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Pousadas: A remarkable Road Trip

Portugal is one of the easiest and most enjoyable countries to explore by car and boasts very varied landscapes – from the hills of Estrela and the Geres National Park to the beaches of the Atlantic and the broad estuary of the Tagus – and grand cities and towns that pepper the history books of the great explorers, the Golden Age and the Napoleonic wars in particular.
You can combine days of exploring Portugal’s historic city centres with gentle or strenuous exercise walking through inspiring green valleys and along wonderfully quiet sandy beaches, and visiting its port wine houses and up and coming wine estates.
Enjoy its Mediterranean style cuisine and its calm pace, without needing to know much of its language.
In seven days you can scratch the surface of Portugal enough to enjoy yourself immensely without pressure, although you may find yourself coming back for more year after year.


Integral to Portuguese maritime expansion, the historic city of Porto changed the world. Porto was the birthplace of Prince Henry the Navigator. Take a seat on an esplanade in the Ribeira district, one of the most picturesque in Porto, and enjoy the views of the city and river traffic. A series of well signposted tourist routes help you discover Porto, one of the most genuine of Portuguese cities.

A cheap tram ticket is all it costs to make the trip to Foz do Douro. The journey comes complete with  panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and passes the Museum of the Tram for more information about your chosen mode of transport. You can also take tram no. 18 from Rua do Carmo. On the way, observe the exterior tile panelling on the Church of Carmo and the imposing Neoclassic façade of the Santo Antonio Hospital. Avenue Montevideu, with its restaurants and terraces, is an ideal stop for a drink and a rest.

Walk the ‘Se’ Route, leading from the Se Cathedral and Episcopal palace as far as Sao Bento station, with its tile panels by Jorge Colaço depicting the history of Portugal. On the way, admire the Sao Jao Theatre façade and experience the bustle of Rua Mouzinho da Silveira, one of the central shopping thoroughfares of this historic centre.
Wander the riverside following the Ribeira Circuit. Taking you down from Sao Nicolau to the Traders’ Palace past Casa do Infante, one of the city’s defining landmarks, and across the ribeira square to the Institute of Port. Take a short walk as far as the a Ferreira Borges market place to see a fine example of wrought iron architecture one of the best such ironwork in Porto, rivalling the Maria Pia and D. Luis bridges.
Walk through the historic city centre and discover the strong character of this city and its people. Take in the bustle of Ribeira. Look to the skies and discover the towers of the fortress Se looming above.
Visit the Clerigos tower, the fine D.Luis bridge and admire the impressive historic centre, granted UNESCO World Heritage status. Pick out examples of the Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Neo Classical and Industrial-architectural styles that sit side by side , and are now complemented by the designs of such buildings as the Porto School Architecture. Visit the Serralves Museum and Faculty of Architecture.
All trips to Porto have to involve one of the world’s most famous wines: port. Visit the places that defined the history of port, such as the Vinho do Porto manor house and the museum.
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Guimaraes is the 2012 European Capital of Culture. Throughout the year, the city will host a large gathering of creators and creations in various artistic fields such as music, film, visual arts, architecture, theatre, dance or street arts.

However, it is for its surviving heritage that UNESCO gave the city its World Heritage Status a decision that soon becomes clear when you visit its historic centre.
We shall leave you in the very heart of the city, the Nossa Senhora de Oliveira square, just one possible departure point for your tour. Here stands the impressive Collegiate Church of Guimaraes from where Pedro Hispano set off to Rome to become John 21st, the only Portuguese Pope thus far in the history of the Catholic Church.

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Lisbon is the only European capital with Atlantic beaches. Take the train along the north bank of the Tagus estuary and you will discover mile after mile of golden sandy beaches. At the end of the line the beaches of Estoril and Cascais are home to a number of royal castles – a stunning legacy of the times when the Kings of Portugal spent their summer here. Continue further and the coast turns westwards – be sure not to miss the truly breath- taking Atlantic sunsets.

Nature: The Lisbon region is blessed with remarkable concentration of natural beauty, with the sea to the west, the river Zezere and the river Tagus to the north east and the estuary of the river Sado to the south. Some of the region’s most spectacular natural features are : the Natural Parks of Serras de Aire e Candeeiros, Sintra Cascais and Arrabida; the Protected landscape Areas of the Serra de Montejunto and the fossil cliff of costa de Caparica; as well as the Nature Reserves of Paul do Boquilobo, Berlengas, The Tagus estuary and the Sado estuary.

After a river cruise, disembark in the city’s heart, the Baixa. Follow its symmetric, architecturally distinctive streets packed with traditional local commerce.
Head up any one of the city’s seven hills and discover a neighbourhood packed with its own history and charm. Visit the Chiado and draw in inspiration in one of the cafes frequented by the writers and artists that so enriched 19th century Portuguese culture.

Take the No. 28 tram to one of the city’s most characteristic neighbourhoods, the Alfama. Discover a little of Lisbon’s history and day to day life on each street corner and each local church.

Just outside the city are the seaside resort of Estoril and the romantic hills of the Serra de Sintra, where the perfect bond between palaces and nature led to the area being classified as a World Heritage Site. It is the sea, the climate and the stunning nature that give the region its particular energy. 

At the top of the hill: you will never be able to say that you have really seen Lisbon until you have travelled up to the top of one of its seven hills on the lifts or funicular railway lines that are to be found around the city.

Tram no.28 is perhaps the perfect means to discover some of the most interesting aspects of Lisbon’s historical and architectural heritage.Choose your favourite and let the beauty of the Lisbon light infuse your memories!
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On summer evenings, join the crowd around the gracious garden bandstand by the riverfront enjoying the evening performance. By the light of the day, stop halfway over the  bridge and look back on the white houses and their unusual trussed gable roofs and the hill peeking out just above the medieval battlements next to the church towers of Santa Maria and Santiago built where two mosques once stood.

Head through the original medieval gateway and take in the fine Renaissance entranceway to the Misericordia, one of Tavira’s 37 churches, and the magnificent frontage of the Galaria Palace. Perched high above the walls, the tower of Alcaçova is the best viewpoint out over the city with its waves of roofs and the line of sea blue reaching out to the horizon. Wander these old streets and peek through the lattice doorways, recall the prayers of fishermen in the church of Our Lady of the Waves. Then, cross the river and choose a riverbank restaurant for a break. With energies renewed, head up the small hill next to the Santa Maria end visit two more of those 37 churches, Sao Paulo and Carmo.

Alternatively you could take a watertaxi out to the sand bar where you can enjoy one of the Portugal’s famous beaches, or to the Marine Reserve nearby.
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DAY 1: We recommend setting off from Porto airport to explore the city of Porto and an overnight stay at the Pousada here on the bank of the river Douro is almost a ‘must’.

DAY 2: You may want to continue exploring the city or you may prefer to take the panoramic train or a riverboat along the river Douro to enjoy the wonderful scenery at a leisurely pace. You might also wish to drive out to the beaches near Viana do Castelo or the mountains one-hour island.

NIGHT 2 ; Enjoy a relaxed aperitif and some Portuguese cuisine in the historic quarter of Porto and a stroll by the river before heading back to the Pousada for a well earned rest.

DAY 3 :Any visit to northern Portugal should include a visit to the ‘birthplace ‘ of Portugal – Guimaraes – and its small, pretty old quarter. The castle and several churches are well worth your time too, and after just a few minutes here you will feel like you are immersed in Portugal’s past.You can also stop over in the port wine estates in route to sample the wonderful varieties and find out the part Britain played in the development of this wine.

NIGHT 3: The Pousada at Viseu is an excellent example of Pousadas’ ambitions to blend the old with the new and you will enjoy a comfortable night here with excellent cuisine.DAY 4 Off to Fatima to visit the shrine where the virgin Mary was reported to have been seen in 1917 and to and to enjoy the quiet attractive town of Ourem with its delightful old quarter.

NIGHT 4 : The lovely Pousada at Ourem is a charming excuse for a stay overnight here.

DAY 5 : You could visit Caldas da Rainha and Obidos with its imposing castle walls on your way to Lisbon for a visit to this colourful, attractive city.
Set on the hillside overlooking the Tagus estuary, you are sure to be taken by this magical city – a melange of old and new colour, style and design all blended into a wonderful architectural display, along with the dock development and bridges and monuments that frame the city.

NIGHT 5: Then on to Cascais or Queluz for a Stay at another impressive Pousada. The Pousada at Queluz stands in front of the majestic Palace of Queluz and shares the atmospheric restaurant in the Palace kitchens, or alternatively opt for the imposing Pousada at Cascais next to the marina and the famous town by the beach.

DAY 6: Lisbon in only a short train ride from Cascais and a short drive from Queluz, and within the area you can also enjoy the famous towns of Estoril and Sintra – with its colourful palaces and castle up on the hill. You can also enjoy some great surfing beaches nearly such as Guincho.

NIGHT 6: You can either stay on in the same Pousada here or move on to other one for a different aspect of the Lisbon area. You could also head south across the estuary to enjoy a night at the charming Pousada de Palmela, both with panoramic views of wonderful countryside and the coast.

DAY 7: Now this might be where you decide to extend your trip to enjoy the warm climate of the Algarve and its beaches, or several nights around sagres Faro or the Spanish border. We would recommend at least one night at the tranquil and ‘manicured’ Pousada de Faro at Estoi, which leaves you well, positioned to enjoy the beaches of the Faro area and the marine park or to head the wonderful town of Tavira – Venice of the Algarve – and its 37 churches. 

If you only had 7 days to explore Portugal, this would be our recommendation, but if you feel you deserve some decent rest and relaxation at the beach you have the whole of the Algarve to enjoy!