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Trip report (Lisbon, Doura valley, Marvao, Evora, Algarve)

Trip report (Lisbon, Doura valley, Marvao, Evora, Algarve)

Aug 29th, 2016, 09:10 AM
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Trip report (Lisbon, Doura valley, Marvao, Evora, Algarve)

3 families (6 adults and 4 teens) toured Portugal over 10 days. We have all traveled quite a bit previously and all felt that Portugal was one of our best trips to date. The sights, the people, the FOOD, the wine, ease of travel made this an amazing trip for us. We covered the following:

Lisbon - 2 nights including Sintra
Obidos and Tomar in one day with overnight in Coimbra
Doura valley (Pinhao) 2 nights.
Marvao 1 night
Evora 1 night
Lagos 2 nights
Last night in Lisbon

This may seem rushed to many but worked out just fine for us. We used a tour guide for Lisbon (lisbon4smile) which I would highly recommend. Our tour guide was excellent and kept all the kids & adults awake and interested Using a tour guide also allowed us to bypass the long lines at the major tourist attractions. We were able to hit the different neighborhoods and view points efficiently. I don't think we would have accomplished a quarter of what she was able to show us by ourselves.

Sintra for us was a wash out. It rained for most of the day. the best part for us were the desserts at the restaurant at Pena palace. Besides the rain and long lines for the delayed buses I found it tremendously touristy. I am sure its gorgeous when the weather is good but we didn't get to experience the glory

Obidos is a gorgeous little white washed hilltop village. Nice views, shops and restaurants. Enjoyed by all.

The 12th century Templar church in Tomar was stunning. No crowds which surprises me considering the historical importance and grandness of the structure.
mnag is offline  
Aug 29th, 2016, 09:20 AM
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After our glorious day we drove onwards to Coimbra. Our hotel was small/simple but had a wonderful view of the hilltop town. The roof top bar was enjoyed by the adults. The next morning we took a quick walk around the University of Coimbra (one of the oldest continuous institutions) and gawked at the beautiful architecture. We could have spent a few more hours but had to drive onwards to Doura. The goal was to get to Pinhao in time to take the train to Pichinho. The trip between the two towns had been recommended for some of the best views in the valley.
mnag is offline  
Aug 29th, 2016, 09:42 AM
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The roads between Lisbon to Coimbra, Coimbra to Doura valley are fantastic. In some sections we were the only cars on the highway. I am guessing the tolls keeps the traffic light. In any case, it worked out great for us. The scenic route N-222 between Regau to Pinhao was just that. The Douro valley is jaw-dropping stunning. Gorgeous vineyards on the hills that roll gracefully towards the river that cuts the valley.

We made it to the Pinhao train station just in time after a quick bite at the deli across the station. I have to admit I was disappointed in the local train ride. The scenery is certainly nice but not very varied. In addition the windows in the train were so dusty we only had blurry views of the landscape. In retrospect we should have instead cruised down the river.

We were able to get rooms at Quinta do Pego. The hotel is booked months in advance. I can't begin to describe the serenity of the place. You have to take a look at the pics on trip advisor. We were not disappointed.
mnag is offline  
Aug 29th, 2016, 04:18 PM
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Thanks for the trip report as we're going to some of the same places in just a couple weeks. You've helped whet my appetite for the beautiful Douro Valley and also confirmed our recent decision to drive inland on our day from Pinhao to Lisbon.

We're doing that whole drive in one day, so might only have time for 1 or 2 stops. Would you choose Coimbra and Tomar, or would you have a different rec?
go_laura is offline  
Aug 30th, 2016, 04:59 AM
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Going to be a long drive from Pinhao to Lisbon. I would suggest you leave early and break for lunch in Coimbra. A quick walking tour to see the university and then head onwards to Tomar. I would check out the convento in Tomar (skip the town) and head on to Lisbon. I believe its open until 6.30pm. Not sure by what time you need to return the car (choose the latest drop off time) but it will certainly be a long day.
mnag is offline  
Aug 30th, 2016, 10:38 AM
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Our second full day in Douro was a dream. We hired a mini bus with driver to take us around to the wineries. We were most interested in covering Quinta da Pacheca, Quinta do Seixo, and Quinta nova. Our hostess at the hotel added several other wineries to our list. We started with Pacheca and had a wonderful tour (lengthy) of the winery, cellar and tasting. Beautiful winery particularly their cellar and wine tasting outdoor area. The kids learn a little bit about wine making and tasted grape juice. We ended up buying most of our wine there (expensive to ship to the US). Next we visited Quinta do Panascal. They are doing some construction on their driveway and it was treacherous uphill on a dirt road. Our driver managed but a few in our group almost had heart attacks. The tasting was just ok but the views were wonderful. The last winery we made it to was Siexo (Sandeman). Modern sleek tasting room with gorgeous gorgeous views. This too was quite high up on the hill but the driveway is in good shape. The kids were tired at this point so we called it a day and ended up at the pool at our hotel. Cold but refreshing. Dinner at DOC was one of the most enjoyable of the trip. Great service and good food (on the expensive side for Portugal) but worth it in our opinion.
mnag is offline  
Aug 30th, 2016, 10:59 AM
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Next morning after our free wine tasting at Quinta do Pego (the drivers refrained) and a few last minute photos we were on our way to Marvao. We stopped at Belmonte for lunch and visited the castle. Hot day to be walking around town. Views from the castle tower are nice. Onwards towards Marvao where we had booked Dom Dinis for the night. Passed a white washed town and thought we had missed our hotel in Marvao. Turned out that it was a different town. Marvao is way higher up on the rocky crag called the Serra de Marvao (900 m high). Narrow cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses wind their way up to one of the best preserved castles in Portugal apparently dating from the 13th century.
The views from our hotel which is almost adjoining to the castle are truly breathtaking looking out over wild rocky landscape towards Spain and the Serra da Estrela mountains. The sunset from the gorgeous gardens outside the hotel/castle will be one we will not forget for some time. Definitely a special place that I would highly recommend for its views.
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Sep 1st, 2016, 09:24 AM
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On our way to Evora the following morning and checked into the luxurious Convento Do Espinheiro, a lovely restored centuries old convent. A fantastic hotel 10 min outside town. I would highly recommend a stay at this hotel if you are in the area. Its priced a bit higher than most hotels in Portugal but I feel it is well worth it. I can imagine spending approx double for a similar hotel in the States (if we can even find one of similar caliber/historical importance). I felt privileged to walk the halls considering the historical significance.... Ok enough said.
The kids were beat and wanted an afternoon by the pool. So we left the kids with the men and went on a shopping/sight seeing tour in town.
Evora was delightful with its little shops, cafes, and did I mention food. Loved the place we had lunch but cant recollect the name. The white wine sangria was outstanding as well as the food.
We checked out Giraldo square, the cathedral (from outside), the roman ruins (which are magnificent) and of course the chapel of bones. If you go to the upper floor of the chapel there is a lovely terrace with a perfect city photo op.
The hotel had a free historical tour at 5pm which we unfortunately missed but made it to the wine tasting at 6pm in their lovely cellar. Dinner back in Evora. We dined at Pateo primarily because it had an outdoor terrace and is rated well on trip advisor. We were not happy. Place was packed and service was rushed. Our meals came out at different times and most were not satisfied with our dish (first and only time in our entire trip).
mnag is offline  
Sep 1st, 2016, 09:46 AM
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The next morning enjoyed breakfast at Espinheiro before heading towards Lagos. This would not have been my first pick but traveling as a group we had to meet the needs of all. A longish drive but certainly doable. We checked in to the Belmar spa and beach resort. Nice hotel/condo units. Very spacious with a full kitchen and washer/dryer. Beautiful pools as well. Its walking distance from a nice beach long with a couple of beach front restaurants. We lunched at the beach. Next we made our way to Praia don Anna. Nice views but super crowded and the waves were super strong in the evening. Left after an hour or so to make our dinner reservations at O Camilo. Amazing views and wonderful fresh seafood. Although there was an error with our reservation and we had to wait atleast 1.5 hours to get a table it was worth it. Everything including the wine recommendations were excellent.
mnag is offline  
Sep 9th, 2016, 03:58 PM
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Thanks, very helpful!
genejohn is offline  
Sep 19th, 2016, 12:12 PM
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I am planning a Christmas vacation for our family and am wondering if Lagos would be a good spot for a few days-we plan on spending the majority of the time in Tavira. Thank you for any tips!
dutyfree is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2016, 11:53 AM
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Great report - thank you! I just convinced DH last night at dinner: Portugal in 2017! you've given me great info and ammo to start this trip going!
jo_ann is offline  
Dec 29th, 2016, 04:28 AM
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Nice Thread! Will be in Lisbon 5 nights in May and then 6 nights who knows where...just starting to plan. And then our last night in Lisbon. Bookmarking
seeksocean is offline  
Jan 29th, 2019, 09:12 PM
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Thanks for this wonderful trip report. And for helping me plan my own big group trip to Portugal. What did the kids do while the grown ups were wine tasting? I am not sure how old the kids in your group were. But our group has kids ranging from 4 - 11 and I am wondering how to keep them occupied while the adults do some leisurely wine tastings
Manisha is offline  
Aug 29th, 2019, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by mnag View Post
Our second full day in Douro was a dream. We hired a mini bus with driver to take us around to the wineries. We were most interested in covering Quinta da Pacheca, Quinta do Seixo, and Quinta nova.
Hi! Your report is fantastic! I'm very interested in this wineries tour! My husband and I are planning 2 weeks in Portugal next October and definately want to do much wine tasting all over the country. Do you recall your tour companies name for this one?
mrsfecura is offline  
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