in 1 day.

I'm going to focus for a bit on finding a good base in that area, then address the issue of our more northerly destinations.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 05:30 PM
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Anyone have views on Coimbra as a base?
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Feb 28th, 2014, 08:49 PM
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We spent two nights in Coimbra and explored the historic university and town. We stayed at Quinta Las Lagrimas where the love story of King Pedro and his love Ines took place. They are buried in the cathedral at Alcobaca. Quite a story.
The hotel sent us to an area nearby known for it's suckling pig restaurants and we had a wonderful meal.
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Mar 9th, 2014, 10:06 AM
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The nearby area is called Mealhada, where the Leitão da Bairrada is a regional speciality that is known nationwide.

And Tomar in Portugal is not a town but a city. Cities in Portugal have recognition by law. So Tomar is officially a city since the mid nineteen century. It's the 5th largest city of Santarem's district.
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