Portugal Road Trip: 8 Days Lisbon and the North
We wanted to try something new for 2017 New Year’s celebration. After doing research and looking into the likes of Hong Kong and South Africa we decided to keep it simple and cozy. We decided on an 8 day road trip in Portugal even after considering the weather as Portugal has some of the best winters in Europe. Below are the highlights:
Days 1-2: Lisbon
After arriving early morning in Lisbon and not being able to check in to LX Boutique Hotel the only thing left to do is head straight to a Padaria or bakery to have freshly made pastries with coffee and juices. You will find yourself strolling into countless number of bakeries at any point throughout the day anywhere in Portugal especially to have some Pasteis de Nata, which is an egg tart pastry. Aside from the Nata highlight Lisbon is a wonderful and easy city to walk. If the climbs become difficult there are three funiculars Gloria, Bica and Lavra which will take you to the higher points of the city. The Barrio Alto, Chiado and Alfama neighborhoods is where most of it is focused. Take time to see the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the many Churches and walk along the waterfront. Also head over to the Torre de Belem and surroundings and on the way there or back stop by to see the MAAT Museum.
Day 3: Douro Valley with Stops
After our late morning rise an easy car service took us to the airport to pick up the car to start our road trip north. Before actually getting the car of course we needed to stop by a Padaria to pick up some warm pastries and coffee for the ride, remember the highlights. Our end game today was to reach The Wine House – Quinta da Pacheca in Lamego, Douro Valley with stops in Fatima and Coimbra. Our stop in Fatima took us to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima and the Basilica of the Holy Trinity. In Coimbra we visited esteemed University of Coimbra, established in 1290 it is one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world. Within the institution you can visit the opulent Biblioteca Joanina, one of the world’s grandest and unique libraries. After walking around Coimbra, taking a break for some coffee and, yes some pastries we continued our way up the interior towards Lamego. After an easy 2 hour drive we arrived at a stately, warm, cozy 18th century house with only 15 rooms on 51 acres just in time for the last tasting session.
Day 4: Eating, bicycling then more driving
Quinta da Pacheca has bicycles available at ones leisure to sweat off all the wine and delicious food they cook up. We decided to take a ride through the grape fields and a dirt road led us to the 19th century Six Senses Spa and Resort Manor. A must see. After sweating a bit we were on our way as we were only able to book one night at The Wine House. From here we jumped over the river to have a delicious lunch at Sus Douro in Peso da Regua and then off on the famous N222 panoramic route which takes you along the Douro River, over hills and through quaint little pueblos to our next stop for the night, Duoro Royal Valley Hotel and Spa.
Day 5: Off to Grahams
After a well-rested evening we continued our race along the zig zags of N222 on our way to Porto. I say race as we had reserved a Port tasting at Grahams 1890 Lodge. Worth taking time to visit any of the Port Cellars for a tasting. We particularly enjoyed Grahams guide for depth of knowledge and storytelling. From here we headed over to our Hotel Carris Porto-Ribeira just across the river. Perfect hotel to stay in as it is a historic building with all the modern amenities and in a great location.
Day 6: More Porto, the city not drink
Waking up to the river view with floor to ceiling windows was outrageous. Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is very quaint, smaller than Lisbon but just as beautiful. Easily walkable. Stop by the Sao Bento train station. Pop in the Livraria Lello, the bookstore where JK Rowling reportedly gathered her inspiration for her writings. Stroll along the boardwalks on either side of the river. Take the 5 minute gondola ride which leaves you by the Monastery of Serra do Pilar to get a glimpse of the city from above. A visit to The Yeatman Hotel is a must even if it’s just for an afternoon aperitif with river views. If you have some time we recommend heading over to the Pestana Palace for some lunch.
Day 7: Southbound to Medieval Castles
After 2 full days in Porto we leave for our coastal portion of the trip. Tonight we will be staying in Obidos making stops in Aveiro, Figueira da Foz, Nazare and Peniche. One common factor for each beach town aside from the beautiful ocean views was the pastries and coffee so we made it a point to see both. Keep in mind we were traveling along the coast mid-winter so it is definitely a different scene from the summer months but just as beautiful. The highlight, I thought, was to see the coastal town of Nazare. Head over to Praia do Norte and the lighthouse to see where some of the biggest waves in the world are surfed. After the lovely drive along the coast we arrive at our destination for the night. Obidos is a classic cobbled streets, quaint houses town within the walls of a castle. Here we stayed at a very unique hotel called The Literary Man, a book lover’s paradise just outside of the castle walls.
Day 8: Colorful Palaces
After a night of “osmosis” at The Literary Man we continued southbound for our final leg of the trip. Today’s final destination is back to Lisbon with a stop in Sintra. Sintra is one place that calls for attention. Colorful, exquisite palaces and decorative gardens is what brings you to Sintra, which is a short drive from Lisbon. The highlights here are the colorful Peña Palace, Convento dos Capuchos and the lavish Quinta da Regaleira. Others to be seen if you have time are Castelo dos Mouros (Moors Castle), Palacio Nacional (National Palace) and Palacio de Monserrate (Monserrate Palace). After spending most of the day in Sintra we head straight to the coast past by Belem Tower, MAAT Museum finishing off our last night in Lisbon with some wonderful wine, great seafood, joyful music and great vibes.