We will enjoy a host of UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the city of Evora, where its monuments and defensive walls stretch back over twenty centuries; Sintra, a magical town in which exotically coloured palaces rise out from the dewy forests; and Guimarães, an immaculately preserved medieval town that was the birthplace of Portugal’s first king, Alfonso Henriques.
We will also explore the vibrant maritime city of Lisbon, the ancient University town of Coimbra and Porto, a mecca for connoisseurs of wine. Other highlights include the Almendres Stone Circle from the Megalithic Age, the Gothic masterpiece of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Roman settlement at Conimbriga, the Iron Age hilltown of Citânia de Briteiros, and Castelo de Pena, one of the seven wonders of Portugal.
Our tour is led throughout by archaeologist Clive Warsop.
- The brightly coloured palaces of Sintra
- Important archaeological sites including Conimbriga and Citania de Briteiros
- The historic forest of Buçaco
- Wine tasting in one of Porto’s famous Port lodges
- Optional river cruise on the Douro
With the roar of the Atlantic Ocean and the tranquillity of the Iberian hillsides as our constant companions, we will travel through time stopping off at Megalithic standing stones, Iron Age settlements, Roman ruins and Medieval plazas.
Tuesday 11 April 2017
We depart this morning from London Gatwick on a direct flight to Lisbon. On arrival we are met by our local coach and assistant and depart on an introductory tour of the city. Later we transfer to our comfortable hotel in Lisbon.
The afternoon is free to sightsee at leisure. Dinner is served in the hotel this evening.
Wednesday 12 April 2017
After breakfast we travel to Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we visit the megaliths, including the Almendres Stone Circle and Menhir and the Anta Grande do Zambujeiro. The Almendres megalithic complex (or Almendres Cromlech), is the largest existing group of structured menhirs in the Iberian Peninsula, and one of the largest in Europe. The archaeological site consists of several megalithic structures: cromlechs, and menhir stones, the first belonging to the so-called "megalithic universe of Évora". The structures have been dated back to the 6th millennium BC, though they were only rediscovered in the 1960s by Henrique Leonor Pina. The relative chronology of the cromlech and menhirs is extremely complex and covers a period from the Neolithic to Chalcolithic, and it is believed that the monument had a religious or ceremonial purpose, or functioned as a primitive astronomical observatory. The Anta Grande (or Great Dolmen) of Zambujeiro dates from 4000-3000 BC and is one of the largest structures of its kind in Iberia.
After some free time for lunch (not included) in Évora, we continue with a photo stop at the Cathedral (Sé), the largest of Portugal’s medieval cathedral’s and one of its best examples of Gothic architecture; the Roman Temple, also known (incorrectly) as the Temple of Diana, believed to have been constructed around the first century A.D., located in the main public square of Évora, then called Liberatias Iulia; and opposite it the Igreja de São João, a 15th century convent church which features a stunning collection of blue azulejos (tiles) by António Oliveira Bernardes, dating from the early 1700s.
We return to our hotel in Lisbon, where the evening at leisure.
Thursday 13 April 2017
After breakfast we depart for a visit to the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, which houses a world class collection of art arranged in two circuits, one featuring classical Greco-Roman and near-Eastern art and the other containing masterpieces of European art, including works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Monet and Van Dyck to name but a few.
We continue with a visit the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos in Belem, close to the river Tagus. This is a Late Gothic Manueline monastery built in memory of Vasco da Gama's discovery of a sea route to India and financed, lavishly, through a tax on the spice trade and built between 1502 and the end of the century. The cloister is astonishingly ornate, and yet peaceful. The cloister garden was once more richly ornamented than it is at present, with the high perpendicular banks covered with tiles and the islands were laid out as gardens. Located within it is the Museu Nacional de Arquelogica, the entrance to which is flanked by two granite statues of Lusitanian Warriors, dating from the 1st century AD and brought from Northern Portugal. The permanent exhibits are divided into Egyptian Antiques and a collection of Treasures of Portuguese Archaeology, consisting mostly of notable metalwork dating from the Bronze and Iron Ages. The museum also possesses the most important Portuguese collection of Roman mosaics, mostly from Southern Portugal.
Return to our hotel in Lisbon where the evening is at leisure.
Friday 14 April 2017
Following breakfast we head out of Lisbon to the lush wooded heights of Sintra, where we visit the Palacio Nacional de Sintra. Part of the cultural landscape of Sintra, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is the best preserved medieval Royal Palace in Portugal, having been inhabited more or less continuously from at least the early 15th century to the late 19th century, although its origins lie in a Moorish palace which is mentioned in texts from the 11th century. The vertical arrangement of its spaces, the windows with their surmounted arches and the walls covered in glazed tiles with rich geometrical patterns are all features that underline the Moorish links of the craftsmen who built and embellished the Palace.
In the afternoon we visit the Castelo da Pena, the most complete and notable example of Portuguese architecture in the Romantic period, which stands on one of the rocky peaks of the Serra de Sintra. It was begun in 1839, when the King Consort Dom Fernando II of Saxe Coburg-Gotha purchased the former Hieronymite monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena. The palace was built in a colourful and hectic romantic style that blends in surprisingly well with its surroundings. King Fernando imported plants that were characteristic of different places in the world, and planted them side by side with Portuguese species, a total of over 2000 species.
Return to our hotel in Lisbon where the evening is at leisure.
Saturday 15 April 2017
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and depart for Coimbra, breaking our journey with two visits en route, beginning with the Mosteiro de Batalha (the Monastery of the Battle). Originally, and officially known, as the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory it was erected in commemoration of the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota, and would serve as the burial church of the 15th-Century Aviz dynasty of Portuguese royals. It is one of the best and original examples of Late Gothic architecture in Portugal, intermingled with the Manueline style. Please note that as the monastery is closed on Easter Sunday we will have an exterior view only.
We continue to the ruins of the ancient city Conimbriga, the largest Roman settlement in Portugal. Like many archaeological sites, Conimbriga was built in layers, the earliest of which dates back to the 9th Century B.C. The Romans arrived in the 2nd Century A.D., conquering the Celtic inhabitants and establishing a city that grew, flourished, and then fell victim to barbarian invasions until Conimbriga's residents fled to nearby Coimbra in 468 – as we will do ourselves following our visit.
Dinner is served in our hotel in Coimbra this evening.
Sunday 16 April 2017
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and depart for the Buçaco Forest, Portugal’s most famous and revered woodland, which was a monastic domain throughout the Middle Ages. Benedictine monks established a hermitage in the midst of it as early as the 6th century and the area remained in religious hands right up until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1834. The forest's great fame and beauty came when the Carmelite monks took over the monastery in the 17th century. They built the walls which surround the property as well as preserving and developing the forest by planting many new varieties of trees including maples, laurels, English oaks, Mexican cedars and cypress trees. The forest now features over 700 species of trees, rare local and exotic plants (some dating as far back as the 17th century and still standing), waterfalls, lakes and gardens.
We continue this afternoon to Porto, where on arrival we will have an introductory tour of the city followed by a wine tasting in one of the famous Port Lodges.
Dinner is served in our hotel in Porto this evening.
Monday 17 April 2017
Following breakfast the day is free to explore Porto at leisure. Alternatively, join our optional excursion: transfer by coach to the quay at Vila Nova de Gaia and depart on a boat trip that will take us along the Douro River as far as Regua, with lunch included on board; on arrival at Regua there will be some free time before we return by train to Porto and transfer by coach back to the hotel.
Return to hotel in Porto where the evening is at leisure.
Tuesday 18 April 2017
After breakfast today we travel north of Porto for a visit to the religious sanctuary Bom Jesus Do Monte, built on a hilltop in common with many ancient sites of religious devotion in Portugal and other parts of Europe. However, the first indication of a chapel over the hill dates from 1373. This chapel - dedicated to the Holy Cross - was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1629 a pilgrimage church was built dedicated to the Bom Jesus (Good Jesus), with six chapels dedicated to the Passion of Christ. The present Sanctuary started being built in 1722, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Braga, Rodrigo de Moura Telles, whose coat of arms is seen over the gateway. Under his direction the first stairway row, with chapels dedicated to the Via Crucis, were completed. Each chapel is decorated with terra cotta sculptures depicting the Passion of Christ. He also sponsored the next segment of stairways, which has a zigzag shape and is dedicated to the Five Senses, each represented by a different fountain. At the end of this stairway, a Baroque church was built around 1725 by Manuel Pinto Vilalobos.
We continue to the archaeological site at Citania de Briteiros, a dramatic and mysterious Iron Age hilltown dating back to around 200 BC. The extensive site, straddling a boulder-strewn hill, was home to a people known as the “Bracari”, who probably made a last-ditch stand against the invading Romans and was eventually abandoned by around 100 AD. Its significance lies in the fact that it is one of the earliest sites on the Iberian peninsula that could reasonably be described as an urban settlement.
We conclude today at the UNESCO World Heritage town of Guimaraes, which is associated with the emergence of the Portuguese national identity in the 12th century. An exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town, its rich building typology exemplifies the specific development of Portuguese architecture from the 15th to 19th century through the consistent use of traditional building materials and techniques.
We return to our hotel in Porto where the evening is at leisure.
Wednesday 19 April 2017
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and transfer to the airport in time to check in for our morning flight back to London Gatwick, where the group will disperse.
- Eight nights’ accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis: four nights at the Lutecia Hotel, Lisbon (or similar); one night at the Tryp Hotel, Coimbra (or similar) and three nights at the Mercure Porto Gaia Hotel (or similar)
- Three dinners
- Flights from London Gatwick to Lisbon and Porto to Gatwick (Other regional flight connections and/or overnight accommodation can be organised before or after the tour on request)
- Comfortable coaching in Portugal
- Visits to the archaeological sites of Almendres Stone Circle, Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, Conimbriga and Citânia de Briteiros; the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Museu Nacional de Arquelogica; Palacio Nacional de Sintra and Castelo da Pena; Mosteiro da Batalha, Bom Jesus do Monte and the Forest of Buçaco; introductory tours of Lisbon and Porto; Port wine tasting
- Services of Clive Warsop as tour guide and local, English-speaking guides
- Single room supplement £300.00
- Insurance £45.00 (under 65); £90.00 (75-90); £135.00 (75-90)
- Douro River Cruise TBA