Following the great response to Insider’s Travel’s trip to northern Spain, we have devised a a bespoke tour of Portugal, using its great local knowledge and contacts. We will be based in Braga and Coimbra.
We will start in Braga and explore the north, including the original capital of Guimarães, the coastal Viana do Castelo and Ponte de Lima. After a day in the Douro valley, we change our base to the old university town of Coimbra. From here, it’s leitão suckling pig, a medieval arboretum, and some of the world’s largest waves, not to mention treasures of the Romanesque. All accompanied by excellent Portuguese cuisine and wines.
Day 1: Wednesday 9 October: Arrival in Porto
Afternoon arrival. We travel for just under an hour north to Braga, Portugal's religious centre. Braga's Cathedral, dating back to 1388, is the seat of the Primate Archbishop of Portugal and Spain. We take in the Archbishop's Palace, the Cathedral and the striking Santa Barbara Gardens during our walking tour.
Dinner at our hotel.
We have upgraded to the beautiful 5* Quintas das Lagrimas hotel in Coimbra. Built on what were originally royal hunting grounds, the original building was bought by the Osório Cabral de Castro family in 1730 and rebuilt in 1879.
It was at the Quinta in the 14th-century that the heir to the throne, Prince Pedro and Inês de Castro lived their forbidden love affair. Legend says that it was here that Inês cried for the last time, while being pierced by the daggers of the killers sent by King Afonso, Pedro’s father. Her blood still colours the stone-bed of the fountain that was born of her tears - the tears that gave the name to this romantic estate. Click here for the full tragic tale.
Today, it is a fabulous hotel, set back from the centre of Coimbra with its gardens, pools and spa.
Day 2: Thursday 10 October: Guimarães
We visit the world heritage city, Guimarães, birthplace of King Alfonso Henriques and the Portuguese capital in the 12th century. Local lunch. En route back to Braga, we admire the views from the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, with its baroque, penitential staircase. Free time before dinner.
Day 3: Friday 11 October - Ponte de Lima
We head north, stopping at one of the oldest towns in Portugal, Ponte de Lima, known for its splendid part-Roman, part-medieval bridge, also on the Portuguese route for pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela. We continue to Viana do Castelo, an important fishing and sailing port for 700 years and departure point for expeditions during the Portuguese Age of Discovery, with Manueline, baroque and Renaissance examples in its churches and palatial buildings. Lunch at an excellent local fish restaurant.
Day 4: Saturday 12 October: Douro Valley
We leave Braga for the Douro Valley and a visit to Quinta da Pacheca, one of the Douro's oldest wineries with our friend and wine guide Miguel. After a tasting and lunch, we drive along the Douro riverbank to Pinhão for a short boat ride before continuing our journey to Coimbra. Check in at the 5* Quinta das Lágrimas hotel (www.quintaslagrimas.pt) for a light dinner.
Day 5: Sunday 13 October: Coimbra
We explore Coimbra and visit the Old University, the baroque Joanina Library and the 12th-century Old Cathedral, the earliest and most spectacular example of the Portuguese Renaissance style. Local lunch and a free afternoon before dinner at Casas do Braga.
Day 6: Monday 14 October: Bussaco Forest and Bairrada
We visit the ancient, walled arboretum of the Bussaco Forest, originally tended to by the Discalced Carmelites up until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1834. Today the forest is home to more than 700 species. We take in the Neo-Manueline jewel, the Bussaco Palace, formerly belonging to the Portuguese royal family. This is Bairrada appellation territory, which means suckling pig and Bairrada wines for lunch. Return to Coimbra. Free time until dinner.
Day 7: Tuesday 15 October: Nazaré
We head to the coast to visit Nazaré, a mecca for giant-wave surfers. We admire the view from the Belvedere observation deck, take a stroll around this charming town and visit the local market. We enjoy our last Portuguese lunch in Nazaré before returning to Coimbra. Free time and our farewell dinner.
Day 8: Wednesday 16 October: Transfer to Porto airport for return flight home.
HOW TO BOOK: Call 01225 427311 or please email Katherine at email@example.com. Price per person: £2,995 which includes all meals, wine with meals, transport and entrances. You need to book and pay for your own flights. Single supplement: £500. A non-refundable deposit of £750 will be required, with the full balance due on 1st July 2024.