By: Maya Keith, CTA & Senior Travel Consultant
Portugal has always been on my bucket list for a very long time for its unique mix of old-world traditions – rich history, some of the best Portuguese cuisines and port wines from Duoro valley, historic monasteries, Douro River, palaces and castles. I could not have picked any other company to travel with than Tauck Tours. Tauck is one of the most luxurious company out there that is all inclusive, stays at 5 star boutique hotels, luxurious stops on trips, out of this world cuisines, excellent service, no extra cost on any optional excursions and my favorite slow paced tour that caters mainly to seniors. I can tell you that I am nowhere close to being a senior but it was nice to be treated like a VIP on a Tauck tour. Portugal with Tauck really delivered above and beyond my expectations.
Our tour began at 2:00 PM, Hotel Infante Sagres. A private transfer was included from Porto Int’l Airport to Hotel Infante Sagres in the city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today we started off with our guided tour of Porto’s historic district and its beguiling architecture, from medieval to baroque to Beaux-Arts, winding alleyways, miradouros, opulent palaces and churches. Public art is everywhere in the boldly colored painted tiles (azulejos) that adorn city buildings. Later on we went for a ride along the Douro River aboard a traditional, flat-bottomed rabelo boat like those used for centuries to transport port wine down the river followed by our welcome dinner at the hotel. Stay Two Nights: Hotel Infante Sagres
The second day of our Portugal with Tauck tour began with a drive through the valley and some of the most unusual and breathtaking wine country in the world – where the serpentine river winds along deep gorges and mountains ringed with terraces and carved into vast patchworks of vineyard estates, and baroque villas, like hilltop castles, dot the landscape. The hardy grape varieties suitable for port are all native to the region and thrive in the sandy, infertile soil with roots that reach down thirty feet or more in search of water. We stopped at a winery for a tour and tasting, followed by lunch then returned to our newly restored hotel in Porto’s historic district to relax and spend the afternoon and evening at leisure.
Monte Real, Portugal
After an excellent breakfast we traveled to Coimbra, located on the Mondego River in central Portugal, for a guided tour of one of the oldest universities in the world. The University of Coimbra was actually founded in Lisbon in 1290 but relocated here in 1308. While walking through the campus, we were able to take photos of the students in their unique uniforms which were the inspiration for the attire worn by Harry Potter and his classmates. We visited its 18th-century library, home to some 56,000 volumes, many of which date from the 16th to 18th centuries. After lunch in Coimbra, we headed to the town of Tomar, set within one of the most fertile regions on the Iberian Peninsula. One of Portugal’s historical jewels, the town was established inside the walls of the Convento de Cristo, a former Roman Catholic convent originally built as a stronghold of the Knights Templar in the late 12th century. On our guided tour we toured Convento, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, explored the wonders inside this labyrinthine complex that includes the fortified Round Church, the “Bread” Cloister, the Refectory and more.
Stay: Praia D’El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort
The morning was at leisure to explore on our own the hilltop walled town of Ãbidos which is like a medieval town that looks like it was lifted from the pages of a fairy tale. We enjoyed our time to wandering along its cobbled streets that meander up to the ramparts, passing picturesque whitewashed houses charming with cascading bougainvillea and painted doors of every color. After lunch, we headed for Ãvora, a walled medieval town of whitewashed houses and wrought-iron balconies, where we visited a family-owned cork factory with our local guide. We stayed at a restored 15th-century convent outside of town, where dinner tonight was at your leisure on our Portugal with Tauck tour. Stay Two Nights: Convento do Espinheiro
We started our day with a walking tour of Ãvora’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s history reaches back 2,000 years; Portuguese kings resided here during the country’s Golden Age, and here we got to see royal palaces rich in Manueline architecture as our local guide peels back Ãvora’s layers of history with stories about its Roman roots, its Moorish influences, and its glory years in the Middle Ages as a seat of learning and the arts. After lunch, we returned to our hotel in Ãvora and spent the rest of the day and evening at leisure.
We departed Ãvora and headed for Portugal’s colorful capital city of Lisbon. En route, we meandered through picturesque landscapes to the beach town of Cascais on the Portuguese Riviera for a walking tour and lunch. We arrived in Lisbon in the afternoon in time for a city tour, followed by time to explore on our own. Checked into our landmark Lisbon hotel on the luxurious Avenida da Liberdade, and spent the evening at leisure in this historic city. Stay Two Nights: Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa
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Today, we visited Sintra – a romantic city of castles, monuments, and palatial estates. Our tour included the National Palace of Pena, a Romanesque retreat crowning a mountain peak, and resplendent with yellow and pink painted buildings, crenellated turrets, and a medley of architectural styles; it was inspired by castles on the Rhine. Our final Tauck Exclusive farewell evening featured a private tour, reception and dinner at yet another Portuguese national treasure – the Palacio de Queluz, a lavish 18th-century royal retreat, one of the last great Rococo palaces built in Europe.
Our Portugal with Tauck tour comes to an end in Lisbon with a transfer included from Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa to Lisbon Airport.
I highly recommend this Portugal with Tauck trip and any Tauck tours to anyone that prefers slow paced tours with few up-hills and down-hills. Transportation was available at all times to move us a few feet if you prefer not to walk up hill or down hill. We had a welcome message displayed on the TV screen, welcome packet with the necessary local information and welcome card from the hotel welcoming us in each city. This is personalized service at its best. A trip of a lifetime with unforgettable memories. Stay tuned for my next Tauck tour in 2020.
CTA & Senior Travel Consultant
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