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Ten days in Portugal - what are your favorites?

Ten days in Portugal - what are your favorites?

Old Apr 8th, 2014, 01:48 PM
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Ten days in Portugal - what are your favorites?

I have seen a lot of posts where people split Portugal into a "north trip" (Porto) or a "south trip" (the Algarve). If we have ten days can you accomplish both and if so what are your favorites? We tend to be more wandering types rather than museum types and we likely don't want to stay in more than three places as don't like packing and unpacking (but we're fine with day trips). My initial thoughts:

Lisbon - not sure how much appeal Lisbon has for us as we weren't huge Madrid fans (but loved Seville and the hill towns)

Algarve - sounds like a nice spot to chill a few days but we're not really beach people (skipped the Costa del Sol in Spain)

Sintra and Evora - Both worth it or not necessarily?

Porto / north - how many days and best spot for home base?

I know there are lots of trip reports out there, I'm just looking for people's favorites and whether trying to do a little of the north and south is too much since we don't like to constantly be on the go. I am leaning towards the north as seems more our style, but hanging out in a little fishing village in the Algarve for a couple days sounds pretty nice too. Didn't know how well the train network works in Portugal as may be a good option to get from Algarve to Porto without a marathon drive.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 06:30 AM
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Lisbon has nothing to do with madrid.
I'm currently living in Lisbon and I must say I love it. Lisbon it's a great city for tourists with a river setting but great historic places. It's a great city just to wander around in the old parts of the city, alfama, bairro alto(with nice night life), principe real... Sintra it's doable as a day trip from Lisbon and well worth it with places like quinta da regaleira and palacio da pena.
I would, if I were you, rent a car in Lisbon, start early morning and go to Sintra. See quinta da regaleira, palacio da pena and eat a "travesseiro de sintra" in a local bakery named piriquita. I would come back to lisbon going through Cascais and visit the baixa os cascais area, like largo de camões.

I do like Evora but I would go there if I were you only if going to Algarve or costa vicentina, you don't even have to overnight there, just have lunch and wonder around for a bit before you go south. I usually have lunch in Beja, in a place called "adega 25 de abril", very nice restaurant, cheap, and with local cuisine. If you decide to go eat there try grelhada mista and for dessert pudim de requeijao e amendoa.

I'm not sure what time of the year you're going and if you are going in the summer maybe consider going to south, if going in spring maybe go to north. If you and to ditch the tourists of algarve you can go to costa vicentina(long distance path along the Sw coast of Portugal), very beautiful and unspoiled, but the seas are rough. (check images for aljezur, arrifana, monte clerigo, odeceixe and see if you like) If you rent a car you can see all this places in a few days.

If you decide you don't like beaches that much then consider go to Porto. You can stay in Porto city two days for example and then check out the Douro area for another two days with an overnight in a place of your choice. You can do a river cruise in Douro but I would probably rent a car. A place I do recommend too is penedo geres national park. Beautiful place (really gorgeous) and you can overnight there and check out the park.

My advice for Portugal it's to rent a car. It's the best way to get to know the country and that gives you the most flexibility. Portugal it's not that big and you can just get to know the places a bit and go as you want, stay if you like the place you're at or go to the next location that probably won't be so far.

Another place you can consider is serra do bussaco and overnight at the Bussaco Palace Hotel. Beautiful place.

As for the time to spend in each place, if I where you, I would keep myself flexible enough not to have to decide and just go with the flow. It's a beautiful country.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 08:24 AM
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Great advice and much appreciated. If we only have about ten days then I'm thinking we may skip the Algarve this trip. While I love the idea of rustic seas and some downtime wandering and with a good book, the north sounds more like what we like. We are likely going in September / early October. Appreciate the advice and definitely will rent a car.

The only reason I was contemplating a train would be if we did the Algarve for a couple days and then were heading to Porto it may be nice to chill out on the train and watch the scenery rather than have a long drive (although stopping in some towns as you mentioned sounds nice as well).
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 08:36 AM
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If you go to Porto (which is lovely if a little down at heel in places) read up on the earth quake and also the French invasion and try to see where all the incidents happened. The river bank is pleasant, a trip (train or boat) up the river is also a good visit.

Algarve has some good sites along its length apart from gold courses. Tavira, Faro and the cape are high spots for me but I also like the Alentejo for bird watching, walking, wine.

The other ancient cities are a good as well as above
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 08:56 AM
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September should be a good month for Douro. It's usually the grape harvesting month. Skipping Algarve might be a good idea since you don't have that much time. I still recommend that you hire a car in Lisbon and research the towns in the way of Porto. Make stops along the way, (google for images on Peniche, Foz do Arelho, Obidos, Nazaré, Coimbra, Aveiro) and overnight depending on where you are at the time. If I where you I would go to all this places, it's on the way and you don't even have to stop if you don't fancy the place. The good thing about having the freedom of the car is that you don't have to decide now and you can see many places in one day, stopping when you
like the places you're at. You can use http://www.viamichelin.com/ as a guide to know distances between places and travel time since it's almost always right.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 10:56 AM
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With two weeks, I stick with Lisbon for 4 to 5 days. It will give you the time to enjoy the city and spend one day on a trip to Sintra (by train). You can also do a day-trip to Evora. There are services that will take you out and back at a reasonable cost.

You can then take the train north to Porto. I would use Foz do Douro as a base for a couple of days. It's a beautiful spot. After that, you can pick up a car at the rail station and do a loop, Porto-Braga-Guimarães-Pinhão-Porto rail station. There are several excellent Quintas in the Douro River Valley where you can spend a few nights and explore the area. It will be the wine harvest season, so there will be a bit of activity.

www.casadegouvaes.com/en/home.aspx
quintadopego.com/Hotel-23245.htm
www.quintadelarosa.com
www.quintadocao.com/en/index.php
www.canilhas.com

If you wanted to stay a little longer, there is a excellent private villa, SeMarkinhas, that overlooks the river (www.dourovillarental.com)

The rail service in Portugal is excellent.

A couple of things about driving in Portugal. The toll roads shouldn't be a problem. You can avoid most of them, but the charges are not the high if you do happen to use a toll road. Your rental car will have a transponder, so that's not an issue. The main issue is Portuguese drivers. They tend to fly low and drive fast on every road you'll travel.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 11:27 AM
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If you go to Porto I recommend staying right inside Porto and not staying on the outskirts.

I also think if you have trepidations about Lisbon you should skip it. I happend to love the city and would happily live there (and it is not like Madrid) but if your feeling is for the north then you can enjoy a great deal up there. Just fly in and out of Porto.

In the north I particularly liked Guirmaraes in addition to Porto and I very much liked visiting Tui (or Tuy) which is just over the border into Spain. I was less keen on Braga and while I enjoyed my visit to the university and library of Coimbra I feel I could have done it as a day trip from Porto rather than a separate stop. I ran out of time so I didn't visit the Douro river valley which sounds like it would be an area you might enjoy a great deal.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 11:36 AM
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I did the center part of Portugal and skipped both the north and south. Sintra was my favorite - give it 2 days. I used Evora as a location for day trips in the area but wasn't thrilled with it. It's too far from Lisbon to be worthwhile and you should really have a car for that area.

Consider Tomar if you're looking for something on the way to Porto.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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I, too, did not care for Madrid, but I absolutely love Lisbon, so don't skip it just because you didn't care for Madrid. I've been to Portugal four times but never to the Algarve as I'm not a beach person. For things to do in and around Lisbon click on my name for my Loving Lisbon TR.

I wouldn't bother with a car around Lisbon, there is excellent public transport. If you head north from Lisbon take the train and consider an overnight in Coimbra which has an old town that is worth some time plus good Roman remains just outside.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 12:05 PM
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Thanks for the great and thoughtful replies as always Fodorites. Looks like we'll do Lisbon (and Sintra day trip) and then figure out time up north in a couple locations. Especially appreciate the Lisbon comments as it seems worth a few days - we weren't necessarily "anti-Madrid" but just tend to enjoy the smaller cities (Seville, Florence, etc) much better. Without doing the Algarve, we definitely will have time for both.

Good idea to maybe fly into Lisbon and out of Porto (likely connecting through Heathrow as we can usually get upgrades on the flights from the West Coast).
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Old Apr 11th, 2014, 05:10 PM
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We flew into Lisbon and out of Porto and rented a car. We stayed in Sintra and took a day trip into Lisbon. We spent three nights in Sintra (loved it). We explored some of the coast from there too. We then stayed a night in Obidose and drove to the Douro. We were there in August right before the harvest. It would be fantastic during the harvest. We LOVED the Douro. Spend a few nights there and then go to Porto and explore the city and the Port houses. Portugal is a wonderful country. Great wine and overall the prices are very reasonable.
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Old Apr 20th, 2014, 03:18 PM
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Planning a 7 day vacation in Portugal for May. We really want to visit the wine country. Rough itinerary: 4 days Lisbon (with a day trip to nearby city perhaps) and 3 days Porto. But I"m uncertain; should we stay in Porto and take a day excursion to Douro - or find accommodations in Douro and skip Porto? Day 7 includes traveling back to Lisbon for our departure flight the following day. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Apr 20th, 2014, 04:15 PM
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Saving for next trip
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Old Apr 21st, 2014, 02:32 AM
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MotherDaughterTravel,

Porto is an odd and unique small city in Europe that many people find quite intriguing but surely some people shrug their shoulders about so it is hard to pick for somebody else. My concern would be locking myself into a Douro stay in May only to have it rain constantly. Maybe that wouldn't bother you or maybe the Douro vinyards are in a micro climate that enjoys generally sunny May weather. Maybe somebody who lives near there could give you advice about that. (Tripadvisor might be a good place to ask for more info.) But you might want to leave that part of your itinerary flexible so you can adjust for weather.
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Old Apr 21st, 2014, 05:01 AM
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Thank you for your reply, as well as your insight re: weather conditions. That is something we hadn't factored in planning our trip to Douro.
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Old May 6th, 2014, 01:46 PM
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Thanks for the information. I'm planning a trip in October. We're all about art, history and photography. Picking up a car in Lisbon then 3 nights in Sintra. Maybe a day trip or two. Up to Coimbra for a night. Then back to Lisbon for 4 nights.
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Old May 11th, 2014, 07:19 AM
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Yes - to Sintra. We didn't come close to seeing everything there but loved what we did see.
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Old Jan 4th, 2015, 12:22 PM
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Hi I plan to visit Portugal in April and would like to include Madeira. Is driving in Madeira nerve racking? I have heard the roads are very steep. Are the walks there not for the faint hearted? I suffer from vertigo! We also plan to visit Porto. Is having a car in Porto a challenge with regard to driving and parking. Would anyone recommend an itinerary for the Douro valley and the north of Portugal .
Thanks,
Pat
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